The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Beyond Caregiving: Stress and Emotional Well-Being of Child Care Providers

Friday, January 18, 2013: 2:30 PM
Executive Center 3B (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Paula Gerstenblatt, MSW, Dcotoral Student, Assistant Instructor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Monica Faulkner, PhD, Associate Director, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Ahyoung Lee, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Dnika J. Travis, PhD, Senior Director, Research, Catalyst, New York, NY
Background and Purpose: Child care providers face multiple stressors in their work.  Unlike other professions where caregiving has been examined in terms of compassion fatigue, burnout and caregiver stress, little work has examined the impact of work on child care providers’ well-being.  This study fills a major gap in the literature by examining the impact of work on child care providers’ well-being.  Specific research questions are: 1) What are the sources of stress for child care providers?  2) How do these stressors impact personal well-being? And 3) How are these stressors different for center based and family providers?

Methods: This study utilizes qualitative data from seven focus groups held with child care providers in Central Texas.   Four focus groups were comprised of providers who worked in licensed child care centers and three focus groups were comprised of providers who work in licensed or registered child care homes.  Each focus group had between four to six participants.  A total of 26 providers participated in the focus groups.  Conventional content analysis was used to analyze the data so that themes were permitted to flow from the data.  An iterative coding process was used in order for the research team to gain a sense of the larger picture provided by the focus groups.

Results:  Child care providers identified multiple stressors.  However, none of the stressors related directly to caregiving or educating children.  Rather, stressors focused on parents, worries about child well-being and the public perception of their profession.  Providers reported worrying extensively about children not in their care, particularly children living in unstable home environments.  A strong theme that emerged from the focus groups is that child care providers do not feel qualified to handle the medical, developmental and family issues that presented themselves in their classes.  For family care providers, additional stressors included balancing their role as business owner and caregiver as well as utilizing their personal home space for work.   As a result of the stress that they experience, providers reported having sleep disturbances, feelings of anxiety and physical health problems.

Conclusions and Implications: As a female dominated practice, child care is often viewed as an extension of women’s traditional work and therefore, is highly undervalued by society.  For the millions of families who rely on child care each day, healthy and effective caregivers are essential.  Results from this study suggest that child care providers experience a great deal of stress related to their work and that the stress impacts their personal well-being.    Practices should be developed to provide additional support to child care providers such as consultations for feedback from child development specialists and social workers.  Additional practices might include peer support groups run by social workers and other communication tools that would allow for peer support.  Resources can also be developed to help guide parents in collaborating with their child care providers.