GUEST COMMENTARY: Child Development Laboratory offers great service for price

Tuesday, July 1, 2014 | 3:00 p.m. CDT

Recently published articles and reports to MU’s chancellor suggest that MU's Child Development Laboratory, housed within the Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, is exclusive and expensive, a position that is simply not true.

The Child Development Laboratory is a fully licensed and accredited child-care facility in the state of Missouri and provides high quality child care to community members, faculty, staff and students alike.

It operates under the same rules and regulations as all other child-care providers in the state and does so in the heart of the Mizzou campus. It is licensed to accommodate 80 infants, toddlers and preschoolers, currently provides care for 79 children in one infant classroom, one toddler classroom and three preschool classrooms.

While we are nearly full for the upcoming academic year, earlier this summer, we had 17 openings for 2½- to 5-year-old children. Turnover occurs each year due to children transitioning to kindergarten and families moving out of town. As a result, most of our openings occur in early June and August.

While characterized as the most expensive child-care provider near Mizzou's campus, the Child Development Laboratory does provide tuition discounts, on a sliding scale, to families who have financial need.

The financial assistance offered, while not identical in scale to the soon-to-be-closed Student Parent Center, results in similar monthly tuition costs to the Student Parent Center.

For example, a family of four with a graduate student level annual income of $17,500 per year pays $630/month for preschool care at the Student Parent Center and $548/month for preschool care at the Child Development Laboratory.

A family of four with an annual income of $45,000 pays $756/month at the Student Parent Center and $752/month at the Child Development Laboratory. Finally, a family of four with an annual income of $65,000 pays $756/month at the Student Parent Center and $835/month at the Child Development Laboratory.

Regardless of the price level for which a family qualifies, the Child Development Laboratory provides all enrolled children high quality child care.

All full-time teaching staff at the Child Development Laboratory hold at least a bachelor's degree, with the lead instructors all holding master's degrees and more than half of the assistant instructors holding or working toward a master's degree.

The Child Development Laboratory offers one of the largest and most integrative garden and outdoor learning programs in the nation made possible by the extensive play yard and garden plots, including the USDA's People's Garden and the newest portion of the Mizzou Botanic Garden, the MU Children's Learning Garden.

Not only do matriculating children learn about food, nutrition, weather, creatures and agriculture through semiweekly hands-on experiences in these gardens, they also learn about math, science, technology, engineering and community outreach through these experiences.

In the first year of this program, children attending the Child Development Laboratory helped grow and donate more than two tons of food to local programs; a truly unique and extraordinary feature of attending the Child Development Laboratory.

The research and student teaching that makes the Child Development Laboratory a "lab" also creates a child care experience that is unique and progressive. Faculty and students from 17 units on campus conduct research, observe care and development, recruit participants for programs and studies and practice teaching and assessment at the Child Development Laboratory.

Through these activities and interactions, faculty and staff at the Child Development Laboratory learn about the most recent findings related to child development, learning and early education.

In summation, the Child Development Laboratory at Mizzou is an accessible, affordable and available high quality early childhood facility in the heart of Mizzou's campus, is utilized by many units to support research, teaching, and service, and provides unique and progressive care to the community, faculty, staff and student families it serves.

Louis Manfra and Michelle Mathews are co-directors of the Child Development Laboratory, Department of Human Development and Family Studies in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences.

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