Child care challenges and opportunities combined with strategies to maintain quality staff and programs for your child care center.
Child care plays an important role in the U.S. economy, helping to generate 15 million jobs and more than $500 billion in income annually. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of child care workers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2016 to 2026. Parents who work will continue to need the assistance of child care workers. The demand for preschools and child care facilities, and consequently child care workers, should remain strong because early childhood education is widely recognized as important for a child’s intellectual and emotional development.
The original National Child Care Staffing Study (1989) was the first to document the link between education of caregivers and quality of care. This study also found that wages were a key predictor of quality because low wages fueled high turnover. However, policies aimed at improving quality still fail to link increased quality education with improved compensation for the early childhood workforce.
Costs of Child Care
According to an article by Taryn Morrisey, Associate Professor of Public Administration and Policy, American University School of Public Affairs, child care for infants costs more than tuition at four-year public colleges in 28 states and the District of Columbia. Similarly, child care for 4-year-olds costs more than public college tuition in 15 states and the District of Columbia.
The reality is that child care in America is expensive and out of reach for many families. Whether center-based or family child care, the average cost of child care nationally exceeds $8,600 per year.
So why does child care cost more than college tuition? By far, the largest expense child care centers have is personnel expenses.
It takes a lot of staff to be able to provide child care and early care and learning, as each state defines the child to staff ratios, especially for infants and toddlers.
Wages are a significant issue. In 2017, the median pay for a child care worker with a high school diploma or equivalent was $22,290 per year, or $10.72 per hour. Until more can be done to increase wages and/or profits for both child care centers and staff, the child care shortage will continue.
According to statistics by Child Care Aware of America, in every state in the U.S., a child care worker with two children pays more than half their income toward child care. They don’t make enough money to afford care for their own children.
Finding high-quality employees to staff a child care center proves challenging in many areas. Yet hiring qualified staff members ensures the children receive appropriate care at the center. Striking a balance between pay and quality can prove difficult for some daycare owners.
Child Care Challenges
However, business owners are not taking home big paychecks either.
The high startup costs for a child care center make for very high barriers to entry for the average provider. The child care industry is one of the most heavily regulated industries. The vast array of regulations needed to start a child care business are difficult to read through and understand, and there is little help.
Child care centers in areas that serve mostly low-income families have even more of a disadvantage, since subsidy rates fall well below what it costs to provide care. A report by Child Care Aware of America says that at many large centers, providers offer infant and toddler tuition at a price below what it actually costs to care for the children. They’re able to do this by averaging expenses across all ages and supplementing parent fees with money from a range of public and private sources. It’s hard for small businesses with just infants and toddlers to compete.
Providers feel they can’t raise rates because parents can’t afford to pay more. Under this scenario, providers can’t make a profit or be sustainable.
Despite the child care challenges, providers say there is no other business that can match theirs for personal satisfaction and emotional rewards. There’s a tremendous joy of watching children grow and develop physically, socially, and intellectually and to know that they are playing an important role in shaping the future of children in their care.
Provider incentives to reduce turnover
Child care staff turnover causes anxiety in children, and centers incur the cost of hiring and training new staff (estimated at $3,000 per employee), a decrease in staff morale, and potential negative parent perceptions which could lead to decreased enrollment.
Higher pay is the obvious answer but is not always possible due to budget constraints.
Steps to reduce staff turnover:
- Hire well. Make sure that potential employees thoroughly understand your program philosophy and expectations for their performance.
- Provide a thorough new employee orientation.
- Ensure that your program has a professional environment and that all employees are encouraged to continue their own professional development. Educate yourself about programs that provide tuition reimbursement or other financial incentives that your staff members can access. Encourage staff members to attend professional conferences and pay their registration fee if possible.
- Scheduling incentives: Childcare workers often have children of their own and may need flexible schedules. Employees who feel that their jobs don’t interfere with their ability to live their lives are much more likely to stay.
- Make sure your program truly has an atmosphere in which each staff member feels valued and respected. Providing each staff member with an opportunity to have some sort of “ownership” in the program is invaluable. Let your staff be creative; they will help you improve your program and become long-term employees in the process.
Improving Productivity and Efficiency
Other ways to Improve Child Care Challenges would be to maximize the productivity and efficiency of the business manager or owner of the child care center.
- With ChildWatch Child Care Software, we can help you manage all of your clients data in one central location.
- Check client and agency balances in just a glance. Manage immunizations, schedules, emergency contact info and more.
- The software includes an employee punch clock, child attendance tracking, staff and child scheduling.
- A Classroom manager with child daily journal.
- Accounts Receivable for fast flexible billing for fixed rate, hourly and a la carte. Bill all of our clients each having different rates in just a few clicks.
- Integrates easily with Quick-books.
- Activities and Classes
- Simple Data Importations.
ChildWatch wants to help you succeed and help you with your child care challenges by offering an opportunity to improve and simplify your business.