Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Labor Day Salute to Some of the Unsung Heroes of Our Economy

For my entry this month, I am deferring to my supervisor, colleague, and friend of 19 years, Dr. Ellen Abell. Dr. Abell is an Extension Specialist and Associate Professor in the College of Human Sciences Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Auburn University.

Labor Day is a day to celebrate the labor movement and the workers in our nation’s labor force who keep our economy, education system, government, and country moving forward. On this holiday weekend, as you are relaxing and, perhaps, grilling up a tasty feast, here is a little food for thought:
Question: Who are the workers on whom families depend to enable them to go to work every day?
Clue #1: Work is an essential part of family life that is usually done outside the home.
Clue #2: In 65% of two-parent families with children under 6, both parents work outside the home.
Answer:  Child care workers. Without the women and men willing to undertake the challenging work of caring for other people’s children, parents would be unable to work. So, one can reasonably argue that child care workers are the unsung heroes of our modern-day economy.
Child care options for families can vary from a traditional child care center to a group or family child care setting based in the caregiver’s home. Expectations about the quality of care our children receive have grown as we understand more about the importance of the earliest years for a person’s positive growth, learning, and life-long health. As a result, the skills and training required of providers have increased. However, the average annual wage of a child care worker in Alabama remains low at $18,390 (U.S. average is $21,320), well below what it takes a family to thrive in our economy. We depend on people who earn low wages for us to be able to go to the jobs that support our own families.
According to data compiled by Child Care Aware America obtained from a the nationwide network of child care resource and referral agencies, in the U.S., just over 15 million children under the age of 6 were in some kind of child care because the adults in their families worked. About 2.2 million people earn their living caring for these children.  In Alabama, almost 225,000 children require child care because their parents work, and there are 11,000 child care workers in centers and an additional 1000 family child care homes.

So, on this Labor Day, let us salute

those who make going to work possible and who dedicate their labor to supporting our children’s healthy growth and development.
For additional information about quality child care, visit the eXtension’s Alliance for Better Child Care. To access additional information and resources for families, go to our Families and Children pages and/or visit eXtension’s Child and Family Learning Network.

Originally posted on and used with permission.

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