For the past two years the Great Start Collaborative and the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce have honored our independent childcare providers at the Small Businesses with Big Hearts Celebration. This year’s Celebration took place Monday evening, where we raised a toast to these committed professionals who provide an essential service in our community.
Around 30 local childcare providers turned out for the celebration, which featured a Mardi Gras theme. About half of the attendees were from home-cased childcare businesses, while the other half were from organizational or school-based programs.
“It was a really nice mix of childcare providers,” said Mary Manner, coordinator of the Traverse Bay Great Start Collaborative. Another highlight of the evening: the GS Collaborative awarded a dozen one-year memberships for local providers in the National Association for the Education of Young Children,the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children.
Think for a moment about the dedication of these childcare providers. In addition to their regular tasks they must remain in a state of constant preparedness, not knowing when they might be called upon to arbitrate disagreements before they turn physical or provide comfort and first aid to an injured child.
They rarely if ever leave the premises, don’t take breaks, and work evenings and weekends to keep up with the paperwork. There are no vacations, or benefits like health insurance or a 401k. The average annual income is around $20,000 with no expectation of growth. Does that sound like a dream business?
Yet for many people who enjoy the challenges and rewards of opening their homes to care for young children, this is their passion. These small business owners have found a way to make this model work. Without them, hundreds of local families would be scrambling to find care for their young children while parents work. About two-thirds of children in care are in home-based childcare in our region. Locally and nationally, parents prefer home-based care for their infants and toddlers under age three.
Kiplingers recently published a list of the Top Ten Worst College Majors for your career. Early Childhood Development was No. 4 on the list and took top honors for lowest starting pay and lowest mid-career pay. And yet, the article noted, these are the professionals who are entrusted with the care and education of those most precious to us—our children.
Please, take a moment sometime in the next week to reach out and thank a childcare provider for the amazing work they do. For more information about Great Start at the Chamber and to get involved,
email Mary Manner at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 231-995-7114.
-By Mary Manner