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What are the Responsibilities of a Child Care Director?
Child care is not simply about dropping a child off during the day, and then keeping them alive until a parent can pick up in the evening. We know far too much about how important the earliest years of life are for the scope of ECE to be so limited. Child care needs to be oriented toward ensuring each child develops the skills required for success both in and out of school, and the responsibilities of a child care director reflect that.
Quality early care and education environments allow children to develop every aspect of their being, including cognitive skills, language and communication, pre-math, social-emotional skills, and physical ability. Child care programs have an environment and curriculum designed to support all areas of development.
A key figure in ensuring the developmental needs of children are being met is the child care director. He or she is a certified professional who oversees the facility’s day-to-day operations.
Responsibilities of Child Care Directors
Like any head of an organization, a child care director must have strong leadership skills, be highly organized, and be business-oriented. Here is a breakdown of the core responsibilities of a childcare director:
Ensuring the Facility is Safe and Effective
Parents choose to send their children to child care for a variety of reasons, but every parent does so with the expectation that their child will be safe, valued, and loved. Parents also expect their children will be prepared for kindergarten. One of the core responsibilities of a child care director is to ensure the program is not only providing a safe environment, but also one in which they will develop the skills and mindset required for a successful transition into more formal education.
A director can ensure this by performing classroom observations to ensure that their staff is implementing developmentally appropriate practices throughout the entire day. These observations also a director understand where additional training and professional development are required.
Overseeing the Hiring and Training of New Staff Members
A director will also be directly involved in the hiring and training of new staff members, this means writing and posting job descriptions, scheduling interviews, and evaluating candidates. During the hiring process, the director needs to ensure they are finding not just qualified candidates, but also candidates who fit with the philosophy and culture of their program. It’s customary for candidates to come onsite and do a working interview where they lead a circle or story time and spend an hour or more in the classroom interacting with the other staff members and children.
For every new hire, directors need to ensure they are fully trained in the responsibilities of their role and the policies of the program. Training isn’t a “one and done” event either. A director also needs to make sure that their staff is being kept up-to-date on the latest research in child development, safety precautions, and developmentally appropriate practice.
Child care directors are bosses and may need to get involved in conflict resolution, either between teachers or between teachers and parents. Early care and education is a deeply personal field and profession (both due to the nature of the work and due to the relationships formed between educators and families), and with that will come interpersonal conflict. A director needs to be able to stay calm and professional so they can successfully mediate any conflicts that arise.
Building Strong Family Connections
For directors that double as classroom teachers (as is usually the case in family child care), parents will want to hear right from you about their child’s development. For a director in a center who is overseeing many classrooms, the parents will want to hear directly from their child’s teachers.
Either way, one key role of a director is to create an environment that allows for strong family relationships to develop. This means creating an environment of open and proactive communication between parents and teachers. This can also mean creating community events for teachers and families — this might be a back to school night to kickoff the school year, recurring parent-teacher conferences, or an end of year party before summer.
Mentoring and Career Growth
A director is a manager, and any strong manager knows that mentoring their team is critical for career satisfaction and longevity. A child care director is no different. Understanding what your team’s career goals are and helping them make progress towards them is going to keep everyone happy. In early care and education this might mean creating a schedule that allows for teachers to take classes to earn more credits in ECE or towards their admin credential. It might mean allowing them to go to professional conferences. Or it might mean finding smaller ongoing webinars and professional development opportunities they can participate in.
What Makes a Good Child Care Center Director?
Early care and education is such a personal field, so it’s probably not surprising to hear that there are a lot of softer skills required for success as a child care director.
Education & Experience
There is no magical combination of education and experience required to be a successful child care director. Someone with twenty years of experience could be as effective as someone with one year of experience. What matters is a background in early childhood education. A child care director should be approaching their work with an understanding of how children learn and develop and how to create a high quality environment.
A child care director is ultimately responsible for a parent’s most precious thing — their child. Depending on the size of the program, this could be anywhere from six to 150 most precious things! This is a huge amount of responsibility, and can create highly emotional situations. It’s so important that a director maintain their professionalism with their staff and their parents. This means dressing appropriately, speaking calmly, responding to challenges with patience and grace, and (in the modern era) maintaining a professional presence on social media.
Strong Communication Skills
Strong communication skills are a must for any child care director. Whether delivering tours to prospective families, giving feedback to staff, or mitigating conflict with parents, being able to clearly and effectively communicate is critical.
Your Own Personal Mission
All work in early childhood education is emotionally, physically, and mentally taxing. It’s work that doesn’t allow you to just tune out when you’re tired or having a bad day. To successfully navigate this work you have to have a higher personal mission. It could be a love for children, it could be a dedication to improving the future of children in your community, it could be a love for supporting parents, or something else entirely. Whatever it is, you need something to tap into for those hard days to remind you why you keep showing up and doing this hard and important work day in and day out.
What are the Responsibilities of a Child Care Director? Here’s the Bottom Line
Child care directors are required to wear many hats, and the responsibilities of a child care director can seem daunting. They are often leaders, educators, caregivers, cleaners, cooks, storytellers, sales people, nurses, mediators, and more.
This is both challenging and rewarding work for those special people who have the motivation to embody all of the necessary qualities and skills. It can be a big step to move out of the classroom and into a director role, and it isn’t for everyone, but for those that are ready for a new challenge, it might just be perfect.