Increasing the diversity of the early childhood education workforce
By Laura Miller, Senior Director of Family Engagement at United Way of Greater Atlanta
At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we are focused on the well-being of children, families and communities across Greater Atlanta. When you are able to say that children are doing well in the community, it’s a great indicator that those communities – in turn – are doing well.
Early childhood providers have played a critical role during the pandemic as essential workers – staying open when others closed to ensure children were in safe and quality early learning experience so their families could work. And the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated existing disparities in childcare. Years of underinvestment in childcare met with the challenges of the pandemic underscore the difficulty in accessing high-quality childcare.
That’s why our partnership with organizations like the Black Child Development Institute (BCDI) are so important.
The early childhood development community plays a key role in driving United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Index both in terms of employment and economic mobility as a significant workforce in our state, but also for their role in supporting early language and literacy driving 3rd grade reading.
Given that early childhood education experiences are the first experiences that children have of education outside the home, curricula and values that empower children’s identity and values, and uphold their rights, are of paramount importance. And building leadership capacity within the early childhood profession is essential as the profession is forced to constantly shift due to changing educational, socio-political, health and economic demands.
The early childhood workforce consists of 40% Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), which for many childcare centers, is not representative of the population served. Educators of color tend to hold higher expectations of children of color and are less likely to misdiagnose them as special needs. We are supporting the work to not only increasing the diversity of the early childhood workforce in general, but more specifically early childhood leadership.
Leadership sets the tone and more early childhood leaders of color are needed to ensure that children are cared for in culturally responsive environments. In this challenging time for staffing for early childhood centers, having leadership that reflects the workforce is also important when it comes to recruitment and retention.
Recruitment and retention through knowledge and capacity building, promotion and succession planning will shape a cadre of professionals who can lead and advocate for more culturally responsive policies and practices that are reflective of the children and families they serve.