Soapbox - Institutional Care of Young Children

Soapbox - Institutional Care of Young Children
mixed media assemblage
After coming across my artwork featured on the FSU college of art website, I revisited my works of art featured in the exhibit and decided to share them and my reflections on them here on my blog.  This is the second installment out of three works of art:

Inside my soapbox you will find a delicate egg, safe in a nest; an environment that is optimal for healthy
physical and emotional development.  This represents a baby being cared for by a primary caregiver in
the home where optimal bonding and development can occur. Outside the soapbox is the cold, harsh
world that most babies are sent out into as delicate infants.  In the cold, harsh world of my assemblage
you will find a metal nest with a broken egg and coins. Babies in institutional childcare settings are
cared for by strangers that frequently change and are in charge of multiple babies.  Many families have
no choice but to put their infants in childcare for financial reasons. The US has an antiquated and
inhumane policy for workers concerning parental leave. Many people may not understand what they
are sacrificing when they put their baby into institutional care; they don’t realize the long-term
consequences.   Institutional childcare has become the norm, so not much thought is but into the harm
that is being done to children and society.

Object relations theories have long emphasized the importance of attachment.  The first five years of a
child’s life are so important to children’s future health and development.  Many infants in the US are
sent to full time daycare at 6 weeks old. Infancy is a very important time for babies to bond with a
primary caregiver to develop object permanence which is extremely important to future health.   A baby
being separated from home and parent makes it almost impossible for babies to be breastfed for the
recommended amount of time by the American Pediatric Association. New neuroscience research
shows just how important the early years are for healthy development and future mental and physical
health.  The US lags far behind other developed countries on many measures linked to early childhood
care. The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act only allows for 12 weeks of unpaid leave for parents.
Links have been found between the lack of paid parental leave and the US being ranked 56th for infant
mortality rates among developed nations.  A 2014 Harvard study found many negatives including
increased mental health issues for mothers. This is an important issue not only for the individual
development of children but also for the healthy development of our society. Why does the US lag
so far behind other developed countries in this regard? Could it be that childrearing has been
thought of as women’s work and therefore not important in our hegemonic society?  

Dwyer, M. (2015, May13).  A link between paid maternity leave and mental health.  Retrieved from:  https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/maternity-leave-and-mental-health/

Gerhardt, S. (2004).  Why love matters: how affection shapes a baby’s brain.  New York: Routledge.

Rubin, R. (2016, April 16). U.S. dead last among developed countries when it comes to paid maternity leave.  Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ritarubin/2016/04/06/united-states-lags-behind-all-other-developed-countries-when-it-comes-to-paid-maternity-leave/#417ffb0b8f15

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