- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Criminal and inappropriate goings-on at child care facilities and before- and after-school programs are usually headline grabbers, as well they should be.

Such events are even more newsworthy as Congress considers the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant program, which first was established in the 1990s to aid low-income families and receives about $5.3 billion annually in federal funds.

The bill passed out of the Senate last week with a 96-2 vote, and the fact that the grant program has not been reformed or substantially re-evaluated since the welfare-reform efforts during the Clinton administration proves time is of the essence.

Let’s go to the video camera and Arlington, where a caregiver at a center that services the Pentagon is seen assaulting four toddlers in four separate instances at our military’s largest child care facility.

The assailant was apparently nabbed after someone complained that the caregiver was withholding food from a toddler, and took that complaint to surveillance video, which reportedly revealed four instances of the caregiver pushing and shoving children.

The assaults occurred between November and January. The little victims are apparently OK, and the caregiver was recently arrested and charged.

This isn’t a first: In 2012, a federal audit found more than 30 cases at Fort Myer Child Development Center in Northern Virginia and led to a late-night telephone call to Army Secretary John McHugh from America’s zero-tolerance commander in chief, President Obama.

The trickle-down theory clearly did not work.

Our children are vulnerable at non-military facilities as you well know.

At a Harford County, Md., center earlier this year, a caregiver was arrested after being seen grabbing a toddler’s face, gouging it with her fingernail, then pushing the child out of the chair and onto the floor.

In California, a 20-year-old after-school aide at a San Mateo elementary school was arrested last week for allegedly kissing and inappropriately touching a teenage girl. The girl, 14, was assaulted back in October.

These cases — and God only knows how many more — beg the question.

The Senate legislation is intended to help low-income parents who work, go to school or are in training programs.

Being poor shouldn’t mean parents should take what they don’t pay for.

Now that the Senate has placed the CCDBG measure on a front-burner and the House could act on it as soon as next week, parents are obligated to pay attention to the caregivers and the overseers who fund and finance them.

Union and nonunion child care advocates are quick to reveal how many children are receiving care, and that however much money is being doled out, it’s never enough.

The pertinent and tough questions regarding quality of care are often put on the back-burner or never asked.

Help parents (and even me) to understand, dear readers.

What are parents supposed to do if child care programs are unsafe, including those before- and after-school programs affiliated with schools? Especially schools deemed low-performing.

What are they supposed to do if, after commuting and working day in and day out, they simply cannot muster the juice to ask their children, “Did everything go OK today?”

And what if your child is disabled or has special needs?

In other words, you know where your child is being tended to, but do you know who is minding them?

And, the most important question of all, do you care?

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com

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