As a Director, it is my job to make sure that I keep a broad perspective when it comes to the operations of the childcare center. It is important for me to wear many hats and to put my self in various shoes. By doing this, I am better enabled to be a positive resource and leader to the staff and families in the center. I often find myself trying to be a balance. The challenge is to ensure a high quality environment for children, that will allow for consistent opportunities for children to develop and establish a strong foundation for life long learning. At the same time, I need to establish and maintain a supportive and challenging workplace where teachers feel appreciated and are receiving the kind of workplace benefits that allow them to “make a living”. The third factor in this balancing act is parent participation. By parent participation, I mean several different aspects. One of the most commonly discussed aspects is tuition. When we talk about tuition, we create an unavoidable intersection of our moral obligations and our financial obligations. The jury is in, and the vast majority of people agree that quality childcare is a top priority and that investment should be made. We also agree that all children should have access to this quality education, regardless of socio-economic status. As soon as we begin the discussion of what it costs to provide this quality childcare, it turns to comparisons of college tuition costs or healthcare or some other hot-button issue facing our family budgets. The result is a lot of heated discussion about economic theory and social contracts that demand huge shifts in societal thinking and behavior. It does not, however result in a real solution to our looming problem. It does not result in a discussion about other ways to make sure our teachers are compensated fairly for their commitment in ways other than a paycheck. It does not result in a discussion about why the vast majority of our parents have only a service based relationship with their care providers. These issues are not new and there is no silver bullet answer. Just like any other issue or problem that we face on a societal level or even at a personal level, if it goes unaddressed, we become bystanders in the flow of things and relinquish much of our ability to control and shape the future. I believe that this is where we find ourselves now. The story is the same whether you are in an assisted living community, a local elementary school, or a local childcare center. Administration is struggling to find and retain quality care givers who are committed to the program. Turnover is very high and staff are constantly burning out. Researchers are quick to give advice on how to prevent or what steps to take to improve, but the reality is that turning research into practical application is rarely successful. As a director, I look for new folks who have that spark to be a great caregiver. Someone who truly appreciates the value of providing heart-felt care to the people around them, regardless of all the bias and judgement that surrounds us. These are the people we can train and nurture into the people who create the next generation of caregivers. Unfortunately, I see fewer and fewer of these people. We have pushed off real and substantial change for too long and we now find ourselves with high demand for quality care and no caregivers to fill that need. We have pinned our hopes on the continued commitment of martyrs who will care for others at the expense of their own long term well being. I can assure you that martyrs are a finite resource and we have nearly exhausted it. If we are not willing to make a change to how we approach the investment in our caregivers, we will be forced to lower our expectations in our most sacred institutions. There is no scapegoat, political party, social group, or act of God that we can rest our frustration and blame upon. We have made our bed, so we better get comfortable, because we are in for some unpleasant days ahead.
-Josh Bray, Childcare Director