Family Day Care – Keeping Family Day Carers Connected

While being a Family Day Care Provider is a very rewarding job, it has the potential to be an isolating vocation. Any parent who chooses to stay at home with their child/ren in the first years of their life has known isolation in some form, at some time. As a family day care provider, this can be even more so as carers are not always mobile with their children. That is, not every carer has the means of transporting 5 children to places that allow them, and the children in their care, to network with other carers. How can we ensure our family day care providers are keeping connected with each other and with the child care industry as a whole?

Start With The Coordination Unit
The family day care coordination unit needs to understand the importance of carers being connected and hold this in high priority. The staff in coordination units have not always been carers themselves, which means they need to find ways to understand the day to day life of a carer at home with 5 children of varying ages. The coordination unit needs to understand the implications of carers feeling isolated in their role (such as de-motivation, poor child care practices and leaving the vocation). As well, they need to understand the positive impact of carers feeling supported and connected to staff and peer carers (which may include greater motivation, high quality child care practices, greater job satisfaction, and sharing of innovative ideas and practices).

The coordination unit then needs to facilitate methods and activities which encourage greater carer connection. They need to support the ideas and suggestions of carers about activities which may help them feel more connected in their role.

Part of the initial training for carers joining the scheme needs to include discussion of the difficulties of isolation and suggestions of ways this can be overcome. When carers are more aware that their vocation has the potential to be isolating, they can be proactive in their networking.

Develop Programs and Methods of Carer Connection
Programs and methods which enhance connection between carers will be different for every family day care scheme. Common practices which occur in many family day care schemes include weekly play sessions, organizing ways carers and their children can be transported to the play sessions, scheme newsletters, and coordination unit visits. NSW Family Day Care and Family Day Care Australia both produce magazines which Carers receive, providing ideas and resources. However, the scheme needs to be always thinking of new and fresh approaches to networking the carers within their service.

o Play Dates – where small groups of 2 – 3 carers and their children in close proximity can have a play date at one carer’s house.
o Social Events – Carers can form connections in a relaxed atmosphere with their attention not distracted by the care need of children.
o Field Visits – Carers in the scheme can use one of their non-working days, where possible, to visit a few other carers and share their ideas and see other care environments.
o Peer Mentoring Visits – New carers or carers undergoing training can visit the home of an established carer to gain new ideas for their own environment.
o Training Nights – whether this be run by the Coordination Unit or through training DVDs (see link below).

Carers To Hold An Attitude Of Learning and Professionalism
There are few professions which don’t encourage professional development. However, it’s hard to develop and learn in isolation. Carers need to value themselves as a professional and be committed to learning and developing their skills. This includes being committed to being part of a learning group, most commonly through coordination unit training but can also be through online forums and field visits.

When working from home it can be easy to keep doing what you’ve always done. However carers need to be willing to be challenged in their practices and procedures to order to create rich learning environments for children in their care. By doing this they can know they are being the best carer they can be, leading to greater job satisfaction.

It can also be easy to connect with Carers just in the social groups that are formed within a scheme. However, carers need to see ALL registered carers in the scheme as a source of support, a source of new ideas, and as sounding boards .

Cassandra Eccleston is a dedicated and experienced childcare professional and writes for Onsite Early Childhood Training who produce cutting edge Child Care Staff Training by DVD. You can visit our website for more free resources, downloads, forums and information on family day care and the latest childcare staff training available.