Family First believes parents should have genuine choice when it comes to caring for young children at home, instead of being economically coerced to place them in daycare.

In the fervent debate about early childhood care, this critical perspective is often overlooked.

Virginia Tapscott, a rural mum and vocal advocate for parental choice in child upbringing, has been publicly raising significant concerns about the prevailing trend of recent decades of institutional daycare.

Her insights compel us to consider the profound implications of our childcare choices on children's development and well-being.

This blog summarises a recent article in The Australian and another she wrote for the Australian Psychological Society.

Virginia Tapscott

The Case Against Institutional Daycare

The surge in daycare usage has paralleled a concerning rise in childhood anxiety, depression, and declining academic performance. Tapscott points to the distressing scenes at daycare centers, where children, especially toddlers, exhibit separation anxiety and detachment, suggesting an underlying emotional turmoil.

Moreover, she highlights that in daycare settings, the child's constant search for their primary caregivers can impede other foundational brain functions. Harvard University's Centre on the Developing Child supports this view, indicating that excessive stress can disrupt brain development, advocating for a re-evaluation of policies that unduly pressure mothers into the workforce.

The Importance of Parental Care

The argument for parental choice in childcare is not just about opposing daycare but about recognizing the irreplaceable value of parental care. Parents are the strongest predictive factor in child development. Secure attachment to family, as noted by the Australian Medical Association, is a critical protective factor in lifelong health. This bond cannot be replicated in formal childcare settings, Tapscott argues.

The Economic Perspective

Unfortunately, the prevailing childcare policies often reduce parenting to a mere economic equation, underestimating the long-term social, health, and human capital generated by parental care. As Tapscott argues, supporting parents to stay at home with their children is not a loss of economic productivity but an investment in the future health and well-being of society.

The Reality of Daycare Quality

While childcare is essential, particularly for disadvantaged children, its effectiveness varies widely. Not all childcare centres offer the high-quality, nurturing environment necessary for optimal child development. This disparity is especially pronounced in countries where the childcare sector is dominated by private, profit-driven entities.

The Need for a Balanced Approach

The emphasis on expanding formal childcare, often at the expense of other forms of family support, is not supported by the full breadth of evidence. Peak health and research bodies, like the Australian Psychological Society, have documented the increasing rates of separation anxiety and other disorders in children, indicating a need to support parenting as much as formal childcare.

Conclusion: Embracing Parental Choice and Home Care

It's time to acknowledge that one size does not fit all in early childhood care. We must provide parents with the choice and the support to care for their children at home if they wish. This is not just about economics or workforce participation; it's about acknowledging the invaluable role parents play in the early years of a child's life. As Tapscott and others have highlighted.

Family First believes the discrimination through taxation and government subsidy arrangements against families who choose care for their children at home should be abolished.

Parents should no longer be made to feel that caring for their child at home is a lesser vocation.

Family First agrees with Tapscott that policy needs to incentivise the care of children at home so parents can make a genuine choice.