The Components of a Childcare Professional

By Rhonda Yeager

Published in Learning Train News, February 1999

"Honey, I'm at the babysitter's picking up the baby..."

"What? Did you say 'BABYSITTER'? Well, let me tell you - I have never once sat on a baby! I am a professional childcare provider!"

Does this conversation sound familiar to you? Have you ever had these thoughts? Whether we are providing childcare in our home or in a daycare center, we are in a constant battle with parents to recognize us as "professionals". But, are we projecting the professional image we claim to possess as we go about our daily activities?

Imagine this scenario... Mom takes little Johnny to his childcare provider. They knock on the door at 7:00 a.m. - a time agreed upon by parent & provider. Five minutes later, the childcare provider opens the door still in her bathrobe and curlers! "I'm sorry, I must have overslept", the provider explains. Hmm, what's Mom to think?

Another scenario... Dad takes little Sarah to the daycare center. Sarah runs over to the lunch area and picks up bread from yesterday's lunch, and puts it in her mouth. Now, what's Dad to think?

You certainly wouldn¹t expect to show up at your doctor's office and find your doctor still in his bathrobe. Nor, would you expect to find yesterday's lunch still scattered on the floor at your favorite restaurant. In order to be recognized as professionals, childcare providers must "play the part".

What Is a Childcare Professional?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "profession" as "a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long academic preparation." A "professional" would be one who engages in a profession. A childcare professional would then be considered one who has obtained special knowledge in providing quality care to all children, and continues to pursue educational instruction in childcare related topics.

Components of a Childcare Professional

So, how do we portray ourselves as professionals? First of all, we must know the components of a childcare professional. Then, we must find the components we are personally missing. And lastly, we must find a way to fulfill those missing components. Only then, will we be able to call ourselves "professionals".

Below is a list of the major components of a childcare professional:

  • Childcare Professionals are devoted to their profession.

Maintain high standards of quality childcare through consistency and dedication. If you are not totally devoted to your profession, you will be very unhappy, and it will reflect in your ability to properly care for children.

Childcare requires excessive amounts of time and preparation, a deep love for children, and a sincere desire to provide our children with a brighter future. You must be able to reach beyond yourself and your own family to nurture the young hearts of tomorrow.

The childcare profession is a low-paying profession. It takes a person who is truly devoted to the welfare of everyone's children. It takes someone whose main goal is to make a difference in the life of a child, despite the low income.

Childcare is not a highly regarded career by most, so the innovation must come from within you. It takes a sincerely devoted and dedicated individual to become a Childcare Professional.

  • Childcare Professionals strive to project a professional business atmosphere.

Toys, books, and supplies must be neatly organized on shelves and in containers. Floors must be swept and cleaned, and carpets should be vacuumed and cleaned as needed. Everything should be in good condition. Broken toys, dirty floors, torn up books, messy tables-this does not project a professional image.

Obviously, you cannot shine every mirror or remove every fingerprint. It would be unreasonable to expect a childcare business to be sparkling clean. You do want your daycare to look as though children play there! However, maintaining tidy areas for eating, sleeping, and playing will contribute to a safe and healthy environment for your children.

Childcare providers should be open and ready for business at the posted opening time. Personal grooming should be done prior to business hours. Your clothing should be neat and clean, and appropriate for playing on the floor with all your children.

Imagine yourself as the parent who is walking into your daycare for the very first time. How would you want your child's daycare to look? Would you be happy as a parent walking into your place of business? Would you be comfortable in leaving your child in a place that appeared in disarray? Keep these things in mind as you evaluate the atmosphere projected in your home or center. As a Childcare Professional, you should always look for ways to make your daycare more appealing to your children, as well as to your parents.

  • Childcare Professionals seek continuing education wherever and whenever they can.

Take every opportunity to attend childcare training workshops, seminars, college courses, conferences (local, state, and national), association meetings, etc. You can never have enough childcare training under your belt! Absorb every tidbit of information concerning childcare issues that you can get your hands on.

Never stop educating yourself. The more knowledge you acquire the better quality of childcare you will be able to provide. Always exceed state required hours of training. Reach out and grab all the knowledge available at your fingertips.

If you are not able to attend educational opportunities in person, there are many self-instructional clock hours of childcare training available. Contact State Licensing to obtain a list of acceptable self-study courses.

There is a wealth of information available to childcare providers. Childcare Professionals take the initiative to seek continuing education at every opportunity.

  • Childcare Professionals are resourceful.

Keep yourself up to date on childcare issues. Read childcare related books, magazines and newsletters. Be aware and have access to information that would help your parents with children who have special needs.

Compile a resource guide and actively collect information that is applicable to all aspects of your business. Refer to this guide often. Include articles on health and safety, nutrition, emergency procedures, discipline, developmentally appropriate activities for all ages, and information on how to deal with children with special needs (such as autism, ADHD, blindness, cerebral palsy, etc.).

Childcare Professionals have access to many valuable resources, and know it is imperative to stay attuned to the latest developments in the childcare industry.

  • Childcare Professionals develop a partnership with their parents.

There are many ways to keep your parents abreast of the activities their children participate in. Monthly newsletters can be informational, as well as daily reports (either written or verbal). It is easy to develop a good rapport with your parents when they feel involved in the daily lives of their children.

Occasionally plan a parent workshop where you can show your parents the activities their children engage in each day. Some parents have no idea of all the wonderful learning activities that occur in your daycare. Show them how children learn through play. Educate your parents as to the benefits of each of their child's activities.

Provide your parents with written policies and procedures, so that they'll know what is expected of them. Most parents will abide by the rules and regulations if they know what theyare!

At least once a year, ask your parents to evaluate your performance and daycare facility. You should be open to parent's criticism, for you wouldn't be in this business without them. Sometimes they have ideas which would help you better serve them and other parents in the future.

A Childcare Professional recognizes the importance of developing a good relationship with parents. Open communication is vital to the well-being of each of your children.

  • Childcare Professionals network with other Childcare Professionals.

Network with other childcare professionals, including home-based and center-based childcare providers. We can all learn from each other. Do not isolate yourself!

Join a professional organization. Professional childcare associations offer numerous benefits, such as monthly gatherings with other childcare providers, an opportunity to share ideas with other providers, clock hours of training accepted by the state, a strong support system among members, childcare referrals, backup providers, etc.

Some professional organizations also offer these additional benefits: toy libraries, scholarships, group discounts, and much more.

Contact State Licensing to get a list of local professional organizations in your area. If there is not a local association in your area, consider starting one.

Childcare Professionals network with other Childcare Professionals to provide support for each other. It's important to know that you are not alone in this business. There are many providers who share the same triumphs and aggravations that you do. Sometimes a solution to a childcare problem you are experiencing is just a phone call way.

  • Childcare Professionals take a leadership role.

This is probably the final step to becoming a Childcare Professional. Usually, all other components are met when a childcare provider takes on leadership duties.

This is usually the time when most childcare providers start working towards National Accreditation, CDA, Master Provider, Child Development Degrees, etc.

Once you have established yourself in your childcare business and have gained confidence in your abilities, it becomes natural to want to share your talents with others in the industry. There is special meaning and personal gratification to be able to assist others in developing quality childcare.

Fulfilling the Components of a Childcare Professional

Once you have succeeded in fulfilling the seven (7) components of a childcare professional as described above, you can be PROUD to call yourself a "PROFESSIONAL"! There aren't too many professionals today who are as dedicated to their profession as we are.

You have the most important profession of all professions. You are important in the life of a child you are nurturing our future. And, nothing else matters!