Family Child Care: A Professional Career Path

Guest post by Sasha Shunk

I always had one passion in life, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a teacher. I remember playing “school” with my younger brother. I would write math problems on the windows for him to solve. Throughout high school I participated in Future Teachers of America. Each week I would spend a few afternoons volunteering in the classroom at the local elementary school. At this point in my life I only associated a teaching career being possible in a K-12 school. No one ever told me there could be another option.

After I graduated high school, I went straight to college. After a semester, though my passion for becoming a teacher didn’t cool, my interest in attending UMF did. I missed my family, my boyfriend. I transferred to University of Southern Maine for the spring semester. USM did not offer an education degree, so I opted for another interest of mine, business. A few years went by and I got married, bought a house, and had a great career start in the investment field.

Then I had my son. A lightbulb went off in my head as I started looking for childcare. I realized I could do what I always dreamed of, be a teacher, and stay home with my children.

When I first told my employer I was leaving to open my own business, they highly discouraged me. I was given stats on how many new businesses’ fail in the first year. I was asked why I would want to throw away my current career to become a babysitter. I had doubts myself, but it felt right to move in this direction.

I enrolled at Andover in the late summer if 2003 and opened my family childcare. With every class I took and every day working from home I knew I had made the right decision. I graduated in 2005, right before the birth of my second son.

My first early childhood professor showed me how important this career path was. This is where I first learned about Maine Roads to Quality and National Accreditation. I learned the business side of childcare was just as important as the educational component of childcare.

I often hear providers discuss the challenges they face with parents and community. They discuss how they are not being respected. Parents don’t want to pay for a vacation or late pick up charge. Parents treat the provider as an employee, trying to dictate what is done in the business. Parents challenge their knowledge, questioning everything. I know I still experience “the look” when I say I am a family child care provider. I am asked why I still do care in my home since my children are older. Or they assume I will stop once my children graduate, then I will go back and get a real job. Even my employees are asked when they will get a real job. They get a paycheck each week, they have a real job!

The financial field I was first in, is considered a professional career. When I was in that career, I took finance classes to get certifications. I had to have a fingerprint background check done. I had to pass tests to be licensed to trade on the stock exchange. When I told people where I worked, they would say, “Wow” or “What a great career path you’ll have.”

Over the years I have been a family child care provider, as I obtained certifications, acquired more experience and education, I am treated more like a professional than a babysitter. Family child care is my calling and I am enjoying every moment of it. I wish when I was in high school someone had told me being a early education teacher was a career option. 80% of a child’s brain develops before age 3, 90% before age 5. We truly are helping to raise the future.

My goal is for everyone who is interested in becoming a teacher to know family childcare is a possible choice. I want communities to understand the importance of home-based family child care providers. Family child care providers care for over 900,000 children in the United States. We must continue to come together and continue to develop our profession.

I encourage all early educators, especially family providers to join your State and National Associations. Look for credentials and certificates you can obtain to improve the quality of your program. The more you view yourself as a professional business owner in a professional career the more others will view you that way as well.

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. 

Sasha Shunk, A.S. Early Childhood Education, Owner of Shunk Child Care State Licensed Family Child Care / NAFCC Accredited / Let’s Go 5210 Gold Site / Certified Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom / Eco-Healthy Child Care Certified