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The Romance Review

Institutionalized Children May Some Day Get Theirs!

 Tried, convicted and institutionalized but what was their crime?

These are the words that came to mind as I wandered through the rooms of an old house that had been converted, somewhat inadequately, into a day care center. The innocent faces of the little children peered up at me; their eyes seemed to be pleading for acknowledgment, their expressions competing for attention. The woman who was showing me around was polite and wore a friendly smile, but the fatigue and frustration she tried to suppress was evident through her demeanor and tone of voice. The house was not very big, a little run down and in much need of a face lift. The rooms were congested, full to capacity with cribs, tables, play equipment and toys. The babies, toddlers and preschool children were kept in separate areas of the house. I assumed this was for the convenience of the care givers. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if a fire broke out, the doors and windows didn’t seem like they could accommodate a mass evacuation. Even though this was a house, its characteristics resembled that of an institution more than a home. The yard was also very small with very little room left to run and move about freely. Not a lot of opportunity for enhancing the development of large motor skills. They told me that this facility had been licensed for 35 children. I was shocked! Hygiene was not a priority, or so it seemed. There were only 2 bathrooms to accommodate everyone and their appearance was, to say the least, uninviting. The cloth that was used by one of the caregivers to wipe a soiled face was well-worn and grubby. And as I looked down at the huge ‘teddy’ lying on the floor at my feet, I wondered how many mouths had chewed on his fur leaving their saliva for the next to ingest.

Even though these were less than ideal conditions, I am not suggesting that this house did not meet government standards. All the basic ingredients were there but very little consideration had been given to the recipe. And I am not by any means insinuating that the staff did not have the children’s best interest at heart. Nevertheless, working for $7.00 an hour with so many children, in such a cluttered and shabby environment, must take its toll.

There are many of these types of facilities in North America, all with similar environments. However, there are a lot of attractive and spacious day care centers that offer a healthy and stimulating environment, with qualified, well paid care givers. Unfortunately most of these are private or too expensive for the lower income and some single parent families to afford. And, although elaborate and well equipped, these centers still have the same basic concept:  institutionalization!

My heart goes out to those young families who are looking for child care. It must be an extremely difficult and emotional task. We all want the very best for our children regardless of our situation. There is so much to consider. Perhaps we could ask ourselves before deciding, “Would I be happy spending all day here five days a week?” And if something feels ‘not quite right’ trust your intuition, its God’s gentle guidance.

 Children are our future and our most valuable resource. They will, hopefully, carry on our cultural heritage and preserve our societal and religious traditions. They are our future lawmakers and leaders. Let’s not forget we are molding and shaping our future here. Twenty or thirty years down the road these children are going to be making decisions for us. When we are old and incapacitated, unable to make choices for ourselves, will they give us the same consideration we gave them? Will we be institutionalized, condemned to spending our last days, in small congested unkept facilities with all the basic ingredients? After all we did the same to them, and they do say ‘what goes around comes around’!