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The Struggle to Find Decent Childcare is Real, According to New National Poll

“Safety and health factors are important to parents, but too often, parents aren’t sure how to determine if a childcare option is safe and healthy.”


Parenting is one of the most heavily debated topics there is. But at the end of the day, don’t we all want the same thing – healthy and safe kids? It’s a parent’s top priority, and it’s why finding childcare can be so anxiety provoking. A new national poll from the University of Michigan shows that it’s also remarkably challenging.

According to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at the University of Michigan, two out of three parents struggle to find childcare that meets their safety and health standards. That’s a pretty troubling statistic, especially given the fact that dual-income families represent the overwhelming majority in the U.S. – meaning that most parents rely on childcare.

The poll report includes responses from a nationally representative sample of 307 parents who had at least one child ages one to five. These parents shared their desired and required criteria for childcare centers or individuals they entrust with their kids’ care.

The poll revealed that, for parents looking at daycare or preschool centers, safety and practical matters are of utmost importance. Parents are seeking locked doors, a safe outdoor play space, and background checks for staff. For parents considering an in-home daycare, the most important considerations turned out to be clean kitchens and healthy food, plus available books and educational toys.

Parents also have deal-breakers when it came to selecting childcare. The most common are safety-related. About 70 percent of parents report that they would not send their child to a school or center located in a “sketchy” area, and 56 percent note they would never choose a place with guns on the premises. Forty-eight percent of parents say the presence of other adults besides staff is also a disqualifier.

Health matters, too. Roughly four in 10 parents would not consider a childcare facility that allows unvaccinated children to attend. About three in 10 parents wouldn’t choose an in-home or center option where a staff person smokes.

Unfortunately, 62 percent of parents say it’s hard to find childcare options that meet their standards. But perhaps even more unsettling is that only half of parents feel confident in their ability to even discern whether a childcare setting is safe and healthy, making the daycare search a stressful process.

Parents don’t want to compromise on the level of care their children receive, and yet, many are not even sure how to tell what’s a good fit or not.

Poll co-director Sarah Clark advises parents to go the extra mile in assessing childcare options. She suggests taking the following steps:

  • Make a drop-in visit to evaluate safety measures, like the security of the entrance and the location of a playground in relation to the street.
  • Research their health-related policies, such as vaccination requirements for kids and staff, and look into their rules about background checks and security policies.
  • Talk to the director about other health and safety concerns.

“The more research parents do ahead of time, the more confident they will feel that their children are in a safe and healthy environment,” says Clark. She points out that some health and safety matters are clearly observable during a daycare tour, while others – like how frequently toys are cleaned – will require you to inquire.

Having gone through the childcare search myself four years ago, I believe the more questions you ask the better. A simple Google search yields tons of great examples of what to ask when interviewing childcare providers. If it’s an option worth pursuing, the staff will certainly take the time to sit down with you and address all of your concerns.

Some great checklists can be found on Care.com, Parenting.com, and BabyCenter.com, which has separate lists for home daycares and daycare centers.

Some questions are more obvious than others: Are the teachers CPR and First Aid certified? How often are the staff and kids required to wash their hands? Are babies placed to sleep on their backs on a surface free of any objects? How and where are meals and snacks prepared and stored?

Before doing my research, though, I never thought to ask: What’s your method of keeping track of children as they transition out to the playground or to another classroom? What’s your disaster plan (in the case of a fire, for instance)? I also never thought to purposefully visit a center during a busy time, like lunch, to observe how the staff operates under pressure.

In addition to questions concerning health and safety, another important and relevant question is, “What’s your turnover rate?”

Last year, NPR reported a 30 percent turnover rate among childcare workers nationally. That number is not so surprising when you learn that, in 2016, the average pay for childcare workers was less than $10 an hour, and nearly half of childcare workers relied on public assistance.

“Specialists in early education say low pay doesn’t just hurt child care workers,” NPR reports. “It has an effect on babies and toddlers, too, and poses a major challenge in creating high quality child care.”

One thing’s for sure: Childcare reform is needed in our country. If you’re currently struggling to find good quality care for your kids, know that you’re far from alone. Remember knowledge is power. Do your homework and show up prepared so you can make the best choice possible for your child and family.

While you may never find the perfect fit, you can strive to find a place that puts your mind at ease, so that your only worry during the workday is that pressing deadline and not your child’s health or safety.

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I was walking in Target the other day talking to my sons, who are two and three, about getting Mama a birthday card. "Which one should we get for Mama?" I asked. They wanted the $7 cat one that sang "I'm too sexy for my hair," of course. As we laughed about the different cards, a woman walked by and patted my arm. "They are so lucky to have you." I smiled and thought, how nice. Only a few aisles later did I realize she may have thought I was their nanny, not their mom...

I look nothing like my kids. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed—they have the most perfect blue eyes that they got from my wife, who was the one who carried our children. I am Colombian, and my 5-foot-nothing stature is more Oompa Loompa than Barbie.

As a girl, young woman, and even early into adulthood I never had the urge to have children. When I was in first or second grade teachers would ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and a bunch of girls would answer, "a mommy." I answered, "a banker."

Times have changed and when I grew up I no longer wanted to be a banker and I surprised myself in the fact that I did want kids. And I am so happy I married someone who not only wanted kids too but who also wanted to be the one to carry them.

Our kids have her last name. She did the work for those nine plus months—she deserves that. And honestly, it's not important to me that they don't have my last name, and I don't feel any less connected to them because I didn't carry them in my womb. What counts is that we are a family.

I was adopted at two months old. I look like my Italian mom and absolutely nothing like my English dad. From a young age, I always knew I wasn't biologically their child, but in every single other way, I still am their kid. (They joke that their offspring wouldn't be as cute or as athletic, and I joke back but they'd probably be smarter and taller.)

Our never-ending love, our respect, our gifts of compassion, and the fact that we're always there for each other—these are the treasures that make us a family. Not anything biological. So that has taught me a lot about how to raise my kids with the all of those same treasures that also include politeness, honesty, the gift of laughter, and always doing your best.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but I am there to calm them in the middle of the night because of an accident, nosebleed, or scary dream.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but the diaper changes are real. (Trust me.)

I didn't give birth to my boys, but I read to them, dance with them, and laugh with them—every day.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but somehow, one of my boys has a matching birthmark in the same place as I do and our little inside joke is that we high-five them together.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but both of them smile the same way I do…total full teeth smile.

I didn't give birth to my boys, but they call me "Mom," and I've never loved two human beings more.

But being one of two moms definitely makes for some interesting and funny stories. We got rid of our crib a few months ago and when someone found out she asked, "But what if there's—ya know—an accident?" I told her that one of the many joys of being a lesbian is that there will not be any "accidents" in our future.

Or the time right after my wife had our first baby when I was in the hospital bed with our son while my wife went to a new parent class. (I told her we should do one before the baby actually came, but a lesson I've learned is that one should definitely choose their battles wisely with their pregnant wife.) I was in the bed, holding my son and the nurse came in and said, "Time to get your vitals" and so, I had some explaining to do.

Or the time we went to do our taxes. The woman said, "Okay, which one of you wants to go first?" My wife replied, "We are married. We'd like to do it all together." The woman looked at us for a few seconds and said, "Oh, I've never done this before." I looked at her and said, "You've never done a married couple's taxes before?" She shrugged and said, "Not like this."

So how does all of this make me feel? It makes me feel human. Sometimes people judge, sometimes people do not take enough time to ask questions, sometimes people assume. These stories make me understand that I am blessed, confident, and my biggest struggle with my kids—besides too long of a bedtime routine right now—is that I sometimes have to explain a little more. I know this is teaching them to do the opposite of what is sometimes done to us—to take time to ask questions, be patient, be curious and be polite.

So sure, having two moms does make for some funny stories at times, but it also provides us the opportunity to raise our kids well and show society that we, as women, are capable. Our family is two moms—a mom and a mama—and our two precious boys who make up this team. We smother our kids with all the snuggles in the world, and they will forever be mama's boys, which we could not be happier about.

The funny stories keep us laughing, but they also do something much more serious, much more important. They remind us that gay people, not too long ago, did not have the luxury of being on a child's birth certificate together, or filing taxes jointly. They remind me to be humble, unassuming and, most of all, grateful. I am grateful that my friends and family have all accepted us as we are, a loving couple who wants to be happy and raise kind, healthy boys.

In the future—later today or in a few years—I am hopeful that more and more people will see us as a family. There are so many different types of families out there, and we all deserve to be validated and seen. We are so fortunate that so many people already do recognize us as a family and hopefully, it will get easier and easier over time and the stories will become less and less frequent.

Maybe, just maybe, Target lady knew I was their mom, and not their nanny. Maybe she saw the love and pride in my eyes, the casual banter in the bright red cart, and the fact that I am confident in who I am to my boys—their mom.

After all, we are a family bonded by love and all the other treasures that have been passed down from our parents. Because relationships are not just blood…it's all of the other stuff that makes us a family.

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It may sound hard to believe (or perhaps obvious 😉), but with an infant and toddler in tow, I'm thinking of making the move from the city to the 'burbs. Living in the heart of New York City was at one time exciting, invigorating and extremely convenient.

But now? Well, it has become un-accommodating, brash and expensive (well more expensive). And I find myself browsing real estate sites and dreaming of a house with a big yard. Although unimaginable before kids, with two kids, the pull of the suburbs is real. I still think NYC is the best in the world, but the more I analyze logistics to schools to safety... I'm leaning toward the 'burbs.

Here's why.

1. Schools! Schools! Schools!

This has got to be the number one reason most people leave the city. The stress and money to get into good schools in the city is a lot. We just went through the first step—preschool applications—including an interview and reference letters.

I had to stretch my creative muscles to illustrate the brilliance of my 2-year-old: "He can successfully build sandcastles, his Lego structures have the foundation of an aspiring architect" or should I just go with, "He doesn't hit!?" It's become close to a part-time job. All this aside, my child did get in (#mombrag), but now I just have to come to terms with the astronomical price tag.

But the 'burbs? The burbs of New York have some of the best schools in the country. You may pay for it via your property taxes, but when you have more than one kid, the economics just make sense.

2. Logistics

The struggle that is the double stroller. I love the history of New York, but as one of the oldest cities in America, it can be a real nightmare for strollers. Small doors, steps and tight passages result in the fact that we can't go into many places.

When I had my single stroller, although it took some work, I figured out which stores were stroller friendly. However, once I upgraded to the double stroller, my world became too small. The huge wheels barely fit through the doors and I get the side eye from my favorite coffee shop for bringing in such a monstrosity. And it's a lucky day if you manage to have an elevator on either end of your trip when you're riding the subway.

In the 'burbs, I dream of leaving the double stroller at home and upgrading to the spacious minivan. I look forward to those gigantic parking lots where I will be able to walk the grocery cart up to my car! Oh, the luxury!

3. Sports!

Did I mention I have active kiddos? As they get older, the confines of a city apartment incite an unbearable case of cabin fever. New York City has some lovely parks but unfortunately, the patches of grass at Madison Square Park just aren't cutting it anymore.

The suburbs promise full-size football and soccer fields, public tennis courts that you don't have to wait an hour for and numerous sports teams to participate in. I think sports should be a part of any childhood and I don't want my kids to miss out. (Another 'burbs bonus: There is something so magical about opening the back door and telling your kids to go play outside!)

4. Space

The toys are creeping into every crevice of the apartment and nothing is sacred. I just can't wait to send my kids to the basement with all of their favorite things. In addition, our house in the 'burbs would have a guest bedroom! It would be nice to entertain my family (aka free babysitters) without subjecting them to the blow-up mattress on the floor.

5. Noise

After a couple of months in the city, the noise of the police cars, fire trucks and ambulances just fade in the distance, but now with kids, every noise is accentuated. My toddler points out all of them while demanding an explanation "Is that a fire truck, mommy? What is it doing?"

I also feel the need to cover up my little one's ears, lest he wake up from our hard-earned nap time. I'd much rather be explaining the noise of birds and crickets to my kids rather than the loud noises of emergency vehicles.

6. The people

I love my fellow New Yorkers who are driven, worldly and tell it like it is. I know it has changed the Canadian in me to be a little more blunt. However, part of this New Yorker attitude doesn't mesh so well with kids.

I've been honked at to hurry up while I try to strap in my two kids in at the car park or have gotten an audible sigh from the hostess for bringing my kids to our local restaurant. Kids take a little more time and patience and that time is money to a lot of folks.

I love you New York, but I am ready to make the move.

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Leadership is often misunderstood with being bold, arrogant, self-centered or wanting attention. However, that's very far from the truth.

So, who is a leader? And why would you want your child to become one?

A true leader is someone who:

  • is confident about who they really are because they know themselves,
  • inspires others with his/her gifts and talents because they recognize them,
  • is trusted because they can trust themselves,
  • can express themselves to the world easily and effortlessly because they don't feel afraid to do this,
  • celebrates other people for their talents and leads/ inspires/ listens/ guides/ people to share their gifts with the world,
  • is ready to make a change to the world no matter how small or big,
  • and leads a happy and fulfilling life that is true to their nature.

The reality is that a leader is actually someone very positive and highly evolved as a human being. Why wouldn't we want to nurture our children's leadership mindset then? We all most certainly should if we really want to help our children reach their full potential.

Here are some ways creative play nurtures the leadership mindset

  1. Creative play allows your child to express themselves they way they like and prefer in the very moment.
  2. Your child can explore their inner gifts, talents and preferences, experiment with them and deciding how they can make best use of them in the real world.
  3. Creative exploration opens up the whole world of possibilities which your child can flexibly test, reflect on and improve until they are satisfied with the final result.
  4. While creating, your child develops great confidence in their own skills and talents.
  5. Creative play allows plenty of space for celebration of your child's own individuality.

Every play is creative when it's child-led. Children create all the time and creative play is not restricted to arts and crafts only—it goes far beyond that. Construction is creative, discussion is creative, dancing is creative, gardening is creative, role-play is creative, the possibilities are endless.

To really nurture your child's leadership mindset, any creative experience must always be child-led. Otherwise the creativity aspect will most likely be controlled, restricted and shaped towards a certain direction or agenda-driven.

Child-led means that your child is the author of the experience—they can take it wherever they want it and however they want it. This also means that you, as a parent, are a facilitator of that experience, offering child-friendly and safe space and access to tools and resources, but you don't impose any structure, outcome or result.

You allow your child to experience whatever they wish and need at that moment. And by doing this we show them that we trust them, that we celebrate who they are, and that whatever they offer to the world is wonderful and it doesn't need to be changed or modified to our liking.

Originally published on National Born Leaders.

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Caesar salad should not be on the menu this Thanksgiving, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Romaine lettuce has been linked to an E. coli outbreak that has seen 32 people in 11 states fall ill. More than a dozen people have been hospitalized.

"Consumers who have any type of romaine lettuce in their home should not eat it and should throw it away, even if some of it was eaten and no one has gotten sick," the CDC notes on its website.

There have also been cases in Canada—15 in Quebec and 3 in Ontario. The Public Health Agency of Canada says people in those provinces should avoid eating romaine lettuce and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce until more is known about the outbreak.

Officials on both sides of the border agree this outbreak is linked to a previous outbreak in 2017.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, genetic analysis of the E. coli strain indicates this outbreak isn't linked to the one that occurred back in the spring of 2018 but is related to an epidemic in the fall of 2017.

"Genetic analysis of the E. coli O157:H7 strains tested to date from patients in this current outbreak are similar to strains of E. coli O157:H7 associated with a previous outbreak from the Fall of 2017 that also affected consumers in both Canada and the U.S." the FDA notes on its website.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says the agency is taking steps to "get ahead of this emerging outbreak to reduce risk to consumers; help people protect themselves and families from foodborne illness outbreak, especially ahead of Thanksgiving meals."

"This isn't the first romaine outbreak we've seen in recent past," Gottlieb said in a statement posted to Twitter. "We're taking steps to identify root causes of these events and to prevent future outbreaks. We're committed to working with partners to implement additional safety practices to prevent outbreaks from occurring."

The FDA is asking the food industry to help it contain the outbreak by voluntarily withdrawing romaine products from the market and withholding distribution until the source of the outbreak is identified.

Bottom line: If you've got romaine in the fridge, toss it, mama.

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