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'Free' daycare for New Mexico's already-troubled children
In July 2019, “reporter” Jens Gould, of the Santa Fe New Mexican, penned a hagiography of New Mexico’s new chief executive. Six months into her term, he wrote, Michelle Lujan Grisham “exhibits a daredevil image that extends past the Roundhouse and has found a place on YouTube.” Gould gushed about the governor’s reversal of the devilry of her predecessor, who “had rolled back eligibility requirements” for “child care assistance” to “150 percent of the federal poverty level.”
Lujan Grisham, in an act of heroism, ordered the restoration of the previous, 200 percent level — “budget be damned.” The governor’s “thought process” was: “Yes, I can. I’m fixing it overnight. I just declared that we’re going to 200 percent of poverty, and I’ll have to figure out the money. And so I took away the fear and barrier from those folks.”
Last week, thanks to “pandemic relief” and the Permian Basin, 200 percent became 400 percent. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham
announced family-focused initiatives eliminating costs for child care for most New Mexico families, increase [sic] capacity for child care services in areas lacking access, and supporting early childhood professionals. This dramatic expansion of cost-free services builds on the administration’s prior work to deliver affordable child care to more New Mexico families, supporting tens of thousands more families across the state by previously doubling family eligibility for the state’s Child Care Assistance Program.
According to a flyer, the
New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) is waiving all child care assistance copays for families who qualify for the program. ECECD has expanded eligibility for free child care to families whose incomes are at or below 400% federal poverty level (FPL) — $111,000 a year for a family of four.
Predictably, the media swooned. (KOAT: “Click here to apply for the free child care program.”) Unmentioned, in a state where welfare dependency is a way of life, was a pesky truth: Daycare isn’t very good for children.
In 2015, economists from MIT, the University of Toronto, and the University of British Columbia published their research on the long-term results of “the largest experiment with universal child care in North America in recent years: an introduction of very low cost child care for children aged 0-4 in Quebec beginning in 1997.” Their conclusions:
We find that the Quebec policy had a lasting negative impact on the non-cognitive skills of exposed children, but no consistent impact on their cognitive skills. At older ages, program exposure is associated with worsened health and life satisfaction, and increased rates of criminal activity. Increases in aggression and hyperactivity are concentrated in boys, as is the rise in the crime rates.
No, not every child who spends time in daycare will become a deeply dysfunctional adult. But only the willfully ignorant are unaware that when it comes to warehousing kids in institutionalized settings, the younger, the worse, and the longer the duration, the worse. The Wheatley Institution’s Jenet Erickson and the American Enterprise Institute’s Katharine Stevens put it succinctly:
A surge of findings from neurobiological research has shown that the ongoing, nurturing interactions occurring within young children’s one-on-one relationships with their parents or other primary caregiver literally shape the rapidly growing brain, with powerful, enduring effects on all domains of development. Yet universal child care increases parental workforce participation by decreasing parenting—which is incompatible both with what parents want and what evidence tells us is generally best for young children.
Erica Komisar, a “political liberal who has presented at Aspen Institute workshops and moves in intellectually elite circles,” is “a clinical social worker, psychoanalyst, and parent guidance expert who has been in private practice in New York City for over 30 years.” Her work on “attachment security” should give every mother eager to dump their young one off at daycare severe reservations: “Attachment security is dependent on one, go-to person who is the person you go to when you’re in distress. And it’s usually your mother. It can also be your father. But it is not a daycare worker who is transient, who you see a few hours a day, who may come and may go.”
Noting another problem, W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, wrote that
the message sent by the push for universal child care is that, ultimately, work matters more than family — and that government knows best how to arrange work and family choices. The irony is that some of the primary proponents for this view — for example, [Melinda] Gates and [Elizabeth] Warren — often deploy family-centered approaches in their own life. After the birth of her first child, Gates took time off from work to be at home with her children. Warren deliberately steered clear of child care outside the home after a bad experience with it.
For Lujan Grisham, “free” daycare is a threefer. It buys votes for what could be a razor-thin election victory in November. It furthers her feminist-socialist worldview. And it slakes her endless thirst to think well of herself.
But separating more of New Mexico’s kids from their parents is not sound social policy. Quite the opposite, in fact. It borders on child abuse.