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Caregivers, workers, professionals: Challenges and strategies of family day care providers

Amy B Armenia, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This multi-method study examines the challenges and strategies of family day care providers, the least studied and most commonly employed child care workers. I also examine workers within the context of two alternative efforts to raise the compensation and status of family day care work---professionalization and unionization. Qualitative data were collected through interviews with staff and key members of a professionalization group and a union serving providers in Illinois. Quantitative and qualitative data from home day care providers come from a mail survey sent to a random sample of 1,300 licensed providers in Illinois, resulting in 553 valid responses. Using data from the provider survey, I find that providers orient themselves to their work in a variety of ways, some primarily out of a devotion to home and family, and others as a career or as service to kith, kin and community. Race is a central factor shaping provider motivations and expectations about their work. While work conditions and remuneration are troubling for all workers, race shapes perceptions of these problems. White providers are more likely to be dissatisfied with their hours and schedule, while black providers are more likely to be dissatisfied with remuneration. In analyses of the two organizations working to improve conditions for workers, I delineate the different goals, strategies and methods of each organization. While the training and credentialing efforts associated with professionalization are ideally associated with greater autonomy and status for the workers, the service orientation of this organization fails to empower workers or incorporate worker demands into their political action. The union, while more democratic in theory and practice, suffers from a narrow focus and a limited ability to marshal resources and public support. Differences in goals and methods do coincide with different opinions and participation among providers, especially by race. Black providers are more likely to invest time and money in credentials, but they are less likely than white providers to join associations for family day care workers. In contrast, black providers are far more likely than white providers to endorse and participate in the union.

Subject Area

Labor relations|Preschool education

Recommended Citation

Armenia, Amy B, "Caregivers, workers, professionals: Challenges and strategies of family day care providers" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3212722.