Local child care providers and early childhood educators were able to share their experiences and struggles during a roundtable discussion Tuesday night.
Roughly 30 early childhood professionals attended a screening of the film “No Small Matter” at the Kneale Administration Building. Following the film’s screening, these professionals were able to discuss their thoughts on the film and how it relates to their own profession.
Susan Sarver, director of workforce planning and development at the Buffett Early Childhood Institute, facilitated the film screening. She said the screening was one of 21 held across the state.
“The goal of this is to hear from the field what the concerns are, what is happening, what the really cool things are that are going on in the state, and what the challenges are,” Sarver said. “We want to take this information back to the Nebraska Early Childhood Workforce Commission.”
“No Small Matter” encourages viewers to see early childhood as a “grown-up issue” that is “no small matter.” It said adults have the biggest impact on a child’s development and success later in life. Additionally, the film stated early childhood education is important for young children as it teaches them life skills and how to solve problems.
Despite the positives of early childhood education, “No Small Matters” said there are some issues involved with it. In 28 states, child care is more expensive than college. Many of the child care providers and early childhood educators portrayed in the film had to work second jobs — the median salary is $19,620, which is below the poverty line. As a result, the turnover rate for early childhood educators is 66 percent nationally.
Lynn DeVries, an extension educator with The Learning Child Team at the University of Nebraska, facilitated a roundtable discussion with about a dozen local child care providers and early childhood educators. She questioned these individuals about what their jobs are like and what sort of challenges they face.
“I feel appreciated until I don’t. You feel really appreciated and then it falls off really fast,” one in-home day care provider said. “I think that when kids are hitting milestones, or something great is going on, parents like that. But I don’t think parents like to hear that their kids are struggling or doing something wrong. I feel that I take the blame for that.”
DeVries asked those in the roundtable discussion whether they have faced any tensions in their lives due to the low income of child care providers and early childhood educators. This same in-home day care provider said she doesn’t do her job for the pay, but because she wants to be home with her kids and be available to people who need child care.
One day care center director said she has a hard time hiring people with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She added when she hires people she ensures they “have that heart for early childhood.”
“One of the very first questions I ask my staff is why they want to work in child care,” the day care director said. “If they tell me it is so they can get free child care, I usually do not hire them. But, if it is because they want to see the children grow, learn and blossom, I will. The thing I tell people before I hire them is, ‘You can love kids, however, you are going to be here eight hours a day.’”
She added: “You have to be there for the right reasons. Your heart has to be in it. You are not just sitting and teaching ABCs and 123s, you are wiping noses and changing diapers. You are kissing their owies, giving them hugs and loving them.”
DeVries also asked about what skills, knowledge and/or experiences a caregiver should have in order to deliver high-quality care and education to children. Those who were part of the roundtable discussion said patience and good communication skills are necessary.
One in-home day care provider said the teachings she and other providers have as part of their licensing requirements are “really important.”
“More parents should have to take them. We are learning about how to do mathematics, how to play with measuring cups and doing all those little things to help your kid,” she said. “I walk away from every one of them going, ‘I could have been doing this the whole time.’ Parents don’t get to have any of that and I think all providers should have it because that’s a huge skill.”