The United States would do well to look at Sweden’s model for figuring out what serves parents and children for best outcomes in the early years. In Sweden, there is no distinction between child care and preschool. The above-linked article’s author, Miriam Nordfors, explains that Sweden uses what they call the Educare model, which “enables parents to combines parenthood with work or studies and to encourage children’s development and learning.
Municipalities in Sweden are obligated to provide preschool/care for children from the age of 1. Preschools are open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., but there are some facilities that provide preschool for children during nights, weekends and holidays since many parents do not have the choice to work 9 to 5. Briliiant!
The interesting piece that I found when reading the article was that the Educare program is run by Sweden’s minister of gender equality. This tells me that Sweden is willing to admit the challenges for women who look to combine parenting and working or studying. If quality child care/preschool is provided from the age of 1, it makes it all the easier for women to re-enter the workforce at a reasonable point after the birth of a child. According to Ms. Nordfors, Sweden would “not have among the highest female and maternal employment rates in the European Union, or the lowest levels of child poverty,” without the preschool system.
In my work with Operation Ready By 3 and my ORB3 Infant-Toddler Curriculum, it is clear that poverty affects school success and much, much more. If the United States could achieve the highest female and maternal employment rate in the world as well as the lowest level of child poverty, the sky would be the limit for what the citizens of the United States could achieve. If we don’t start by giving women the chance to re-enter the workforce knowing full-well their child is cared for by excellent providers, women will continue to struggle with combining child-rearing and work/studies and child poverty will continue to affect school readiness and the potential for success in life.