Friday, March 19, 2010
As the nation faces policy challenges over juvenile delinquency and subsequent crime, one all-but-forgotten option remains as promising as ever despite its virtual absence in recent national discussions and debates: a comprehensive daycare and after-school care policy. For decades, social scientists in this country have examined various designs of early educational and daycare programs, some promising tremendous alterations in the lives of participants and others offering far more modest achievements. Today, however, long term studies provide a much clearer picture of how early child care programs and after-school programs offer significant benefits for communities. Longitudinal evidence suggests that early childhood intervention programs, which buffer the effects of delinquency risk factors, help prevent chronic delinquency and later adult offending. After-school care programs also provide healthy alternatives to otherwise unsupervised adolescent behavior and hopefully spare children and their communities the expense, fear, and suffering which often accompanies delinquent misconduct and subsequent adult criminal misconduct. Overall, early intervention programs help reduce risk factors that contribute to delinquent behavior and later adult offending, while after-school programs create activities for juveniles during the time period when many delinquent acts occur. European governments have funded early chidcare and educational programs for decades, and the time seems appropriate for this country to thoroughly review their programs and to consider following their lead.