Child care, or the care of children is defined as the total care of the child from before birth to independence; care which encompasses the child’s total physical, social, emotional, intellectual, moral and spiritual development.
- The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and the family is generally the structure which can best provide quality child care for children.
- The community, through its diverse agencies, both private and governmental, has a positive role to play in supporting children in families.
- The welfare of the child cannot be seen in isolation from those who care for and are closest to that child. A society which cares for children must have a commitment to the stability and welfare of families.
- The principle objective of government and community activity in child care should be to assist families to function in the best interests of children and to facilitate the practice of children being cared for by their parents through/with the provision of complementary services.
- It is imperative that the Government create an economic environment where parents have the freedom to choose whether they will provide their own child care or not.
- Where children’s services are provided by governmental or private agencies, the welfare of the child should be of paramount importance. The requirements of industry or the needs of parents, while important, must not be allowed to override this principle.
- Women’s Action Alliance fully endorses the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child as being the fundamental principles on which the care of children should be based, in particular Principles 2, 4, 6 and 7.
The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.
The child shall enjoy the benefits of social security. She shall be entitled to grow and develop in health, to this end, special care and protection shall be provided both to her and to her mother, including adequate pre-natal and post-natal care. The child shall have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services.
The child, for the full and harmonious development of her personality, needs love and understanding. She shall, wherever possible, grow up in the care and under the responsibility of her parents, and in any case, in an atmosphere of affection and of moral and material security; a child of tender years shall not, save in exceptional circumstances, be separated from her mother. Society and the public authorities shall have the duty to extend particular care to children without a family and to those without adequate means of support. Payment of State and other assistance towards the maintenance of children of large families is desirable.
The child is entitled to receive education, which shall be free and compulsory, at least in the elementary stages. She shall be given an education which will promote her general culture, and enable her, on a basis of equal opportunity, to develop her abilities, her individual judgement, and her sense of moral and social responsibility, and to become a useful member of society.
The best interests of the child shall be the guiding principle of those responsible for her education and guidance: that responsibility lies in the first place with her parents.
The child shall have full opportunity for play and recreation, which should be directed to the same purposes as education. Society and the public authorities shall endeavour to promote the enjoyment of this right.
- All Government policies ought to be framed with consideration for their impact on families and therefore the lives of children.
- The Government, as a first priority, must increase family payments and examine all other options to assist families to care for their children, such as taxation and adequate regard to the number of dependants.
- Women’s Action Alliance is concerned that emphasis is being placed on Government funded public child care at a much higher price to the community. Child care needs to be redefined to include parental care of children in the family home and funding determined accordingly.
- The most equitable method of funding child care would be to make a single, direct payment to all parents with dependent children. This payment to be adjusted for family size and made part of the taxable income of the primary earning parent. Such a system would protect lower income families. Where child care payments are means tested, the same rules should apply to all payments.
- Preferential funding given to full time day care over occasional care discriminates against parents who take on the role of primary care giver. Capital and recurrent funding of child care centres should require a percentage of occasional care and part-time care places for every full time place.
- Priority of access in government child care should be given first to children from families in economic need, or those who have other special needs, e.g. for respite care and children at risk.
- To reduce the reliance on formal child care, the feasibility of workers with family responsibilities being granted more parental leave and greater flexibility of working hours should be examined.
- That ongoing research be undertaken into the long term effects of long periods of separation of children from their mothers during the pre-school years.