WASHINGTON — Sen. Mitt Romney took issue with the suggestion that children develop better in an environment outside their homes rather than being reared by one or both parents during a Senate committee hearing Tuesday.
The Utah Republican said Democratic proposals on child care seem to have "significant bias" toward getting women and men into the labor force as opposed to saying it's acceptable for a parent to stay home.
"It does seem like the administration strongly prefers getting kids out of the home and getting both parents into the workforce," he said.
Romney asked Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, founder and CEO of Bright Start Early Care and Preschool in Washington, D.C., if she was concerned that too much focus on federal mandates might be detrimental to the effects on children who otherwise might be raised with the involvement and investment of a parent.
"Children develop better in an environment where they can engage with others besides their family members," St. Hilaire-Finn said. "Allowing a child to be in a setting where they can develop their cognitive and social and emotional skills will allow the parents to go to work and not have to worry about their child falling behind by the time they're ready for kindergarten."
Romney said he didn't realize that he was at a disadvantage because his mom stayed home.
"I guess what you describe is a perspective on the part of the administration which I find contrary to personal experience and contrary to the perspective of many parents. I would think that as we think about the policies that we want to have with regards to child rearing we would give authority to the parents to make that decision as opposed to an administration to make it for them," he said.
The exchange came at a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee hearing on paid family leave for working families.
It does seem like the administration strongly prefers getting kids out of the home and getting both parents into the workforce.
–Sen. Mitt Romney
President Joe Biden's proposed $1.8 trillion American Families Plan subsidized universal child care, up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, and expanded child tax credits.
Romney questioned the notion that a 3- or 4-year-old child is better being in a professional child care center approved by the government than being in their home and in their neighborhood.
St. Hilare-Finn said parents are a child's first teachers and the preference is to be with their family. But if the family can't do that, it's greatly beneficial for a child to be in a setting where they can get developmental support.
We don't want to defer for the nation to take care of parents' responsibility but it's a partnership and helps foster that child's development better than just being with the parents.
–Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, Bright Start Early Care and Preschool
"Studies have shown that children outside of the family who are in a group care setting do much better socially, emotionally and cognitively," she said. "I know we don't want to defer for the nation to take care of parents' responsibility but it's a partnership and helps foster that child's development better than just being with the parents."
Romney has proposed his own plan to help working families.
The Family Security Act would give a child allowance of $250 a month for school-aged children and $350 a month for those who are younger starting a few months before birth, with an annual cap of $1,250. Billed as deficit-neutral, Romney plans to pay for it by killing or streamlining existing programs and ditching federal deductions for state and local taxes. Among other changes, it would eliminate Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the head of household income tax filing status.
The proposal has garnered both praise and criticism.