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Jewish World Review March 30, 2000/ 23 Adar II, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports



Duct-taped baby serves as warning --
YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD the joke about phrases you'll never hear a Southerner say. My favorite: "You can't fix this with duct tape."

This just in from up Nawth. According to news too awful to be true, there is at least one thing you cannot, in fact, fix with duct tape. A live human baby.

In Massachusetts last week, a day-care center director and two staff members were fired for duct-taping an 8-month-old baby girl to the wall.

This sticky incident reportedly was a source of great hilarity to the center director and employees, who were amused by the sight of a baby struggling against wrist and waist restraints, according to a state report. The child was released when, alas, she managed to free one arm.

The report, by the Office of Child Care Services, mentioned several other knee-slapping child-care strategies, such as: Babies were force-fed; the babies were swaddled so tightly they had red marks; and -- you're going to love this one -- infants who cried got blasts of water in their faces.

Where, oh where, did I hide that trigger-lock key?

The center's owner, Suzanne Foley, fired the director and two staffers, and is appealing suspension of her license. Foley says she takes seriously her responsibility for "quality child care." A movie image pops into my mind: They're putting duct tape on Ms. Foley's mouth.

Of course, news of a day-care director taping a baby to the wall is always unwelcome, but it was particularly ill-timed just as another report from the Urban Institute reported that parents are struggling to juggle kids' care.

More than one-third of working parents use more than one child-care option, including day-care centers as well as friends, relatives and neighbors, according to the report. The working poor, many just off welfare rolls, have the toughest time as they look for better-paying jobs during off-hours.

I recently read about one such woman, Nikole. A 20-year-old single mom of an infant and a 20-month-old, Nikole rises at 2:15 a.m. in order to get her infant to day care by 4:15 a.m. The older child gets to sleep in a few hours with Nikole's mother, who takes the 20-month-old to child care later in the day.

Nikole, who earns $8.25 an hour as a hotel reservations operator, picks up both children at 1:30 p.m., takes them home and promptly falls asleep.

Not to pick on Nikole, who apparently missed the class on family planning and marriage. Not to make a database out of one bizarre, duct-taped baby anecdote. But is anyone else concerned that we've lost our minds?

Just one force-fed, water-tortured baby taped to a wall by people entrusted to care for infants should dissuade anyone from patronizing a commercial child-care institution, even if 99 out of 100 are good. Because good isn't good enough when it comes to the nurture of an infant.

Enter the "Yes, but" chorus. Yes, but what about the Nikoles of the world? You want them to work, but you want them to be home with their children too? You can't have it both ways.

Truer words were never spoken by the random procreating populace. You can't.

You can, however, practice birth control or abstinence. You can plan a family that includes two parents who understand that human infants need constant, loving attention. You can find jobs that permit one parent to be at home during the children's tender years.

For a change of pace, one can practice self-control. Failing such capacity, however, duct tape can fix almost anything.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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