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Home childcare trend fuels segregation fears

David Landes · 5 Jan 2010, 16:49

Published: 05 Jan 2010 16:49 GMT+01:00

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Overall, the programme, launched in July 2008 by the centre-right Alliance government, has not proven overly popular with Swedish parents.

But a study carried out by the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reveals that increasing numbers of parents in neighbourhoods dominated by residents with immigrant backgrounds are choosing to use the benefit and keep their children at home rather than send them to publicly funded preschools.

In the Spånga-Tensta neighbourhood north of central Stockholm, for example, the number of families requesting the childcare allowance has more than doubled, from 61 in 2008 to 135 in 2009.

In addition, two preschools in the area have closed down due to a lack of children, prompting concerns that immigrant children who remain at home risk falling behind in their acquisition of the Swedish language.

“Many say ‘it doesn’t matter, they’re so small’. But even an 18-month-old enjoys and benefits from preschool, as it helps develop both social skills and language abilities,” Karin Danielsson, head of the Stormhatten preschool in Tensta, told the newspaper.

In effect since July 1st, 2008, the childcare allowance (vårdnadsbidraget) is available to parents who forego the option of sending their children to a publicly financed preschool. Parents are allowed to continue working, but the benefit can’t be combined with traditional parental leave payments, unemployment insurance benefits, or other forms of economic support.

The idea behind the childcare allowance is to give families the ability to stay at home a little longer with their young children once their parental leave benefits have been used up.

According to DN, around 100 of Sweden’s 290 municipalities have implemented the measure, but as of yet there are no nationwide statistics on the number of parents participating in the programme.

Sweden’s main teachers union, Lärarförbundet, has long been critical of the allowance, issuing early warnings that the programme would likely lead to increased segregation by allowing unemployed immigrant parents and their children to isolate themselves at home, rather than engage with different aspects of Swedish society.

“Here we see how the childcare allowance is counterproductive when it comes to efforts to reduce segregation and give children the language training they need,” Lärarförbundet head Eva-Lis Preisz told DN.

“The children are the losers.”

Story continues below…

Educators’ concerns are shared by the Social Democrats, who also fear the childcare allowance will hamper children’s language development.

But the Christian Democrats, who championed the measure and are hoping to increase the benefit ceiling from 3,000 kronor ($422) per month to 6,000 kronor, don’t view the developments in the predominantly immigrant neighbourhoods north of Stockholm as problematic.

“Having a family’s economic situation improved a little bit during such an important time in the child’s life can only be positive. What children lose in language development they make up for with a feeling of security,” the Christian Democrats' spokesperson on family policy, Emma Henriksson, told DN.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

18:47 January 5, 2010 by calebian22
How many times does one read stories about Sweden's failures to integrate it's immigrants and refugees? Usually that blame is misplaced, but in this case there may be justification for that blame. Language acquisition is important. If these immigrant families are mixed with a native Swedish speaker than I don't see a problem, but if Swedish is not spoken at home, it is a disservice to the children when they start school.
19:13 January 5, 2010 by Thebinary1
I guess Emma Henriksson needs to be educated on what "security" actually means since it is nothing more than a figment of the human imagination and nothing to do with the reality of the situation. She is essentially supporting the paranoia children naturally have at that young an age, when the children should instead be educated that the paranoia is unfounded. This education only happens when the kids are socially engaged outside of their homes.
21:08 January 5, 2010 by byke
This system was setup simply due to certain areas were failing to supply enough pre school childcare (a cheap payoff as such). Now it threatens local authorities and decreased profits and increased cultural tensions.

Personally I support day care, not because I think its healthy for a child as such but simply because its the only way a child can have interaction over here since the majority of families have to have 2 full time workers to support this great consumer lifestyle.
21:51 January 5, 2010 by Rebel
Oh, isn't it terrible that parents might choose to have their kids at home rather than a state program? Heaven forbid the authoritarian arm of the state lose control over its citizens.
22:22 January 5, 2010 by brissiedan
Choice means freedom and increased diversity. Maybe that is what some are afraid of?
22:29 January 5, 2010 by Dr. Dillner
The language acclimation is a good point, but I am firmly behind @Rebel also
23:37 January 5, 2010 by Puffin
@ Rebel - but aren't this parents choosing to have their kids home as part of a state programme anyway if they are taking 3K in state welfare benefits to stay home each month?

Actually I'm not sure how big a deal this is - certainly previous research has shown that parents who can afford to use this welfare payment have often never had a daycare place anyway - just gladly taking the extra money for being eith SAH parents or part time workers.

It seems that most people are just using it to delay dagis start - although smart parents would ensure that their kids are mastering the language so as not to be left behind
00:27 January 6, 2010 by Greg in Canada
This will just further increase isolation of what are basically groups of immigrants who for the most part wish not to integrate into Swedish society but are quite willing to collect as many social benefits from the Swedish tax payer as possible. . Swedish politicians may mean well, but they certainly often end up shooting themselves in the foot. Sweden has been an example of how not to do immigration policy.
00:54 January 6, 2010 by xavidx
Talk to any Developmental Phsycologist and they will say it is better for a child under the age of 2-3 years old to be at home with either parent then in a pre-school (especially in large groups).
02:02 January 6, 2010 by BeverleySmith
There are three points to remember here:

1. Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child parents have the right to raise their children in the language and traditions of the parents. Children have the right to be raised in the presence of their parents wherever possible. So allowing home childcare subsidies is actually part of respecting human rights

2. The institutions that argue children need formal 3rd party care and who claim it is good for socialization and language etc. are actually arguing with a vested interest- their own jobs. Children at home also are socialized with siblings and playmates and they also learn very important skills of multi-age mentoring, which daycares often don't offer. Children at home are much more likely to be taught to read and do math than are children in large institutional care simply because one on one patient instruction 5-10 minutes a day is possible at home and not possible in large groups. It is a myth and very misleading to assume daycares and nursery schools are the only educational settings. Homes of caring parents are often at least as educational and often much more flexible to respond to the learning skills, pace, and interests of that particular child.

3. Funding that goes only to 3rd party care has an agenda usually of getting parents out of the home to earn, pay tax and be 'productive' in the economy. The agenda is very much based on the traditional economics paradigm that ignores the value of raising children and only counts as work activity that generates cash. That has been a flaw of traditional economics and it has been identified as such at Beijing in 1997 when all member UN nations vowed to start to include unpaid labor as part of their official tally and stop ignoring it. Sadly it is taking a long time to turn around that ship and get male-run governments to realize that roles in the home have all along anchored the economy but just been taken for granted. To fund only care away from home sadly still devalues one key role women have historically had and we must change that.

03:21 January 6, 2010 by Greg in Canada
@Beverly Smith

Nice copy and paste.
04:41 January 6, 2010 by here for the summer

In the USA at least this home school option is used mostly by right wing christians to isolate their children from the permissive society although it can also be of more legitimate use when the kids are in a bad school district. In Sweden i am not sure what to say except that forming isolated culturally areas and groups is the essence of a ghetto.
05:52 January 6, 2010 by eddie123
sad but true. stop the concentration of immigrants to certain localities and they will make an honest use of resources at their disposal. too often, we create enclaves of immigrant populations and this becomes counter productive to integration. i'll urge anyone interested to read the book "Under One Roof: On Becoming a Turk in Sweden" by Judith Narrowe. It is a study on swedish students with turkish immigrant background.
09:21 January 6, 2010 by Kronaboy
Why is that when ever you have the slightest opportunity you seem to come out of the woodwork, the reason why we are overly reliant upon state benefits is when ever we apply for a job we fall at the first hurdle because we are confronted by idiots like you, and then you have the audacity to blame us for our own misfortune. Let me explain it in a way that even idiots like you can understand, nobody chooses to be poor. The one saving grace which gives me confidence in my fellow Swedes is that most of the moronic comments appear to be originating from traditionally racist countries, like Canada, USA, UK, Denmark etc……
09:54 January 6, 2010 by Nemesis
Most people who home school there children are right wing religous nutjobs.

The children should be taught in school and allowed to socialise with other children.

We don't need children to be socially isolated and turned into basketcases.
11:05 January 6, 2010 by Weekend_warrior
Why do people (and governments) think they can stop heavy immigrant localities? From the USA, to England, to Sweden it does not matter.

In the USA those coming from South America (most incorrectly assume Mexicans) want to live with like minded, same colored and cultured people as them. Don't you? They are no different (except their new found country).

If I was middle eastern and moved to Sweden, I would want to live with others like me. Hispanic, African American, same thing. That's why there's Chinatown and Little Italy from NYC to San Francisco.

As for those of us moving through the western world...Australia, Canada, UK, Ireland, Germany, USA, we are much more like-minded and would naturally have an easier time.

As far as I am concerned. From a monetary issue, the point is moot. Whether they get money and stay at home or go to a pre-school. However, they will choose to stay at home. So for those who embrace it or not, a lot of these immigrants are here to stay, and from a very early age, helps ensure that Swedes will keep the status-quo (just have to throw a bone once in a while)
12:56 January 6, 2010 by Roy E
It's quite a Pandora's Box that the government opened up with its immigration policies.

There are all sorts of unintended consequences associated with have such an open mind that your brains fall out. Some are worse than others of course and this ranks one is pretty minor, but the response to it will be another in a series of steps out further onto the slippery slope of government mandating behavior to correct its errors, omission, oversights, and unintended consequences. Its a mess that's only going to get worse.
13:49 January 6, 2010 by Puffin
How does this have anything to do with immigration policies? What does this have to do with 'mandating behaviour'??? This is not even a national policy The whole issue is to do with payments to be a stay at home parent by municipal councils

This was the brainchild of the Christian Democrats who assumed that middle class women would choose to be housewives - which was seen as a positive thing. However now that middle class women chose not to be housewives and it is immigrant families that as using the benefits - suddenly it's a problem LOL

I see very little that is problematic given that it ONLY affects children UNDER AGE 3 - however immigrant families would be wise to make sure that their stay at home children get some exposure to the Swedish language so that they do not need special ed when they start school.
15:12 January 6, 2010 by vladd777
No problem with keeping the kids at home if the mother has mastered the foreign language to an acceptable degree.

The adults need to learn the language as fast as possible in order to understand and be understood.

Kids learn the language in the wink of an eye.
16:34 January 6, 2010 by Puffin
@ vladd777

Do you mean that english speaking parents in Sweden should not stay at home with their kids until they are fluent in Swedish
17:12 January 6, 2010 by Dinaricman
I don't want my kids mingling with Swedes. They have such low morals and degenerate sexual impulses.
18:10 January 6, 2010 by Nemesis
@ Dinaricman

Since you don't like Sweden and its culture, here is some suggestions for you.

Goto Hemnet.se and sell your home.

Goto flysas.com and book a flight out of Sweden and don't come back.
21:10 January 6, 2010 by vladd777

Not fluent..just able to cope.

As an English speaking parent I found that when I started to understand and speak the language my kids were more motivated to learn it.

I was able to help them if they had problems.
09:00 January 7, 2010 by Xxsarahxx
So many replies to this article, for some reason kids staying at home with their parents sparks passion.

I don't care if the people are foreign, or national, black, white, pink. whatever. Point is simple. We bring kiddies into the world and we should be allowed to raise them. I think it is great that families are given (for whatever reason) the choice.

These kids will learn swedish, no doubt. Children pick things up extremely fast. Kids start school in NZ at age 5 they are much more advanced than swedish kids by age 7, but somewhere along the lines they catch up....always do

NO way is the right way to raise a family, there are just different ways and as long as the child is happy, and healthy then it is absolutely none of our business and we should respect other families decisions and go about raising our own kids our way!
19:08 January 7, 2010 by mumsy64
Having given up luxuries to be a stay at home parent when our children were young I found the responses to the article more fascinating than the article. What kind of insane world do we live in when it is considered better for a child under the age of three to be in the care of payed child care workers rather than one of their parents. Children in a healthy home aren't just sitting in the nursery staring at the wall , they are playing freely with what they choose, they're being read too, going to the park or gym classes. If they want to paint they can tell mom so, not be told painting time is at 9:30. It is hopefully a love filled enviroment. Not something you will truly find in even the best childcare/preschool center.

As for immigrant parents, if language acquisition is the true concern, wouldn't centers that teach the parents while proveding childcare during a one hour class make more sense than removing the child from the home. After all the key to educating children is educating the mother. Sorry gentleman your wife's education level is actually more important than yours. In other words if mothers are taught the language of their new country their children will learn it more quickly than any other method. I used to live in Southern California and found this to be so true for the young hispanic children coming into school. If their mother had taken advantage of the free language classes at the schools they usually spoke at least rudimentary english. If the mother had no english skills then neither did the children even if they had been in day cares.

Finally what a colossal waste of money for the government to be paying parents to stay home with their own children. Remember whenever the government pays for something like this its really coming out of the tax payers pocket. So as you drop your child off at daycare and head to work you are paying for another Mom to make the personal choice to stay home.Wrong.
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