More Quality Time in Day Care Can Mean Less Hard Time In Jail

From the WebMD Archives

April 28, 2000 (Washington) -- More involvement in day care means less involvement in crime down the road. That's a key conclusion of a new report from a 700-member anticrime coalition released at the White House on Friday.

"[The report] tells us that at-risk children who receive quality [child] care today are much less likely to commit crimes tomorrow. They are less likely to enter schools with serious behavioral problems. They are less likely to be arrested," said first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton at an event highlighting the document's findings.

The report, titled "America's Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy," notes that a 14-year study of children in government-funded day care centers shows the children were just half as likely to get arrested in their teens as those who hadn't been in such programs. Another finding -- at-risk children who are denied quality child care are five times as likely to become chronic lawbreakers as adults are.

In addition, Ms. Clinton says every dollar invested in quality child care saves $5 that would otherwise be spent in fighting crime -- all of which benefits not only the children but the families as well, says the report. "When a family knows their child is going to be taken care of appropriately, they don't have to grieve," says T. Berry Brazelton, MD, one of the report's authors and a professor emeritus at the Harvard Medical School.

The research gave Ms. Clinton, who's also a candidate for the Senate in New York State, an opportunity to tout the administration's child-care programs in the pending federal budget, including an additional $817 million in grants to cover 150,000 more low-income kids. The administration also wants $30 billion in tax relief over the next 10 years to help families pay for child-care costs. The budget also calls for another $1 billion for the popular Head Start program.

While one Capitol Hill source said there was interest in expanding day-care programs, there is Republican skepticism about whether Ms. Clinton is simply advancing her own political agenda with this effort. "Quite frankly, there's a lot of concern about a Hillary Clinton day-care program," Joe Karpinski, a spokesman for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, tells WebMD.

Polls show that police chiefs believe after-school care programs would curb youth violence. But even the authors of the report had to concede that investing in day care couldn't necessarily stop an outburst like last year's shootings at Columbine High School. The killers were students who came from a relatively affluent background. Brazelton speculated they "grew up not feeling good about themselves."

"We certainly can't say ? what would prevent every act of violence ? we do know how to greatly reduce the risk of violence," says Sanford Newman, president of the "Fight Crime: Invest in Kids" group that commissioned the report with an eye toward urging the government to allocate more funds for child care.

"To me, the message ? is it's never one thing ? between early childhood and adolescence. It's not all over by a certain age. At each age, there's something you can do," Karen Hein, MD, president of the William T. Grant Foundation, a major underwriter of the report, tells WebMD.