New study offers insights into strengths and needs of early care and education workforce

The early care and education workforce is more highly educated and more stable than previously believed, according to a new study from HHS’ Administration for Children and Families (ACF). The study finds that 53 percent of center-based early care and education providers have at least an associate degree.  This is an increase from the 36 percent indicated in previous studies.

“Improving access to high quality early learning is a key element of the administration’s education agenda,” said HHS’ Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Mark Greenberg.  “We have made an unprecedented effort to improve child care training, health and safety regulations and professional development. We have also strengthened Head Start through new quality monitoring and requirements for competition, as well as increasing the education requirements for Head Start providers.”

Despite these improvements, some challenges remain.  The median income for a full-time center-based provider is just $22,000 per year and 24 percent of providers report having no health insurance.  President Obama’s Early Learning Initiative would link the salaries of early education providers who have a bachelor’s degree with the salary of their peers teaching K-12. 

“Despite low pay and benefits, we find that the average early child care provider has stayed in the career field for more than ten years,” said HHS’ Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development Linda Smith.  “This suggests that investments in strengthening the early care and education workforce can have long-lasting returns.”

The study was based on surveys completed by more than 10,000 early childhood care providers in 2012 and provides the first thorough picture of the early care and education workforce in two decades.  Understanding and improving the early care and education workforce is essential because these providers not only support working parents, but also help educate and care for children during the most rapid period of brain development – from birth to five years old.

The full study is available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/resource/number-and-characterist....

To learn more about this administration’s Early Learning Initiative, please visit http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/occ/presidents-early-learning-initiat....