High-Quality Child Care Requires Highly Qualified and Compensated Providers

Sep 14, 2010

By Teresa Lim

Child care providers are central to the provision of high-quality care. Young children need providers who are nurturing and responsive. Moreover, as the young child population becomes increasingly diverse, there is a growing need for linguistically- and culturally-competent providers. While there is little dispute over the importance of the provider's role in shaping children's early experiences, there is much to address about the adequacy of professional development support and compensation that is available for the child care workforce.

In a new study on child care quality, the Urban Institute (UI) conducted interviews with child care center directors and analyzed classroom observation data to investigate differences in quality among child care centers. Among the study's findings, UI found that higher quality child care centers generally provided better teacher support and compensation than poorer quality centers. Centers with higher observation scores tended to have directors with high expectations and confidence in their staff. These centers also tended to provide staff with more support for professional development and better compensation than centers with lower observation scores. The study conjectures that low expectations in some centers could be the consequence of limited resources and inability to afford better teacher support.

Multiple studies have linked providers with higher levels of education and credentials related to early childhood education to higher-quality child care environments and sensitivity. Yet, the cost of pursuing higher education is a major barrier to providers. Current Population Survey (CPS) data indicate that 31 percent of center providers and 35 percent of family child care and other home-based caregivers are low-income, living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line. Even when providers earn an advanced degree, low salaries present another major challenge.

A recent article in The American Prospect highlights these problems and presents input from child care advocates on how the federal government and states can address these problems. As one of the featured advocates, CLASP's director of child care and early education, Danielle Ewen, suggests various ideas on how the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary source of federal funding for child care assistance, can be improved to better support low-income families and the providers that serve them. More money for the program could finance a range of improvements, including more direct contracts with providers to ensure that providers have a stable income stream. Among other available resources, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) offers a blueprint to help states develop early childhood professional development systems that promote a competent and stable child care workforce.

Child care providers have an enormous responsibility placed upon them as families entrust them to protect their children, as well as support their developmental growth. Providers need ample professional development support and compensation to provide the highest quality care possible.

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