The Annotated Ohio Child-Care Worker

"A child-care teacher has to be a social worker, a nurse, a referee, a cook at snack time," says Kimberly Tice, executive director of the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children. "We have to be it all."

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Teachers who have obtained a bachelor's degree in early childhood education produce better outcomes for young children. Yet, only 25 percent of child-care teachers have a four-year degree, 19 percent have a two-year degree and 27 percent have had some college. For 30 percent, a high-school diploma or GED is the highest education level achieved.

As of Dec. 10, 2004, workers at licensed child-care centers and large group homes in Ohio had 252,099 children in their care.

Nationally, preschool teachers are more poorly paid than janitors, cooks and chauffeurs.

Ohio is one of 12 states where wages for early care and education workers have decreased since 2002.

Ninety-seven percent of all child-care center staffers are female. Sixty-three percent are under 40, and 37 percent are under 30.


The average wage for a child-care center worker is $8.11 an hour or $16,868 annually if she works full time. There are more people employed in early care and education in Ohio — nearly 57,000 full time — than in automotive manufacturing. The industry employs more people than Wal-Mart, Ohio's leading private employer, which has 37,000 full- and part-time jobs. Yet, few child-care workers belong to labor unions and the funding structure of child-care centers all but ensures inadequate pay. The greater community doesn't help pay their salaries, as it does for public-school teachers. Centers must rely on government assistance,which directors say is too little, and parent fees, which are limited by what parents can afford.

Child-care workers spend a lot of time on their knees, playing with the children or just getting on their level to deliver praise, instruction or ultimatums. Also, "we get kicked a lot," notes Cheri Caster, Racquel's colleague at WSEM. "Bit, things thrown at us."

High staff turnover in child-care centers hurts children's language and social development. Yet, annual job-turnover rates are between 25 percent and 40 percent nationally. In Ohio, only 32 percent of child-care workers have stayed at their job for more than five years. Twenty-five percent have been there less than one year. Staffers at nonprofit centers tend to be employed longer than their for-profit counterparts.

It would cost more than 37 percent of a full-time child-care worker's income to put her own infant in a child-care center. Only 56 percent of programs offer reduced child-care fees to assistant teachers and 64 percent offer them to teachers.

Child-care workers must be good listeners. Parents often give specific instructions, ask for detailed reports and question workers' actions and center policies. Teachers say it's particularly difficult to listen to a mom talk about her child while they're trying to watch the rest of the class.

Fifty-eight percent of programs do not make dental benefits available to assistant teachers and 53 percent do not make them available to teachers.

Everyone knows that children, with their developing immune systems and penchant for putting things in their mouths, get sick a lot — and pass their illnesses to their caregivers, including child-care workers with whom they spend the majority of their day. Of all programs, 39 percent do not make healthbenefits available to assistant teachers and 35 percent do not make them available to teachers.

The child-care worker must have all sorts of activities up her sleeve, since children have such short attention spans. The 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds Racquel teaches will be engaged by a single activity for only about 15 to 20 minutes.

On average, it costs more than $6,200 a year to send an infant or a toddler to a full-time, licensed child-care center, nearly as much as the annual tuition for an undergraduate at The Ohio State University ($6,651). It costs more than $5,000 to send a preschooler.

Many law-enforcement officials say that investing in quality child-care programs will reduce crime later on.

Young children who attend quality child-care centers are better prepared to start school than those in poorer-quality centers. They have better math, language and social skills and fewer behavioral problems. The positive effects on lower-income children are the most striking.

Sources: "The Economic Impact of the Early Care and Education Industry in Ohio," Build Ohio

November 2004; Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services child-care licensing statistics,

Dec. 10, 2004; Ohio Child Care Center Workforce Study, the Ohio Association for the Education

of Young Children, September 2003; summarizes results of a survey sent to 1,200 randomly

selected centers in 2001, in which 314 responded, providing information for about 5,000 workers;

"Ohio's Early Care and Education System Falls Short," Center for Community Solutions,

August 2004; "Current Data on the Salaries and Benefits of the U.S. Early Childhood Education

Workforce," Center for the Child Care Workforce, a Project of the American Federation of

Teachers Educational Foundation, July 2004; "Staying Employed: Trends in Medicaid, Child Care,

and Head Start in Ohio," Institute for Women's Policy Research and Policy Matters Ohio,

November 2004; "Preschool Policy Facts," National Institute for Early Education Research,

March 2003; Interviews with child-care workers

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