There is an alarming trend in society whereby, every aspect of our existence is institutionalized. We are born in government institutions, we are educated by government institutions, every aspect of our life is affected by government institutions and we die in government institutions. In this heavily institutionalized environment, the individual and the family are withering, and they are being replaced by a monoculture. Proper support of families is one policy initiative that can protect against the industrialization of child rearing, the destruction of the family and the social ills that fall out of it – it is bad for the people affected and it is bad for British Columbia.
People ofttimes misinterpret my call for the maintenance of family as a call to take us back, oft times the term “family values” is interpreted by people in the feminist movement as a regressive assault on their cause. I am eager and think it is critical to support the advancement of women to full partners in all matters societally. So please understand that my interest in supporting families includes supporting women in their pursuit of careers outside the home or to bring the discussion into the gender-neutral space – support parents generally in their pursuit of life with family.
Why is it important for parents to retain influence over their children? There is a unique dynamic that occurs as parents come together and make a family, family cultures and genes merge and a phenotype emerges from the process. The children can only become steeped in the culture peculiar to their parent’s merger if their parents contribute to their rearing. From the merger of family cultures children are shaped in a unique way, that “phenotype” combines with the ambient culture to generate outcomes, this is the wellspring of diverse people and thought – we need to preserve it.
There is no substitute for love in the rearing of children. When I listen to people speak on the subject of early childhood development they use terms like “we need to get them early” – as if, the sooner children are in a government facility the better off they will be. I disagree with this premise entirely, however, there are instances where parents are unfit or uninformed – in those instances the family needs support. We should build policy that effects best outcomes for the mass of the population and generate measures to remediate deficiency – nowhere is this point more critical than with child development.
As we’ve institutionalized society we have effectively stratified society by age class. We do it in our school system and in various ways throughout society. This trend generally is troubling because as its intensity builds the family unit descends further toward full disintegration. This trend has become particularly acute at this juncture in our development, as postmodern realities come to bear on the “young families”.
Many young women encounter a high degree of distress in returning to work and leaving their young families in care – this is worsened in circumstances where the care is unreliable. This comment, to be clear, is a statement of empathy rather than an indication that women should remain with their children. I submit that a loved one should be with children and that any support offered by the government in the care of young children should support an option where family cares for family.
The situation is that women are in the workforce in record numbers and this will be our reality henceforth, there are challenges that have emerged out of this reality that has caused a call for government intervention. Governments are being pressured to provide young families with support. The most ardent advocates are women forwarding the issue is support of the overall liberalization of women. The bulk of the lobby is pushing toward a “universal government day-care system”. While I share the concern that is driving the lobby, the solution being posited is alarming to me. It is alarming because it by funding daycares we are funding children’s removal from the family unit and contributing further to an already damaging trend.
There is another option however, that is a child care subsidy. When parents receive a child care subsidy they can direct the funds as they see fit, to daycare, to a loved one doing child care or they can keep it and care for the children themselves.
For purposes of illustration, if the government expends approximately $9000 per year per child for daycare and the average home has two children, that is a total of $18,000 per year. The “marginal tax” assessment or the gross income required to net $18,000 is about $35,000 - $26,000 in income and $9,000 in employment-related expenses. For many households, one of the spouses would be better off with the subsidy than going to work. The subsidy may serve to augment a limited senior’s income should a grandparent care for the child. With the subsidy, the daycare option is open, family care is open. By building a government daycare system, people who want to pursue these other options are punished – they not only fail to get funding, they help pay for other people’s daycare.
($9,000 is the approximate amount for a childcare spot in Que. & an elementary school spot in BC - the initial amount would have to be less and find the right balance over time as other efficiencies facilitate the process) The subsidy could be started at a rate that is manageable and further federal support can be solicited. I am very mindful of the cost of government and this program would need to be addressed in the context of overall spending and other priorities.