Child care workers live with the reality that there is no perfect substitute for a family in
raising a child; but while parents are at work, away, or otherwise unavailable, responsibility for
the care and supervision of their children is a serious concern, and there are great possibilities
for personal fulfillment in any career of service to young people. “Rewarding” is how
most child care workers describe their jobs, and the joy of helping children grow—both
intellectually and emotionally—is one of its most appealing features.
A number of child care workers are hired by government
agencies and large corporations to run in-house day
care centers. These centers allow parents to work and still
remain close to their children, a valuable benefit for little or
no charge. Firms are increasingly recognizing that having an on-site day care center provides
them with significant advantages, notably reduced absenteeism, higher productivity, and better
morale among workers, for relatively few dollars.
Other child care workers are employed by individual families; responsibilities in these
positions may be more comprehensive, from live-in, 24-hour assistance to cooking duties.
Arrangements are made individually between parents and the child care provider. Recent
events have brought the widespread lack of Social Security payments for child care workers
to national attention. Employers are responsible for these payments by law; many employers
do not realize this until it is brought to their attention.
A child care worker manages a child’s day, most often attending to the child from early
morning through early afternoon, keeping the child engaged with games, exercise, meals, and
study. “If you’re not organized, you’re going to have lots of problems,” said one 10-year child
care worker. But professionals must be flexible within a framework. With young children,
“anything can happen and anything will,” wrote another. Children need to trust and feel at
home with the people around them, and the successful caregiver deals with situations as they
arise, from health care emergencies to calming a very active child. The ability to provide a
solid framework of activity, a flexible outlook, and a sense of caring, fun, and energy, are all
important facets of being a good child care worker.
Perhaps the most important characteristic of the child care worker is a delicate balance of
maturity and wonder. Child care providers work long hours under trying circumstances with
children who are grasping to understand the world. A professional must be mature enough to
act responsibly with and around the child but be sufficiently filled with wonder to share in the
child’s excitement about learning. No specific educational requirements exist for the profession,
but since child care workers are responsibile for the care of children, courses in basic first
aid, childhood development, early childhood education, and nutrition are helpful. The better
day care centers require bachelor’s or master’s degrees in early childhood education. Extensive
personal screening is routine in this field, particularly for candidates who work through an
agency. Recommendations are more important in this field than in just about any other, and
so the worker with excellent references will have a great advantage.
One of the most difficult aspects of being a child care worker is maintaining seemingly
infinite patience in handling young and excitable children. Another great challenge is the
lack of adult human contact. Most people who are dissatisfied with the profession claim it is
394 | Guide to Your Career
due not to lack of enjoyment of teaching and nurturing children, but rather to the desire for
peer contact and communication. Wages increase inconsistently for both the day care center
worker and the family nanny alike, and without assuming further responsibilities, there is not
much of a metaphorical ladder to climb.
Child care workers enjoy working with children, and many of them translate this interest
into teaching. Many people become teachers, learning specialists, and guidance
counselors. Many of them work as child care professionals while young and then go on to a
variety of wholly independent careers.