Thank You, Grandma Joyce

By Lauren Robertson, Digital Advocacy Manager, CCAoA

Guess which one I am!

Two weeks ago was Take Your Child to Work Day, and our office was filled with children and teens experiencing cubicle life firsthand. As a child, I often opted out of this day with my own parents as they both worked in schools. While getting out of a day of learning sounded fun, sitting in my father’s janitor closet playing solitaire on his computer did not seem fun enough to pull me away from school.

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week, a major week in my household as a child: it meant my sixth grade teacher mother brought home chocolate and, if we were lucky, Starbucks gift cards from the PTA. What many don’t realize, however, is that the Friday of Teacher Appreciation Week recognizes our earliest teachers: Provider Appreciation Day. This day is dedicated to the hardworking, undervalued, mind-bogglingly under-compensated field of early care and education providers. From child care center teachers to family child care providers to everything in between, child care providers are educators, brain builders, potty trainers, food preppers, tantrum tamers, paperwork filers, parent wranglers…you get the picture. They really do it all.

I myself am a product of a somewhat nontraditional, though not uncommon, child care experience (learn more about nontraditional hour care and the realities families face!). My mother worked days and my father worked nights. My main child care provider was my father, and for a few hours a day, a family, friend, and neighbor provider, Grandma Joyce, took care of me. Grandma Joyce (note: not my real grandmother), spent her time teaching me how to tie my shoes (she tried, I was stubborn), read to me, and weaned me off a sippy cup (reminder: I was stubborn). She really did it all.

So, today I say thank you to Grandma Joyce and all the early care and education providers out there. (Thanks to my dad, too, but he has Father’s Day.) As a former full-time early care and education provider and current part-time provider, I know the skills and dedication it takes to be an effective educator of young minds. Now, in my work in child care advocacy, I also know that the median wage for child care providers nationally is just $10.72 an hour and most in the field are making less than $15 an hour (Curious why providers make so little yet child care is SO expensive for families? We have a video for you!). In many states, providers are required to obtain higher education credits to be qualified for their positions or move up to lead teacher, but their compensation does not match the credentials required for the position.

Providers are working so the rest of us can work. They work long hours with limited flexibility and most lack access to health care or paid sick time through their employer. Basically, thank you is just not enough.

If you understand the importance of early care and education providers (Brain development! Return on investment!) and you think they should be compensated fairly for the vital (and exhausting!) work they do, you can do something about it!

This year, we are advocating for a $5 billion increase to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). This increase in funding will help states increase reimbursement rates for providers who accept child care subsidies, among other necessary programs that benefit all young children, their families, and the providers who care for them.

So I have two things for you to do on Provider Appreciation Day: tell Congress why we need $5 billion for CCDBG (tell them about the importance of the providers in your life!) and call/text/Facebook/email/tell a child care provider in your life (your child’s, your own, your friend, or whoever provides love, support, and education to little learners!) that you value them and will continue to be an advocate for them.

This Provider Appreciation Day, I am calling Grandma Joyce (full disclosure: had to confirm with my mother she is still alive, she is and she is 88 years young!) and telling her thank you for teaching me, supporting me, and believing in me when I was young. She made all the difference.

P.S.: Are you a child care provider yourself? First of all, THANK YOU! Second, share your story with us to help us connect our policymakers decisions to real people’s experiences in child care!