Category Archives: Opinions

What If….

What if you had a baby – a baby that was so ‘perfect’ that other parents were jealous.  A baby that was never demanding, slept through the night, was content to sit and watch the world around him but also enjoyed playing and snuggling.  A baby that was so very easy to love all the time.

What if he became a toddler with ‘quirks’ – I know, all toddlers have quirks but what if his were so abundant and so noticeable that even strangers made comments.  Yet, those quirks were so familiar – you had them too when you were little, and people made comments then too.  You understood those quirks, in fact you could anticipate and prepare for them.

What if he had sensory issues that made some places/activities impossible without meltdowns – sometimes so severe that he curled in a ball and shut down completely.  He was done for the day now, might as well just put him to bed and try again tomorrow.

What if your preschooler was so quiet and withdrawn that people wondered if he ever talked – he did, he had a fabulous sense of humor and wonderful conversations when he was in familiar settings with people he knew.

What if your child took ‘slow to warm up’ to a whole new level – taking days, weeks, or even months to adapt to a change or try something new.

What if you secretly worried about what would happen to him when he went to school.  There would be so many things there that you knew would be very, very hard for him.  You considered homeschooling where he could feel comfortable and’safe’.  Yet you decided it was important that he learn to move beyond his comfort zone and going to school was an important step.

What if school proved to be both good and bad – he had some terrific friends who were happy to have him around but there were others that tormented him unrelentingly.  Yet, he never complained – quietly independent he doesn’t like to complain or ask for help.

What if he was amazingly kind and gentle wanting nothing more than to have everyone get along, never arguing, always trying to help.  Never late. Never needing reminders to clean his room or do his chores. Never asking anyone to do anything for him.

What if some school years were better than others – depending on the teacher.  Some were understanding and accommodating while others insisted he comply to their strict regime  immediately without hesitation.  Yet all made the same comment “He is so smart, but when he has a problem he can’t solve alone he just panics, quits and walks away without telling anyone why or asking for help.”

What if school counselors and Psychologists said  we don’t know how to help him and referred him to Psychiatry who said “Anxiety and OCD – maybe medication would help’.  But it didn’t – what works is to let him ‘watch’ until he feels comfortable enough to ‘try’ – understanding that some things are still impossible at least on some days.

What if he came so close to finally graduating high school and then crashed and you don’t really know why because he won’t/can’t tell you.  Instead he spent a year alone in his room.

What if you tried to find someone to help but most said “He’s an adult now you can’t talk for him he has to call us himself” but you know that is never going to happen.  So you give him more responsibilities at home where he is comfortable and he is so wonderfully reliable, and helpful and amazing – you wish others could see it.

What if you finally find someone who says ‘Yes, we’ll try’ and it takes years of appointments and referrals and waiting lists and more referrals and throughout it all he is still quietly persistent – doing what is asked to the best of his abilities without complaining.

What if then they quit – they say “We can’t find a placement for him.”  They specialize in connecting workers with jobs and they give up without any further referrals and you’re back at square one and you don’t know what to do.

What if somewhere there is an employer or training program in Winnipeg that is willing to give him a chance.  If you know of one can you please let me know.  cheryl@cccare.ca

 

 

The ‘Un’ Factor

‘Un’ is a prefix meaning “not,” freely used as an English formative, giving negative or opposite force in adjectives and their derivative adverbs and nouns.  In the field of family childcare we often use the words ‘unlicensed’, ‘unregulated’, ‘untrained’ yet for many government officials and people outside the field of childcare those ‘un’ words are not viewed as negative – simply a choice that parents should be allowed to make regarding the care of their children.

There are regulations governing the manufacturing of items like cribs, strollers, carseats, and toys etc so parents know they are safe.  There are regulations regarding the production, packaging, and labeling of food products to ensure they meet predetermined standards so people know what they are buying. Why do government officials and the general public think that parents should be able to choose unlicensed, untrained childcare but need regulations to assist them to safely feed, house, and transport their own children?

What other career field allows some businesses to operate unlicensed and/or untrained when others providing the same service are licensed?  What is the incentive for any business to be licensed if they can legally operate without any oversight?  Without any licensing/training requirements?  What if, like in childcare, they could actually make more money if they were not licensed/trained than if they were licensed/trained?

Let’s use truck drivers as an example.  The majority of adults have a class 5 driver’s license and have experience driving their own or a friend’s vehicle.  What if there were no restrictions on what size of vehicle you could drive and anyone could just decide “Hey, I’m going to buy a big truck and start a business delivering things for other people.”

Why, is an experienced driver with their own vehicle not allowed to start up a trucking business without additional training or license? Why don’t people argue “It’s his truck, he can do what he wants with it.  If other people are OK with letting him transport their stuff why not let him/them.  He’s never had an accident and doesn’t need a little piece of paper to prove he’s a good driver.”

What if that same driver or another class 5 driver then decided “A bus isn’t much different than a big truck.  If I had a bus I could earn money driving people around.”  What if you’d seen that driver on the street with his bus full of happy passengers and decided to take a ride on his bus.  Then imagine that one day there was an issue – something was wrong with the bus or the driver.  What if it is too late to get off the bus before the accident happened?

Some argue that licensing all childcare facilities and requiring training for all childcare workers doesn’t ensure quality – but it helps.  Just like trained bus/truck drivers in licensed companies will still have accidents there are standards and checks in place to limit them.  Why don’t we hear arguments that training/licensing truck drivers doesn’t prevent accidents so let’s save some money and not bother requiring them to be licensed?

Do we need more incentives for family childcare providers to become licensed or do we need to eliminated the option for them to operate unlicensed childcare homes?  Currently only licensed providers can accept government subsidized families but private paying families usually pay higher rates than the maximum subsidized rate so that isn’t an incentive to be licensed.

What about training?  Currently family childcare providers with Early Childhood Educator II/III training can receive slightly higher subsidized rates than untrained providers but those rates are still lower than the private rates most unlicensed/untrained providers charge so why bother?  Just think of all the tax dollars we could save if we had trained and untrained police officers  – both had the same duties but the city could pay the untrained ones less – but either trained or untrained officers could go work privately for more money without a gun permit or any other type of license.

In an effort to increase the number of licensed childcare spaces, the provincial government is considering lessening the requirements and ‘red tape’ needed to open licensed childcare homes.  Why, when there was a shortage of family doctors was it never suggested that we lower the requirements to become a doctor?  I don’t think lowering FCC licensing requirements will increase the number of licensed childcare spaces and I’m absolutely positive it won’t improve quality.

What part of licensing do they think is unnecessary?   Criminal record/child abuse registry checks? First aid training or a 40 hour course? Behaviour management, nutrition, safety and supervision policies? Adequate equipment? Developmentally appropriate activities? Documentation and record keeping?

I don’t think any part of the licensing process is difficult or unnecessary.  If fact, I’d like to see more.  I’d like to see MANDATORY licensing for ALL childcare homes.  Greater incentives for trained providers (possibly higher ratios).  MANDATORY annual professional development and more.  I’m thinking about the best interests of the children, not just convenience and the cost for quality and safety.

 

licensing-manual

Licensing Manual

Professional Development

The 2016 Manitoba Child Care conference was held May 26th – 28th and as usual I attended all three days.  Three full days of workshops always leaves me with information overload so I give myself a little break before I go review my notes to remind myself of all the points I found noteworthy.   This year’s theme was ‘Be Inspired, Be Incredible’ and the workshops I attended were truly inspiring especially Teacher Tom!

I’ve attended various workshops and conferences annually throughout my childcare career.  I’ve written about some of them here, here, here and here.  Occasionally I have met ECE’s who appear to be there against their will – completely apathetic and unwilling to participate.  It always makes me wonder why they chose childcare as a career if they have no desire to learn – how can they expect to inspire the children they care for?

I can’t imagine not being interested in expanding your interests – to have no curiosity – to be stagnant.  I’ve attended some workshops that turned out to be much different than I had anticipated/hoped yet I have still found at least some tidbit of useful information.  If it turns out that the workshop presenter and I have completely different views/goals I would still consider it a learning opportunity – even if it is only to reinforce my own beliefs.

I am disappointed that there are rarely more than a few family childcare providers in attendance at conferences.  I’ve heard the excuses ‘It is too expensive’ (It’s a write-off), ‘I can’t afford to close for two days’ (Attend an evening or Saturday workshop),  ‘There is nothing that interests me’ (really?!?!), ‘I already know all that stuff’ (so go lead a workshop – be the expert of your group – mentor others!),’I don’t know anyone else who is going’ (Great! Make some new friends).  In fact, I think that last one is really important – possibly the most important reason you should be going. Family childcare providers work in isolation and it is really easy to get stuck in an old, outdated routine and never grow.

Certainly we can develop wonderful relationships with the families we have enrolled but that can’t provide the type of benefit we get from interacting with peers. Besides – we get food at conferences – food we don’t need to cook ourselves!  I love food that someone else cooks – except fishy things, I don’t like seafood.  One of the reasons I joined a gym is so I never have to turn down food when someone offers it to me.  Ooops, sorry, I got a little off topic for a moment…

The Province of Manitoba Best Practices Licensing Manual for Family and Group Childcare Homes recommends:

16-06-PD01

 

Networking with colleagues is extremely important whether through conferences, committees, courses or some other type of training.  Although useful at times I don’t think looking for new ideas on Pinterest or interacting with peers on social media sites counts as professional development. Personally I believe professional development should be a regulation, a requirement for licensing not just a best practice.

So, here are a few points from my notes from this year’s MCCA conference;

  • Attitude matters, 100 positive people + 1 negative person = 101 negative people.
  • Quality is only as strong as your most marginal performer.
  • Cooperation is hardwired, competition is taught.
  • Formal instruction prepares people to work in factories.
  • Education is not the filling of an empty vessel – it is the ignition of the flame.
  • If it is not interesting to you it is not interesting to them either.
  • Play is what children do when adults stop telling them what they should do.
  • Young children are the most creative problem solvers in the world.
  • The role of the teacher is to prepare the environment for the children to play.

To be honest most of these points are not new knowledge for me but the conversations I was involved in surrounding these points were extremely enlightening and that is why I go to conferences. Counting down the days until my next conference – The Manitoba Nature Summit is just three months away – so excited!

Stepping Forward – or Back?

With the Conservatives now in power there is a lot of apprehension about the future of childcare in Manitoba.  I’ve heard comments that I should be happy/excited – after all, during the election campaign the Conservatives did claim to support licensed family childcare. You can read more here

In that article the Conservatives propose  “Increasing operating funding for licensed, home-based child care spaces by 70 per cent for infants, 68 per cent for pre-school aged children and 15 per cent for school aged children”. Those increases to operating grants sound impressive and would result in approximately an 11% increase to my total annual income however there is no mention of the time period over which those increases could occur.  To put that into perspective, through NDP training and funding initiatives my personal annual income has increased by 44% over the past 12 years.

The Conservatives also claim that there are “550 fewer home-based child care spaces in Manitoba today compared to 17 years ago. This reduction in spaces is due in part to the cumbersome regulatory regime which governs the development of child care facilities in Manitoba.”   and they propose “Simplifying the process governing the opening and operation of child care facilities with a focus on home-based child care spaces.”

Yes, there are definitely fewer licensed family childcare homes than there used to be and it may be due in part to the licensing regulations but those regulations are there to benefit the children.  I’m absolutely positive there would be more home based ‘pharmacies’ if there weren’t so many regulations involving opening licensed pharmacies too.  I’m also certain many people would willingly choose to use the services of unlicensed, untrained, home-based pharmacists but I’m not certain that would be a good choice either.

I don’t think the problem is that it is too hard to become a licensed family childcare provider but rather, it is too easy not to.  Yes, there is a legal limit of four children under the age of 12 in an unlicensed childcare home but with no enforcement of that law unlicensed, uninsured, over numbers, childcare homes are a lucrative business – just like unlicensed/illegal pharmacies.  Maybe the Manitoba Conservatives should follow the lead of Ontario and crackdown on rogue unlicensed providers

I don’t believe an increase in operating grant funding will encourage unlicensed providers to pursue licensing.  Not if they can charge higher daily rates than funded homes.  Not if they are unable to meet minimum licensing standards. Not if they can operate above legal numbers without repercussions.  As long as unlicensed childcare continues to be a profitable option there is little incentive for home based providers to become licensed no matter how much the process is simplified.

The current minimum standards and licensing process are not obstacles for providers who are truly looking at childcare as a career.  It can be a daunting process for those who have no experience with the system and are trying to tackle it alone. Even 20 years ago – under a Conservative government – it took me nine months to complete the licensing process and I had several childcare mentors who helped me.  Many currently licensed providers would be eager to assist new providers through the licensing process but there isn’t (but should be) a mandatory mentorship program. Childcare coordinators already have too little time to adequately visit existing facilities – who is going to be able to license and offer support to new childcare homes?

I do agree that opening licensed family childcare homes is a more cost effective way to increase the number of licensed childcare spaces compared to the cost of opening centres.  However, I also believe that simplifying the licensing process will reduce the quality of those childcare homes.  The minimum licensing standards are not that difficult to achieve – poor quality licensed homes and centres exist even with current regulations.  Good quality centres and homes are not content with simply adhering to the minimum licensing standards – they CHOOSE to go above and beyond what they are required to do and strive to provide the best care for each individual child.

Sure, Sally is a great stay-at-home mom who wouldn’t mind having a few extra children hanging around with her kids while she does the laundry.  There’s room on the couch in front of the TV and a swing set out back if they want to go outside.  Babysitting is a great way to earn a little extra cash – her mom did it too back in the day.  But it is 2016 and we’ve worked really hard to show that early childhood education is more than just babysitting.

If quality wasn’t a concern then the easiest, most affordable childcare solution might be to simply double the current ratios for all childcare facilities.  No additional buildings.  No additional equipment.  No additional trained staff.  No additional licensing coordinators.  Just twice as many children crammed into existing programs.  Like magic – thousands of more childcare spaces.

Yet quality IS a concern and making it easier to open licensed family childcare homes isn’t going to provide more quality childcare – just more temporary babysitters.  Maybe all women should just quit their jobs and stay home with their own children.

Whichever option you choose it might just be a step backwards.

A Matter of Money -Expenses

In my last post I wrote about the daily rates charged by various home based childcare providers but that barely begins to cover how widely net incomes can vary. I know some home based providers try to break down their income to an hourly wage and lament they earn less than minimum wage. I’ve also heard it said that unlike centre based ECE’s whose wages and hours are set by their employer, home based providers have more control over their income, expenses and hours. For this scenario let’s ignore the differences in number of spaces, the ages of the children in care, daily rates etc. Let’s just consider how expenses and work hours can affect a home based childcare provider’s income. What can be controlled and what can’t be.

The Childcare Space – the building in which it is located. A portion of the cost of the childcare home’s utilities, taxes and mortgage interest is considered a business expense but the amount is dependent on how much of the home is used for childcare and for how many hours per day. Do they have a large dedicated childcare space or shared childcare/personal space? What type of neighbourhood is the home located in (property tax rate)? Has the home been purchased recently or is it nearly paid off (mortgage interest costs)? Is the home large or small, old or new, energy efficient or old technology (utility costs)? All those factors will affect the total cost of operating the childcare home.

Does the childcare home have limited hours, offer flexible hours to accommodate parents working various shifts or maybe they are even ‘open’ 24 hours/day, 7 days/week. Offering extended hours does not generally increase income – in fact, the net income could actually be lower. Drop off times for evening childcare are usually earlier than pick-up times for daytime care so enrolling one evening child and one daytime child will still require two spaces due to the period of time they overlap. The provider does not have all the children present at the same time which results in a longer workday and higher expenses too.

In short – more space & longer hours = more deductions and lower net income.

The Learning Environment – my personal favourite topic – the toys, equipment and furnishings in the childcare space. Is it set up as a traditional home – living room, kitchen, bedrooms etc – are there simply a few toys stored in a corner, spare room or a closet? Is the home larger than the family that lives there needs – an extra room or unused basement has become childcare space. Has the provider given up much of their personal space to create multiple classrooms?

Did the provider make no real changes to their own space and simply accommodates the children like part of their extended family? Did they convert a large space into an elaborate facility – purchasing expensive, high end equipment and furnishings designed specifically for commercial childcare facilities? Did they opt for more economical furnishings and take the chance they will need to replace things often? Do they design and make their own toys and furnishings using recycled materials – very little expense but a lot of ‘unpaid’ work hours.

How long has the childcare program been operating at this location? How long do they intend to stay in business? Does/did the provider have their own children who have outgrown items which are now used for the childcare program? Is this a primary or secondary income for this household? All of these factors will impact the amount the provider has already invested or is willing/able to invest in the space now or in the future.

The Programming – what types of activities do they offer? Structured or spontaneous? Formal instruction or free play? Do they have all the latest technology available for the children to use with purchased curriculum software? Do they have regularly scheduled field trips, hire instructors or attend group classes for music, recreation, or art? Do they use printed worksheets, packaged product crafts, or watch movies/TV? Some of the most expensive activities will require the least amount of provider time/effort.

Training/networking – does the provider regularly attend workshops, conferences and meetings with other educators? These types of learning opportunities allow the provider to increase her own skills and be less likely to need to outsource programming. However, they can also be expensive. For the home provider there is not only the cost of course registration but also wages for substitutes, lost income for closures, or additional unpaid time after regular work hours.

Supplies – what does the provider require the parents to send with their child? Certainly parents are responsible for sending personal items like clothing, diapers and possibly bedding for their child but some providers may also have an additional supply list. These periodic supply lists can include items such as tissues, sun screen, glue, paper etc much like annual school supply lists. Some even ask parents to supply grocery staples like boxes of cereal, crackers, pasta etc or to pay additional fees for some provider supplied items or services.

Meals – does the provider supply all or some meals or is the parent responsible for sending food with their child every day? Many providers supply snacks but some also provide breakfast/lunch/supper depending on their operating hours. If they provide meals do they buy/prepare food in bulk to save money? Do they purchase individual serving sizes and many processed items to save time? Do they seek out the best quality, organic products that can be found locally? Do they offer alternatives for children/families with dietary restrictions?

What other tasks may a provider be willing to pay someone else to do? Bookkeeping/accounting? Cleaning? Again, this is a matter of making a choice between higher expenses/lower net income or longer work hours/higher net income. A provider may not feel it is necessary to pay high premiums for disability insurance and benefit packages if they have a spouse with coverage. If childcare is the main or only income for the provider’s family then this insurance may be essential – or the premiums may be beyond the possibility of their limited budget.

So yes, home based childcare providers do have some control over how much or how little they spend on operating expenses for their childcare facility and how much they leave for salary. I think what is more important to note is WHY the providers are making the choices. Maybe the provider enjoys cooking for the children in her care or maybe she knows the food she gives them is the only healthy food they will get that day. Maybe childcare is the only income for this provider’s family and the budget is too tight to afford any ‘extras’ for the program. Maybe the provider enjoys working with children but the second income isn’t a necessity for her family – she spends more on her program specifically to lower her taxable income.

A long time ago I was told that childcare centres spend about 80% of their income on wages for their staff – I assume that number is still fairly accurate today. Maybe home based providers should try something similar.  Stop trying to take what little money is left after expenses, dividing it by the hours they work and complaining that it is not a livable wage. Instead, try counting 80% of your total gross income as your salary and pay the appropriate taxes on that income. Then take the remaining 20% and use it for your program expenses. Then you can start complaining about how little you money you have to operate a quality childcare program.

A Matter of Money – Home Based Childcare

The first post in this series was ‘Motivation’, the second was ‘Centre or Home’.  For this third installment I want to focus strictly on the financial side of home based childcare – the income. Home based childcare incomes can vary greatly dependent on your neighbourhood, the ages of your own children and the children in your care and the type of program you offer. First let me define the types of home based childcare:

Family Child Care – located in the providers home – may have a maximum of eight children, of whom no more than five can be under the age of six, and no more than three may be less than two years of age. The child care provider’s own children are included in these maximum numbers. All FCC homes must be licensed and inspected but they have the option of being funded or unfunded – more on that later.

Private Home Day Care – is also located in the caregivers home but is not licensed or inspected. They may offer care for a maximum of four children under the age of 12, with no more than two children under two years of age including the caregivers own children. If there are more than four children in the home at any time the home must be licensed. Unlicensed homes are never able to receive any type of funding from the Province.

Group Child Care Home – A group child care home is run by ‘two’ licensed providers in one of their homes. A licensed group child care home can accommodate as many as 12 children under the age of 12, of whom no more than three may be less than two years of age. These homes also have the option to be funded or unfunded.

Now let me talk a little about income.

Unlicensed/private home day care providers are free to set their own childcare rates – they can choose to charge hourly, daily, weekly or monthly. They can offer discounts to parents with more children. They do not have to charge all parents the same rates and 100% of their income comes directly from the parents using their services. They can be trained or untrained. They have absolutely no regulations regarding their childcare space, equipment, hours, or programming.

Licensed providers who operate funded programs receive an annual operating grant to supplement their income. A funded provider may not charge any parent – subsidized or not – more than the maximum, government set, daily childcare rates. Set rates for trained providers are slightly higher than those for providers without their ECE II/III classification.

These maximum daily rates have only increased by about $2/day in the past 20 years. The rate that parents pay for before/after school care is only eighty cents per day higher than it was when I first opened my childcare home in 1997. These daily childcare fees are kept low to ensure that childcare is affordable for low/middle income parents. Funded providers receive wage increases primarily through increases to operating grants. Current grant amounts work out to about $2/day for school-age children up to $6/day for infants.

Licensed providers – either family or group – may also choose to be unfunded and then – like private providers – they are also able to set their own childcare rates. Unfunded licensed providers may accept subsidized families but the maximum subsidy payment is usually far less than what the provider’s regular rates are. The provider may require subsidized families to cover the additional costs but it is unlikely that the families could afford to.

It is rare for a licensed provider in a higher income neighbourhood to choose to be funded. Many of them can charge rates that are double or even triple the amount of the subsidized fees and operating grants combined. Even unlicensed/private home providers can often charge rates that are considerably higher than the combination of parent fees and operating grant that a licensed, funded childcare provider earns. In some upscale areas the rates can be $80/day for care for preschool children or $25/day for before/after school care and due to the demand for childcare services these providers are still able to fill their spaces.

This is not the case in lower income areas where many families are partially or fully subsidized. Single parents, students, those who work various shifts, don’t have reliable transportation etc will all have fewer childcare choices available. Even in middle class neighbourhoods some families ‘temporarily’ place their children in childcare homes with higher rates – just until they find something more affordable.

Funded childcare centres are considered ‘Not for Profit’ but all home childcare providers are considered self employed and therefore ‘for profit’. Many home providers feel that funded homes should also have the ‘not for profit’ status because we have no control over our childcare rates. Most of us have chosen to operate a funded home because we feel affordable childcare is an essential service.

I’ve heard it said that family childcare providers have options to increase their income but I don’t believe that should include limiting access to quality childcare to only those who can afford it. This post is long enough already so in my next post I’ll discuss the expenses related to home-based childcare and some of the things home providers can control.

A Matter of Money – Centre or Home

I think one of the greatest things about childcare is that no two programs/facilities are exactly the same – and that is perfect because no two children are the same either. Some children thrive in a centre environment while others need the smaller, more familiar setting that a family childcare home can offer. The same is true for Early Childhood Educators. It is the variety of childcare environments that gives ECE’s the opportunity to choose the one that is the best fit for them to work in.

In my last post I described family childcare as my ‘calling’ – there is no other job I would rather have regardless of the income and this includes centre based childcare. Just because I think family childcare is the best place for me does not mean I think it is the best form of childcare for every ECE.

My daughter was 12 years old when I first opened my childcare home. She was actively involved in all our activities and couldn’t wait to turn 18 and be able to sub for me. After graduating high school she went on to earn her ECE II diploma and went to work in a centre. She made many financial sacrifices to save enough money from her limited income to buy her own home. Most people assumed she was planning to switch to family childcare. However, when asked about it she was adamant – “NO! She would never, EVER work in family childcare.”

She is now an ECE III working full time in a centre specializing in infant care. I am an ECE II operating a licensed family childcare home We’ve shared many stories and had many conversations about the similarities and differences between our respective careers. Our annual incomes before taxes are almost identical – when mine is calculated at its maximum. There are numerous factors that cause family childcare income to fluctuate – some I will mention later in this post. Family childcare expenses will be covered in a separate post.

We also cannot compare our after tax income because there are so many variables such as number of dependents and total family income that affect the amount we pay for taxes. So, for the moment I’m just going to say that our incomes are both about the same at $32,000 annually before taxes.

So, let’s compare hours next. My childcare home is open Mon-Fri from 6:30 am until 5:30 pm so I spend 55 hours per week with the children without any breaks. Working in a centre I wouldn’t work that many hours so, at the same annual income if you were to count only the hours we spend with the children my hourly wage as a family childcare would be much lower than my daughter working in a centre.

However, working in a centre also requires traveling time and expenses to get to and from work. If you count the time from when my daughter leaves her house to go to work until she arrives back home after then her work day is equal to mine too. I consider the ‘no commute time/expense’ a perk of working in family childcare that is an acceptable trade-off for spending more time with the children.

I also spend about 14 additional hours per week cleaning, doing paperwork, planning activities, and meeting with parents etc when the children are not here. Technically these are all unpaid hours and some of these duties would not be required by an ECE in a centre. Some of them are required and the centre ECE has to get them done sometime during their regular workday. There are a lot of things I could probably do when the children are here but I choose to do after hours because it is easier. To a certain extent how much time I spend ‘working’ is my choice and breaking down family childcare income to an hourly wage is impossible.

I feel the additional hours of work a family childcare puts in is an acceptable trade-off for the amount of control we over our program and environment. I’ve toured many childcare centres where just walking through the rooms makes me shudder and I can’t imagine having to work there. There are centres that I think are fabulous and they have philosophies and programming that I believe in – but they also have other staff members. Many family childcare providers quite willingly label ourselves as ‘Does not work well with others’. It is not that we don’t get along with other people but rather that we have difficulty sharing responsibility. We would prefer to just do it all, our way, by ourselves – that’s why we chose family childcare.

However, there are some definite downsides for an ECE working in family childcare – fluctuating income has to top the list. Remember, my maximum annual income was about the same as that of an ECE working in a centre – but not all providers have eight filled spaces all the time so there are many factors that make my income drop below maximum. If you have difficulty setting and sticking to a budget or are relying solely on one income family childcare may not be a good career option.

Many family childcare providers cannot or will not fill their school-age spaces – there is little financial incentive to do this. The additional expenses, supplies and work required for school-age care are so high that many providers find it is not practical even if they live in an area where there is a demand for school-age care. Considering only the five preschool spaces a family childcare provider has – if all the children in care are over two years old then the provider’s income is more than $600 per month lower than maximum. That puts a family childcare provider’s income significantly lower than that of an ECE working in a centre.

Becoming a licensed family childcare provider is often touted as being a great way to work AND stay at home with your own children but I might really disagree with that view. If your family childcare income is your family’s main or only income it definitely does not make sense to choose FCC over working in a centre. Your own children use up childcare spaces lowering your income from both parent fees and operating grant – essentially costing you more than if you worked outside your home and paid to put your children in childcare. An ECE working in a centre would still receive their full salary and if that was their only income they would probably qualify for a subsidy significantly lowering their costs for childcare.

So yes, there are some big differences between working in family childcare vs. working in a childcare centre but it is all about choices. There are pros and cons to both – you just have to decide which trade-offs you are willing to make. My next post is going to deal more specifically with the financial side of family childcare so, stay tuned….