Early Care and Education Workforce Support and Retention, 2020 - 2025 - Overview

The purpose of this project is to assist the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), states, and localities in understanding what drives workforce turnover in the early care and education (ECE) field and to evaluate promising strategies to support recruitment and retention of a qualified ECE workforce. The dynamics contributing to high rates of staff departures in some center-based ECE programs and decreasing supply of family child care providers, including individuals paid to provide noncustodial care, are not well understood. It is critical that ACF learns more about what motivates individuals to enter jobs in child care and early education and about what supports their attachment to the field. Better comprehension of how various conditions, incentives, and strategies may differentially affect ECE workers, depending on individuals’ backgrounds, programmatic and local contexts, and features of care settings, can inform public and private efforts, and especially the initiatives of the Office of Child Care and Office of Head Start, to support states and programs in their activities to build and retain a qualified ECE workforce.

This project seeks to:

  1. Assess the knowledge base about what contributes to high rates of turnover among ECE personnel;
  2. Identify and assess existing efforts to increase recruitment and reduce the loss of ECE personnel, including specific efforts being implemented in Head Start/Early Head Start programs and other subsidized ECE settings;
  3. Assess the availability and potential of existing data to address questions about recruitment and maintenance of the workforce;
  4. Design study options for investigating factors and strategies to increase workforce retention; and
  5. Analyze existing data and collect new data to address key questions about workforce retention.

Specifically, questions guiding this work include, but are not limited to:

  1. What conditions and practices drive ECE workforce turnover, and how does this differ by ages of the children served, worker characteristics and roles, program context (i.e., Head Start, child care subsidies and other funding sources and sponsors), community and state context?
  2. What program- and/or system-level policies, activities and characteristics support the recruitment and retention of the workforce within Head Start and subsidized child care programs? 
  3. What program- and/or system-level policies, activities, and characteristics support the recruitment and retention of the ECE workforce within the field?
  4. What strategies or combination of strategies are currently being implemented to support staff retention and, in turn, promote continuity of care for children?
  5. How effective are various strategies for supporting and retaining a qualified workforce (e.g., wage/compensation increases, benefits, professional supports, organizational capacity building)?
  6. What factors influence successful implementation of promising strategies (e.g., leadership/administration, policy context, funding sources and levels, standards and regulations, community characteristics) in Head Start and other subsidized ECE programs?

The contractor completing this work is MDRC, with partners MEF Associates, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, Erikson Institute, Butler Institute for Families, University of Denver, and Decision Information Resources, Inc.

The points of contact are Ann Rivera and Krystal Bichay-Awadalla.