Last week I was interviewed for an extensive feature article which appeared in the Adelaide Sunday Mail. My ‘child abuse’ quote in relation to child-care was focused upon and became a major news piece in the same paper which was run in other papers interstate on the same day.

But my comments on child-care were misunderstood.

I was talking only about the ramifications for babies in long day care.

I didn’t use the words “child abuse’. I quoted them. The owner of a child care facility had said to me:

Mem, when we look back at the quality of child-care for babies at this time in our history, with the terrible ratios of carers-to-children that we currently have, people are going ask us how we allowed such child abuse to happen.

Nor did I say a word against child-care in general, let alone well-resourced, good child care; or part-time care for any child; or care by family, or friends.

Child care is about the choices people have to make. We had to make them too. Parents have an absolute right to put their babies into care but shouldn’t they be allowed to make — at the very least — a well-informed decision?

I’m not the expert, for pity’s sake. It’s paediatricians, social workers, and child psychologists who are spelling out for us the worrying, newly-realised implications for brain development and parent-child bonding for babies in long day care.

These babies are known to develop differently and some of their learning (“neural”) pathways don’t develop well at all, due to insufficient touch in their first four months. It’s not opinion — well-researched analysis has existed for many years.

So there it is: everyone’s too frightened to whisper, let alone talk out loud about babies being in care from three weeks for 60 hours a week.

How babies themselves are feeling, developing, or suffering isn’t on any agenda. It’s the elephant in the room. So I confronted it. I went out on a limb and stood up for the babies.

Surprisingly, I found myself in a lovely forest of agreement — apart from a few scary book-burners who are still so furious they can’t think straight.

This time round I had no choice but to take the praise, the blame and the controversy on the chin. Never again. Talk to the real experts next time, and see what happens.

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW