Caregiver Turnover

Fast Facts:

    * High caregiver turnover erodes the quality of child care.
    * Changing caregivers often greatly affects a child's ability to form trusting, loving attachments.
    * Close to 40% of all child care workers need to be replaced each year.
    * Compared to the general work force, child care workers have a higher level of education.
    * Low wages, a lack of benefits, and adverse working conditions make it difficult for many child care workers to remain in the profession.

Parents are justifiably worried over the high staff turnover at child care centres. But they are not alone. Directors themselves note, in Caring For A Living, A Study On Wages and Working Conditions In Canadian Child Care, conducted by the Canadian Child Care Federation and the Canadian Day Care Advocacy Association, that "finding qualified substitutes," is a major problem. Finding and keeping "permanent staff" ranked as a problem.

Effects of Turnover On A Child

There are damaging effects of multiple changes in child care arrangements and caregivers. These range from an inability to form lasting, loving and trusting attachments later in life, to negative effects on a child's long term development and school performance.

The U.S. National Child Care Staffing Study, conducted by the Child Care Employee Project (1989), found that children in centres where there was low quality care and high staff turnover, were less competent in language and social development.

High turnover rates directly affect the overall quality of a centre too. It takes time and money to find and train a new employee. More than that, there is the adjustment period between the staff, the caregiver, and the children. It is only through knowing and understanding each child's individual needs, strengths and personalities, that caregivers can give each child the care and nurturing he or she needs.

Parent's Frustrations

The problem of caregiver turnover is not confined to the daycare centre however. Indeed parents who use in-home care or family daycare experience the same frustrations, though on a larger scale as they, themselves, are responsible for finding and screening caregivers.

While low wages are the major reason caregivers leave the field, a lack of benefits, poor working conditions, little room for career advancement, and a severe absence of respect and recognition for the enormity of their job, are cited as factors in this high turnover.

Though, perhaps, it may seem parents can do little to ensure a continuity of care with a single caregiver at the daycare centre, they certainly can make their concerns heard. They can urge their local and national policy makers to endorse "better child care by making it affordable to more families through higher subsidies, via the tax system, direct grants to providers and other areas," says the Child Care Aware, a nationwide program sponsored by the Dayton Hudson Corporation, to help educate parents on quality child care, in their paper, Child Care: Quality Is The Issue.

Parents who use in-home or family daycare can show their support by offering to help pay for a caregiver's medical insurance premiums; setting up an allowance fund for things such as dental care, prescription drugs, medical expenses, etc.; providing a training allowance to encourage their caregiver to upgrade her training; recognizing the work the caregiver performs by doing special things such as hosting a celebration for course completion's, giving dinner or theatre tickets for birthdays and anniversaries, presenting the caregiver with thank you notes or flowers on occasion, or simply by involving the caregiver in major family decisions that effect her work with the children. Even a compliment goes a long way.

It's the little things we do today that bring about big changes tomorrow.