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Childcare involves caring for children in a variety of situations at homes or schools. In the United States, childcare workers work with younger children who have not yet formally entered the schooling system or, along with preschool and elementary teachers, with older children. In the United States, one out of three childcare workers is self-employed. Childcare workers attend to the basic needs of children and foster the children's emotional and social growth. They look after children's interests, develop their talents, and help them improve their learning.
Depending upon their places of employment, childcare workers are classified into three groups—baby sitters, family care providers, and childcare workers. Babysitters work as either infant nurses or nannies at children's homes and are usually employed on an hourly basis. Infant nurses take care of infants, and nannies take care of children up until they are 10 or 12 years old. Family childcare providers care for children at their own homes. They usually work with small groups of children, though some, assisted by other adults, take care of larger groups.
Childcare workers are usually employed at childcare centers that typically provide preschool services for three and four-year-olds. Their work usually consists of a combination of teaching and care giving. They may also assist preschool teachers with older children. They maintain contact with the children's parents and guardians to discuss their children's progresses and needs. Some preschool centers also involve parents and guardians in decision-making processes so that childcare workers and parents can collectively work towards the development of their children.
Childcare workers' hours vary widely depending upon the type of care provided. Most childcare centers are open long hours. This enables parents to drop off children at the centers on their way to work in the mornings and pick them up on their way home in the evenings. While some centers have staggered shifts to cover long hours, other centers may offer only limited breaks to staff because of staffing shortages. On the other hand, live-in nannies work longer hours, while family care providers adjust their working hours to fit the parents' schedules.
Training and Qualifications
In the United States, the training and qualifications required for childcare workers vary widely from state to state, as each state has its own licensing requirements to regulate the profession. Generally, though, childcare workers need a high school diploma and some experience.
Private childcare centers and programs that receive public funding may require additional qualifications. Some employers require childcare workers to hold Childcare Development Associate (CDA) qualifications or Certified Childcare Professional designations. Many employers also require candidates to take secondary or post-secondary courses in child development and early childhood education. Aspiring childcare workers are also required to have experience in childcare situations.
Most childcare workers are paid on an hourly basis. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Standards, the median hourly earnings of childcare workers in May 2004 were around $8 per hour. Earnings vary depending upon education and experience. Benefits vary from employer to employer. Some offer a full range of benefits including health insurance and paid vacations, and some employers offer no benefits at all.
As a career, childcare offers a practical alternative to teaching and education careers. To succeed, though, childcare workers must have substantial patience, motivation, considerable leadership and organizational skills, and the ability to nurture and teach children.
On the net:U.S. Department Bureau of Labor Statistics: Childcare Workers
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