Hello, Fellow Family Child Care Professional……….

Guest blog post by Deborah Arcaro, M.ED, Family Child Care Professional since 1988

Someone asked me what I did this past week and again I found myself thinking about my response. I’m a teacher. I support children and families. I run my own business. What professional term describes what I do? ……

When someone asks you what you do how do you respond? How do you refer to yourself professionally? Are you a daycare provider? A child care provider? An early childhood educator? A home daycare provider? ………. How do you put a name to all that our work encompasses? One that reflects the unique skills we each bring to our diverse programs.

For years I’ve been bothered by how there doesn’t seem to be consensus about how those providing family child care refer to ourselves in relationship to the professional work we do. I’ve always preferred “child care” to “day care”, as I saw my primary work as being centered around the child. I’ve also been ok with early childhood educator, but have understood when others saw that as someone with an education degree. I see all the work we do as being grounded in educating, no matter what our professional background might be. I’ve most recently referred to myself as an early childhood professional, but that also falls short because early childhood means birth to age 8 and I also provide care for school-age. So what’s a good fit?

Family Child Care is a unique part of the child care system across this country. As a professional group we provide care for a majority of the children in child care. I believe it’s important that we begin to find a common terminology for our professional work to build awareness around the value and importance of the work. The service we provide is not only important for a child’s development, but think about the impact on the local and state economy. Family child care programs provide a huge service to their respective communities. How we refer to ourselves is important!

I feel strongly that the importance in having one common name is not only around the value we place on our individual work, but the profession as a whole. If those of us actually doing the work cannot settle on a name for our profession, how is the wider community, elected officials and even some of our client families expected to see value in our work and respect what we do?

Power to the Profession, a national collaborative project, is raising questions and looking at how to bring continuity to all professionals working in early childhood education. There is a lot of work around education levels, what each level covers for knowledge/competencies, how individuals on each level will be compensated, and career pathways. For me there’s questions on how family child care will find their place in this, but that’s for another day. We do not have to wait. We can start the effort to unify around one name right here, right now!

I would like to suggest that each professional providing direct child care within a home environment begin referring to themself as a “Family Child Care Professional“.

I think this simple name sums up what we do pretty clearly. We are professionals who work in our homes providing care to children. It might be infants, mixed ages, school-age, preschool, before/after school care, drop-in care, year-round care, non-traditional hours care (weekends, evenings). We might care for more than 3 children, so we are licensed, or maybe we are license exempt. We might work alone or have staff. Across the country state licensing programs may refer to our unique and diverse programs in different ways, but what remains true is we are all “Family Child Care Professionals.”

We all provide a nurturing home environment for children to develop in, while supporting their family units. We operate a business with everything that entails. We are serious and respectful about the importance of the services we provide.

So the next time someone asks you what you do……..Like me I hope you will proudly answer “I’m a family child care professional”.

Guest posts reflect the thoughts of the writer and not necessarily the Family Child Care Association of Maine. Guest posts are accepted in an effort to broaden the conversation. 

Deborah Arcaro ~ BS in Elementary Education and MS in Special Education. Taught public school system for 10 years. Starting professional journey in family child care in July 1988. Offered programs for mixed ages, before and after school care only, and developmental preschool. Provides workshops and trainings for other providers. Member of FCCAM.