Children (151027)

Sometimes it’s not until the cancer is inoperable that the patient is alarmed and then frantically searches for treatment or a cure. Sometimes it’s not until an Eric Garner or Michael Brown type tragedy that a hue and cry is raised about the failure of policing. Sometimes it’s not until a 3-month-old child dies at a day care center that we are informed of the inadequacies and the number of unlicensed centers in the city.

But in each of these calamities, there are early warnings of systemic problems. We focus here on day care centers because of the recent death of a baby at a day care center in downtown Manhattan. The fault lines of this problem are long and deep. They begin with a nation that provides very little financial aid and support for working mothers, particularly those who have to raise their children alone.

When the federal government is delinquent on this issue and the state is out to lunch, then it’s left to the city. Here in New York City, according to a recent report, the average cost of full-time care ranges from $1,300 to $2,500 a month. The cost is much higher for younger children, who require more care and attention. The cost for an infant or toddler averages $1,800 a month.

These costs are astronomical for a woman who brings home even $4,000 a month, if she is fortunate to command such a salary.

Even if you are a parent able to pay whatever it costs to care for your child, we advise you to go beyond word of mouth, which is apparently the way most learn about day care centers and facilities. One of the things we’ve learned is that unlicensed child care providers are not subject to some fundamental requirements and background checks. According to Child Care Aware of America, parents need to be very careful when choosing a caregiver or center. They recommend that parents call, visit and revisit the provider. They should also contact Child Care Aware of America for further consultation and advice.

We are not yet sure what happened with the baby who died at SoHo Child Care and whether the incident could have been avoided if the facility were licensed. But now that the problem has surfaced, we can expect, at least momentarily, an intense examination of day care centers around the city. And this cannot be done without employing more inspectors—the lack of which has compounded the problem over the years.

Our children need the best of care beginning at the very top of governmental agencies—and we’ve heard some of the horror stories coming from a few of these agencies and the slicing of funds for their employees seeking child care subsides—to the state and to local municipalities. There are inadequacies all along this line of child care, and a rupture at any point could be disastrous for our infants.