Being a childcare provider sometimes is a tough job but also can be one of the most rewarding jobs a person could have.
Taking care of several children all day, five days a week is demanding.
Burnout can happen.
Feeling isolated from the rest of the world is common.
Longtime childcare provider Debbie Regier of rural Marion is the Marion County Childcare Providers Support Services Coordinator.
Basically, she supports childcare providers.
“I encourage providers, especially new ones, to stick with it,” Regier said. “There’s usually a lot of turnover in providers. They try it and get discouraged.”
Typical reasons for providers to stop doing day-care, Regier said, are wear-and-tear on homes and the difficulty in handling numerous children every day.
“Being a childcare provider is an enjoyable job but it can be frustrating and tiring,” said the 20-year veteran.
As part of the support system, Regier also coordinates TEACH (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) Early Childhood and Child Care WAGE$ programs.
TEACH connects education, compensation, and retention for the early childhood work force by providing comprehensive scholarships for coursework leading to degrees and credentials in early childhood education. The program provides an opportunity for providers to increase their knowledge and skills, and work toward a college degree.
“Scholarships are available to local providers to help them further their education,” Regier said.
The WAGE$ program provides salary supplements to providers, working with children birth to 5 years of age. Eligibility is based on continuing education and the continuity of care provided. Supplements are provided every six months as long as the participant continues to work in her/his current early childhood setting. The project allows increases by gaining more education with TEACH scholarships providing a way to do it.
“When providers complete two (basic) college-level classes in early childhood development, they receive a bonus,” Regier said.
Participants could receive one-half of a bonus at the end of coursework and the other half of the bonus six months later, which encourages providers to continue education.
The focus of the programs and Regier’s work is simple — children.
“It’s not good for kids to be shuffled from one day-care provider to another,” she said.
Recently, Wee Care in Marion County, an organization for childcare providers, reorganized and now is in operation. Regier said she had been involved with it several years ago, but with the illness and consequent death of her husband, the organization disbanded.
“Wee Care is a good place for providers to network with other providers for support and encouragement,” she said. Regier continued that it is helpful for providers to know that their issues are not unique and to hear how other professional providers have remedied the situation.
Isolation also is a reason for day-care providers to call it quits.
“They’re at home all day with up to six infants and pre-schoolers,” Regier said. “Sometimes a provider may feel she is the only person in the world doing this.”
The organization helps with those feelings as well.
Monthly meetings are held, sometimes with guest speakers which count toward providers’ continuing education requirements.
Changes in the past two decades
More than 20 years ago, Regier said she was pregnant with her third child and worked out of the home. Her grandmother took care of the children.
“I couldn’t imagine going back to work with two small children and an infant in day-care,” she said.
As it so happened, Regier’s neighbor was looking for childcare. Things came together and Regier found herself taking care of her children, her neighbor’s, and others.
“I have never regretted that decision,” she said.
There was a time when there was a tremendous amount of paperwork, required as a licensed childcare provider.
“That’s actually is better. There is less required paperwork,” Regier said.
Another major difference is there is a childcare providers’ union.
The Kansas union boasts 7,000 members, Regier said, with an office located in Topeka near legislators.
There are times Regier and other childcare providers have had waiting lists of children in need of care. These days, Regier said she has two openings and know of other providers with openings.
“I’m not sure if our population in the county is becoming more elderly with fewer children or if some parents have lost their jobs and do not need day-care for that reason,” she said.
Another observation is the number of births in the county. It appears to be somewhat cyclical with more births some years than others are, Regier said.
As a childcare provider advocate, Regier is working with Butler Community College of Marion in providing early childhood development class for providers through the Marion BCC site.
Anyone with questions, concerns, or seeking more information should call Regier at (620) 382-2787.
“It’s a great job with so many rewards,” she said.