Want a quality daycare? Pay and train workers like the pros they are

Credit: Allison Shelley for American Education

Child care providers and employees have kept our economy running at a time when government, businesses and families have focused on ‘saving’ Covid-19. Now as we move into the ‘recovery’ policymakers, influencers, business leaders and philanthropists have all recognized the importance of child care, both for short and long prosperity. long term of our economy.

Access to quality child care is a crucial step in giving every child a good start in life, and parents are currently struggling to do so, even now. With the reopening of the offices, parents and families are crying out for the return of their children to daycare and preschool. Sixty percent of parents say they will need to change their child care situation in the next year. But parents must now expect longer waiting lists and higher tuition fees due to understaffing.

Fortunately, the federal government has made significant investments in child care through previous Covid relief programs such as the American Rescue Plan and the American Families Plan. Now that we take a look at the draft budget resolution and see another welcome investment to increase access, we need to look at the big picture and what our child care system needs, beyond just money to increase. access. With the exodus of early childhood professionals and educators across the field, it is unclear who will fill these essential roles as access increases.

To achieve the clear goal of providing every family with access to quality child care, we – the policy makers, business leaders and community members who all depend on child care – need to seriously think about how we support the field and the providers and educators who make it work. everyday. We need to fix the industry as a whole and professionalize the field, especially in addressing compensation and professional development.

A living wage for childcare professionals

The national median hourly wage for child care workers was $ 11.65 an hour, leaving many workers living below the current federal poverty line of $ 26,200 for a family of four. In some of the country’s largest cities, many of which have the highest needs for early childcare, the deplorable wages of educators are forcing them out of the workforce as the cost of living and housing rates continue to drop. ‘to augment. In California, for example, we see a slightly higher median wage of $ 13.43 an hour, but with significantly higher housing and living costs, daycare workers are still struggling and the childcare is short of nearly 127,000 workers.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, a minimum hourly wage of $ 15 for educators, supported by federal government grants and / or tax refunds, would allow educators to:

  • Have more job stability and security.
  • Improving the continuity and quality of child care, which has many advantages. High-quality child care has positive effects on children’s cognitive and social development and can improve long-term health outcomes.
  • Take or continue to take courses to expand their knowledge and skills, including social and emotional learning and emotional competence.

Qualifications and regular professional development based on emotional competence

It takes a specific set of skills and knowledge to be able to understand the needs, emotions and development of young children. Professionals deserve to be well supported, trained and paid for this expertise. When we treat all the educators and staff who support young children as the essential professionals that they are, we attract high quality talent to the industry and inspire them to stay longer.

Have high qualifications – such as teacher preparation and certification standards beyond a high school diploma, which is a common requirement in most states for daycare workers – and training opportunities Continues for educators who support young children, from birth, help professionalize the field of early childhood education.

The training and professional development of educators who support young children from birth must be based on emotional competence. As we have seen in our own research, when early childhood educators are trained to successfully teach children essential skills based on emotional intelligence and self-regulation, we see more confident, more empathetic children, better able to control their emotions and behavior, and who are successful academically.

The key to increasing access to quality child care is to professionalize the field, and we do this by providing child care staff a living wage and professional development based on emotional competence. When we do this, not only are we creating a child care system that will support educators and early childhood professionals for the long term, but we are increasing equity by ensuring that every family can access a learning experience. quality early childhood education.


Donna Housman, Ed.D., is the founder and CEO of the Housman Institute, which conducts research on emotional intelligence in young children and develops high-quality programs to train early childhood educators.

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About Mark A. Tomlin

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