By Berni Howe, Lead Training and Technical Assistant Specialist, KCCTO and Tara Glanton, Training and Technical Assistant Specialist, KCCTO.
Article originally published in the Winter 2021 Issue of Kansas Child Magazine.
Elevating Provider Voices
2020 has been robust, with quick shifts and new experiences that have highlighted frontline workers in all industries and have given a unique opportunity to experience firsthand the importance of child care on our local, state, and national economies. This experience has served to amplify providers’ voices as they join the crusade for professional identity in the field of early care and education. With many years of referring to caregivers as “babysitters,” there has been a recent push from leaders in the field to embrace the knowledge and expertise child care providers have regarding development and child outcomes.
Quality of care is determined by building responsive relationships with children and families, aligning learning through play with developmental milestones and individual needs, and engaging in professional development opportunities to keep abreast of state mandates, best practices and accountability. Hence, child care providers’ voices, reality, and dedication are all crucial pieces to closing the gap on professional recognition and switching the focus to providing equitable contributions to society. No one knows better, no one can speak more candidly about the journey, and no one deserves more acceptance as contributors of high-quality care and education than those working with young children.
POWER TO THE PROFESSION
An initiative to give credit where credit is overdue is making headway. It is well known that higher education in child care providers leads to a higher quality of care and better outcomes for children. Still, training and education programs are often expensive and yield very few financial benefits for providers. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) has recently spearheaded an effort to bring unity and recognition to early educators in a way that is both respectful of the current workforce and provides a framework for better preparation and compensation in the field.
The Power to the Profession decision cycles have resulted in a published Unifying Framework, which is a collaborative effort from 15 Task Force Member Organizations, 38 Stakeholder Groups, 11,000 Early Childhood Educators, and seven Rounds of Public Comment (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2020). This initiative supports the voices of reason and hosts groundbreaking efforts to create a framework for individuals that recognizes the importance of professional standards and competencies for early educators, compensation, unity, and diversity in the field. The early childhood profession is now in grave danger due to declining resources and the overwhelming effect from the pandemic. The future of early educators relies heavily in elevating provider voices of concern to answer the question, “What will it take to keep providers employed?”
FINDING A DIVERSE WORKFORCE
Recent historical events have highlighted disparities in income, race, socioeconomic status, and access to services that affect both child care providers and the families they serve. Advancing equity in early childhood means committing to self-reflection with intentions of improving the quality of care provided to children and families and creating a diverse workforce. In such a time of uncertainty, recruitment, and retention of a diverse workforce is challenging and necessary. It is critical to peel back the layers and shed light on the rich mixture of experience and backgrounds already present in the field and seek out voices that might be missing. “A culture of equity and inclusion is not only critical to the success of diversity efforts, but creating an equitable and inclusive workplace also creates a positive experience” (Wowk, 2020).
Those positive experiences are what will encourage employees to commit to their employers as well as to the children and families they serve. Acknowledging the importance of workplace equity and the value each employee contributes is a powerful and supportive team approach.
Child care providers must be a voice in the conversation to identify barriers and design supports that will empower all providers to be equal and sustained contributors to the field.
Child care provider voices must be at the forefront of the conversation that focuses on professionalizing the field, recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, and recognizing their role in advancing equity in early childhood education. These professionals work closely with children, families, and others to foster relationships and support children’s developmental outcomes and positive outcomes for families. Child care providers are individuals who create experiences that will enable children to dream, explore, play, solve problems, express big emotions, and grow throughout many stages of development. Providers are the voices of reason, and their presence today, in communities everywhere, is prevalent and critical in ways that will shed light through the darkness.
Berni Howe is the Lead Training and Technical Assistance Specialist at Kansas Child Care Training Opportunities (KCCTO). She has worked in the early childhood field for nearly 20 years in many capacities, including providing direct care to children, administration, advocacy, coaching and training. In addition to her work with KCCTO, Berni is the board president of KSAEYC.
Tara Glanton, MA Ed, is a Trainer and Technical Assistance Specialist at Kansas Child Care Training Opportunities (KCCTO). She has provided care and education for 15 years as a teacher, administrator, behavior and classroom management coach, community trainer, and adjunct instructor. As an advocate for young children, families, and providers, Tara served as a KSAEYC board member and represented the State of Kansas at the NAEYC Public Policy Forum and the Leading and Working Toward Equity Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C.