Despite caring for society’s most precious members, in-home child care providers typically face very low pay and poor access to benefits and training opportunities. Two new studies find that unions offer an array of job improvements to child care providers, which serve to improve the quality of care given to children.
In February, the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) issued a report analyzing the impact of training initiatives introduced by SEIU Local 925 on changes in skills, opportunities, and satisfaction for “family, friend and neighbor” (FFN) child care providers in Washington state. Results indicate that training positively impacts providers’ knowledge and skill levels, increases professional connections with other providers, and leads to improved job satisfaction.
Interviews with providers illuminate these findings. Beverly Tyler, who has worked as a provider in Washington for two years and cares for four children, all under age five, sees the value of the union’s training in her everyday interactions with her children. She notes that following a union training she attended, “I understand what types of foods I should be giving to the children, depending on their different needs.” She specifically highlights the value unions provide regarding health and safety awareness. “I’ve learned that there are certain products that have the potential to be carcinogenic, which I should keep out of the house to avoid exposing the children to illnesses.”
More recently, researchers at Rutgers University studied FFN and registered family child care (FCC) providers who are members of AFSCME Local 2779 in New Jersey. In addition to offering substantial training opportunities, AFSCME was viewed as crucial to improving access to information among providers, particularly related to child care regulations and useful benefits and services. In interviews, New Jersey providers indicated a keen awareness that AFSCME is responsible for providing these valuable resources. “The union is key to helping us get training, improve our skills, learn teaching methods, and improve the quality of child care,” according to Migdalia Diaz, a child care provider in Middlesex, New Jersey. “I know that we are very important to the children we care for and to the community. If the parents don’t have someone to care for their children, how can they work?”
The better trained and more satisfied individuals are with their work, the more likely they are to perform to the best of their abilities. They also tend to remain in their jobs longer, offering much-needed stability to the child care sector. It is crucial that providers have the requisite skills, and also the appropriate disposition, to give these children the very best and most stable levels of care. The EOI and Rutgers reports indicate that unions can play a major role in ensuring that this is the case. As the issue of child care provider union formation is taken up in states around the country, the findings from both studies demonstrate that allowing these workers a voice on the job is valuable to not only the providers, but also communities on the whole and especially children.
In the photo: Child care providers, including Migdalia Diaz, of Middlesex, New Jersey.