Celebrating Family Child Care: The Unsung Heroes of Our Communities
On this National Provider Appreciation Day, we must recognize child care providers’ vital role in our communities. These incredible educators work tirelessly to create safe, nurturing, and stimulating environments for our youngest learners, even amidst a global pandemic. They are the unsung heroes who play a crucial role in shaping children’s and our society’s future.
National Provider Appreciation Day this year holds extra significance as we celebrate President Biden’s recent executive order to improve access to care and support early educators. This landmark order aims to provide a significant boost to child care educators by increasing their pay and benefits, improving working conditions, and expanding access to professional development opportunities. This is a crucial step in recognizing the importance of child care educators and providing them with the support they need to continue their important work.
But more still needs to be done. Early educators, especially those who care for children from their homes (also called family child care), are an essential part of our economy, yet they continue to be underpaid and undervalued. We must continue to fight for life-sustaining wages with benefits and access to training and professional development opportunities for early educators, in addition to mental health and social-emotional support for both children and caregivers.
It is also essential to trust and value the expertise of early educators in determining the most effective approaches for providing developmentally appropriate care for young children. This means recognizing the importance of the developmentally appropriate practice framework and supporting educators in using it to guide their work. By doing so, we can ensure that children receive high-quality care and education that is tailored to their individual needs and promotes their overall well-being.
Child care educators are the superheroes of our communities, offering a haven of warmth and care that feels like a second home for our children. With 94% of child care workers being women, many of whom are also mothers themselves, these dedicated individuals are the backbone of our child care system. Additionally, 40% of them are people of color, bringing a wealth of diverse perspectives and cultural understanding to their crucial work.
The pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the already struggling home-based child care industry. With a broken economic model, child care educators often face low wages and high costs for maintaining licenses and providing equipment and supplies for their small businesses. As a result, nearly 10,000 family child care programs were forced to close during the pandemic, many of whom were minority-led. This has created a crisis in the child care industry, leaving families with few affordable and accessible options for their children’s care.
The closure of home-based child care programs has put a tremendous strain on working parents, particularly mothers, who often have had to balance work and child care responsibilities. It is time for policymakers to increase public funding to invest in the child care industry and support early educators so that they can continue their essential work. In doing so, policymakers should also actively seek educator input to make lasting systemic changes that families and educators can rely on.
Child care educators are more than just caretakers; they are the pillar of our communities. They play a critical role in the development of our children, providing them with the tools and skills they need to succeed in life. This National Provider Appreciation Day, let’s give a standing ovation to these amazing educators who work tirelessly to create a brighter future for our children. Let’s honor them by continuing to fight for their rights and supporting them in every way possible. Together, we can ensure that child care educators receive the recognition and support they deserve.