AMES, Iowa -- Working parents need access to quality child care, so they can go to work knowing their children will be safe and well cared for. However, the people who provide that care often face low wages and lack benefits such as health insurance, sick leave or retirement plans, making it a financial challenge for them to remain in the profession.
Providing quality child care is a matter of economics as well as workforce development, which Iowa State University Extension and Outreach addresses with research-based information and education, says human sciences specialist Sandra McKinnon.
“According to Early Childhood Iowa, Iowa leads the nation in the number of families with parents working outside the home. This State of Iowa initiative also has documented that in many Iowa communities, child care is unaffordable or inaccessible, or simply doesn’t exist,” said McKinnon, who specializes in family finance.
“It is important to recruit and retain qualified individuals with the experience, knowledge and skills to provide the highest quality of care for young children, but who also are able to make a living in the child care profession,” McKinnon said.
Financial well-being for child care professionals
McKinnon and her family finance colleagues offer educational programming across the state and online, targeted to Iowa’s child care workforce and focused on financial well-being.
One of those programs is “Cent$ible,” three workshops to help providers feel more comfortable with their financial situation. One workshop covers basic money management and two are about preparing for retirement.
“Our premise is with increased personal financial well-being, a career in early childhood can contribute to long-term financial security. Providers can concentrate on tasks at work, avoid absenteeism, remain in the profession and ultimately provide stability to the children in their care,” McKinnon explained.
“Hopefully this type of education will slow the decline in available child care across the state,” she added.
Financial education for children
Child care providers also can play an important role in promoting beneficial financial behaviors in children, as many adult money habits are set by a very early age, McKinnon said.
ISU Extension and Outreach offers “Preschoolers and Pennies: Read, Talk, Learn and Play.” This workshop focuses on how to teach appropriate financial concepts to 3- to 5-year-olds with fun activities in the day-to-day learning environment.
“Munchkins and Moolah” focuses on teaching preschoolers about sharing, saving and spending, and “I Want! Building Good Consumers” focuses on the influence of media and advertising.
Child care providers may sign up for training via Iowa’s Child Care Provider Training Registry.
For more ideas, visit the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Select consumer tools, then Money as You Grow, to find free activities and conversation starters for children ages 3 to 5, as well as information for older children. MyMoney.gov has information for youth, teachers, other educators and researchers. The site also offers games, fun facts and activity ideas.