by Lourdes Rodriguez-Chamussy
“In my family, it was unheard of to leave kids at a daycare. But I had to start working, and who was going to look after my baby? Neither my mother nor my sister could take care of him. I had looked into a private daycare called World of Color, but it was really expensive. Then I found out I could get a scholarship at another daycare called Magical World. I took my son, and I realized that he would be just fine there.”
Susana’s experience resonates with me and, surely, with many other women. Entry into the workforce is directly linked to decisions about the care and education of our children. Do we have a Magical World or a World of Color available and suitable for our little ones? According to the Mexican National Occupation and Employment Survey, 54% of women between the ages of 24 and 45 who are outside the labor market report that their reason for not seeking a job is that they don’t have child care for their children.
One curious fact is that Magical World is the most common name among the 9,000 publicly-subsidized childcare facilities overseen by Mexico’s Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL). Other popular names include Happy World, Toy World, Tiny Tots and My First Steps. We don’t know if these names are equally frequent among private daycares since there are no records available.
There is a variety of institutions and programs that support child care and early education in Mexico: ISSSTE, IMSS, DIF, SEDESOL and SEP. Beyond the differences and similarities in the names of the establishments, how do these child care centers compare to each other? How many children attend them? What are their hours of operation? How do they differ in cost and quality? How they are funded? Access to this information at the national level, including private daycares, is key to planning, monitoring and evaluating the services that these centers provide.
The General Law on the Provision of Comprehensive Child Care and Development Services (known as the Daycare Law) and its regulations published on August 22, 2012 establish the creation of a unified information registry for all public, private or mixed centers where comprehensive child care and development services are provided for children aged 43 days to 4 years.
The National Child Care Registry would pull from 32 state registries in order to systematically generate and update information on all types of child care centers every six months. As mentioned in this analysis of the institutional challenges of connecting work and family (in Spanish), generating the diagnostics and evaluations that this law also mandates depends on whether content is supplied to the registry in the short term.
Thinking about Susana and her little boy, what concrete implications does the Daycare Law have for child care centers such as Magical World? The implementation of safety measures required by the law will certainly mean improved conditions for children. However, evidence from other countries tells us that it is important to anticipate that the cost of bringing centers into compliance and implementing new requirements could spell the closure of some centers, especially those serving low-income populations. In order to continue serving this population, it is important to consider support for existing centers during the compliance process.
The law came in response to a real problem associated with daycare safety; in other respects, it has probably fallen short, e.g., no quality standards are proposed and no clear rules for effective interagency coordination are established. Is there a similar child care law in your country that can be used as an example? Drop us a line on Twitter or in the comments section below.
Lourdes Rodriguez-Chamussy is a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank.