Caring about day careDay care centers running on public funds are centers of bad behavior ranging from child mistreatment to embezzlement, according to the latest investigative report by the JoongAng Ilbo. The authorities and society must come up with fundamental solutions to the rotten state of our day care facilities.
The Songpa District Police and the Songpa District Administrative Office in a joint study discovered that among 700 day care centers in the southern Seoul area, there has been embezzlement of public subsidies of as much as 10 billion won ($9.1 million) over the last three years. Corruption has become a common practice in the day care industry, which has been wasting public taxes and parents’ money for additional courses while jeopardizing the health and welfare of small children.
The list included so-called accredited facilities that won certification from the Seoul City government after strict evaluations in order to upgrade the quality of public and private day care centers. Where can parents turn if day care centers that have been accredited by the city government are also unreliable?
The Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to revise the child care law to toughen punishment of mistreatment of minors after a caregiver at a day care center beat a toddler who could barely express himself. The head of a day care center or a teacher won’t be able to work in the same business for up to 10 years after being disqualified on charges of mistreating a child.
Centers should return public funding and face closure when charged with serious wrongdoings. But this alone cannot solve various problems in the industry. The standards and quality of day care centers have grown poor because there are insufficient budgets, resources, facilities and systems to keep up with the increased demand thanks to policies to encourage births.
What’s more urgent is revising the infrastructure and legal systems to turn day care facilities into reliable places where parents can leave children with confidence. There must be more teachers and trainees eligible for day care in order to regain public trust.
Day care teachers usually work 12 hours a day without any overtime. If their compensation improves to the levels of kindergarten teachers, there will be more qualified people. Authorities must also toughen the qualification for day care services, which currently can be earned after 10 months of training after high school graduation. Our children are our future. Let’s treat them right.