“Rewarding” is how most child care workers described their jobs, and positive feedback is one of its most appealing features. Child care workers are in charge of the care and supervision of children while parents are at work, away, or otherwise unavailable. A number of child care workers are hired by government agencies and large corporations to run in-house day-care centers. These centers allow parents to work and still be close to their children, receiving a valuable benefit for little or no charge. More and more firms are recognizing that having an on-site daycare center provides them with significant value in reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, and better morale for relatively few dollars.
Other child care workers are employed by individual families; responsibilities in these positions may be more comprehensive, from live-in twenty-four-hour assistance through cooking duties. Arrangements are made individually between parents and the child care provider. Recent events have brought the widespread lack of Social Security payments for child care workers to national attention. Please note that employers are responsible for these payments by law; many employers do not realize this until it is brought to their attention.
A child care worker manages a child’s day, most often providing all structure from early morning through early afternoon, including games, playing, naps, and eating. “If you’re not organized, you’re going to have lots of problems,” said one ten-year child care worker. But professionals must be flexible within a framework. “Anything can happen and anything will,” wrote another. The successful child care worker deals with the situation as it arises, from health-care emergencies to calming a very active child. The ability to provide a solid framework of activity, a flexible outlook, and a sense of caring, fun, and energy, are all important facets of being a good child care worker.
How to Get into Child Care
Perhaps the most important characteristic of the child care worker is a delicate balance of maturity and wonder. Child care providers work long hours under trying circumstances with children who are grasping to understand their world. A professional must be mature enough to act responsibly with and around the child but filled with enough wonder to share in the child’s excitement at learning. No specific educational requirements exist for the profession, but since child care workers have responsibility for the care of children, courses in basic first aid, childhood development, childhood education, and childhood nutrition are helpful. Some day care centers require Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees in childhood education. Extensive personal screening is not unusual in this field, particularly for those who choose to work through an agency as opposed to working freelance.
The most difficult parts of being a child care worker are maintaining infinite patience in the handling of young, excitable children, and the lack of adult human contact. Most who are dissatisfied with the profession claim it is due not to lack of enjoyment of teaching and nurturing children, but more to the desire for peer contact and communication. Wages rise inconsistently for both the day care center worker and the family nanny alike, and without assuming further responsibilities, there is no “ladder” to climb.
Careers Related to Child Care
Child care workers enjoy working with children, and many translate this interest into teaching. Many become teachers, learning specialists, and guidance counselors. Child care is somewhat unique in that many people work as child care professionals while young and then go on to a variety of wholly independent careers.
Past And Future
During the Middle Ages, branches of the Catholic Church managed orphanages and “public houses” for abandoned children. Royal and wealthy families always had specific staff who were responsible for raising and educating the children, with each staff member holding a discrete responsibility, such as nurse, tutor, or physical fitness instructor. Now families where both parents work, or the single parent works, hire nannies or send their children to day care.
Child care positions are expected to become more and more available at a rapid rate of around 18 percent growth over the next five years. Many jobs will become available with religious, private, and community-based organizations which recognize the need for more child care options and the value of economies of scale in this profession (i.e. it doesn’t cost that much more to have one person look after three children instead of two). Private companies will also contribute significantly to this job growth, which should take place evenly across the United States.
Quality of Life
Two Years Out
Two years is a significant period of time for child care workers to be employed at a single location. Many work part time, in addition to some less remunerative occupation. Those who have excelled at their job for two years receive raises and supervisional responsibilities. Family child care workers can expect salaries to rise and duties to change, based on the growth and needs of the child. Turnover is significant during these years–around twenty percent of part-time child care workers leave the profession each year.
Five Years Out
Five-year veterans fall into two categories: Those who are running day care centers and child care programs, and those who work as individual practitioners for families. At this point, the former have supervisory, staffing, and budget responsibilities. The latter have significant relationships with families; long-term child care workers are very important people in a child’s life. Many shift from one family to another at this point, as full-time care is no longer needed now that the children are attending school. These relationships can be intense, and many find it difficult to sever these ties.
Ten Years Out
Child care workers who have lasted ten years in the profession gain strong satisfaction from their choice of occupation. Nearly all have worked a number of jobs and have good reputations and strong opportunities for employment. Many ten-year day care center veterans consider opening their own day care centers. A number do, but find that although they gain greater control of their work environment, they spend more time running their own small businesses than actually caring for children.
|# of people in profession:||1,000,000|
|average hours per week:||50|
Early Childhood Today
Books, Films and TV Shows Featuring the Profession
The Sound of Music
|Carondelet Health Care Corp.
1601 West St. Mary’s Road
Tuscon, AZ 85745
|Child Support Enforcement
115 Christy St.
New York, NY 10002
|Visiting Nurse Service of New York Home Care
New York, NY 10001
You’ll Have Contact With
|Association for the Care of Children’s Health
7910 Woodmont Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20814
|Child Life Council
11820 Park Lawn Drive
Rockville, MD 20852-2529
|National Association of Social Workers
750 First Street NE
Washington, DC 20002