In-home child care is difficult work. The pay is low, the responsibility high and providers receive little respect or recognition for the service they provide. Two new studies show that when in-home child care providers are union members the quality of care given to children under their watch improves. The results come at a time when more states are considering allowing union membership for in-home child care providers and will likely re-ignite a contentious debate on how best to monitor and support in home child care.
In February the Economic Opportunity Institute (EOI) released 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. Training highlighted health and safety awareness for these providers, including nutritional considerations and identification and awareness of products that are known or suspected carcinogens. The results showed that training positively impacted providers’ knowledge and skill levels, increased professional connections with other providers and lead to improved job satisfaction.
More recently a Rutgers study took a look at FFN and registered family child care (FCC) providers who are members of the AFSCME Local 2779 in New Jersey. In addition to training like union membership provided in Washington, union membership in New Jersey was viewed as crucial to improving access to information related to child care regulations and benefits and services.
The correlation is not astonishing. The better trained and more satisfied individuals are with their work, the better they’ll perform. They also tend to stay in those jobs longer which can offer crucial stability in a field like child care. What these reports show is that unions can and do serve an important role in ensuring those who serve as in-home child care providers have access to the tools and support that most workers find in a more structured environment. Instead of being viewed as a threat, unions should be viewed as important partners in making sure our children and those who care for them thrive.
Photo from cincomomo via flickr.