Childcare program directors have a significant responsibility, during the most critical and vulnerable years of development; they lead the care and education of our nation’s most valuable resource, our children.

Top-down

Economists and scholars have proven that investing in early childhood development is a positive investment in our future. Still, childcare remains undervalued. The management and leadership skills of administrators directly impact program quality.

Since the majority of directors did not plan on becoming administrators, often a teacher promoted from a classroom, they often lack basic business, management and leadership skills when they accept the role. Yet few states require leadership training for directors of licensed childcare programs.

What we need

In addition to knowledge of early child education and child development, program directors are expected to have a diverse set of high-level management skills, including HR, marketing, budget, finance, technology, customer service, health and safety regulations, IT, curriculum support, and staff training.

"As leaders, directors must have the courage to inspire action in others toward a shared vision of program excellence."

Directors are responsible for executing all administrative functions of the program while ensuring our youngest children receive quality care and education. Families and the business community often do not recognize the importance of a quality early learning environment. As a result, directors and their staff are often undervalued.

Low personal valuation, combined with average pay that is significantly less than other fields with an equivalent level of education and skill, creates an endemic industry staffing challenge. A director’s lack of business skills can create additional crisis, stress, high turnover and difficulties recruiting and retaining quality staff.

By example

These challenges are met by the dedication and determination of hard working directors, who often learn and lead by trial and error. As leaders, directors must have the courage to inspire action in others toward a shared vision of program excellence. They must possess leadership skills to create a strong team of early educators, building on the strengths of all staff members, providing them key support to realize their highest potential.

Recognizing administrators of early care and education programs as esteemed leaders in caring for our nation’s most valuable and vulnerable resource, our human capital, we should empower program directors. Provide access to a comprehensive network of support, which includes leadership and management training as well as business and community resources. States through existing quality improvement systems should invest in the development of the key influencers of quality programs: directors.