Attracting the Next Generation of Family Day Care Educators

FDCA is proud to release an industry-first study into the family day care workforce in Australia: Attracting the next generation of family day care educators.

This study, which drew on the feedback and insights of 1,288 current family day care educators across Australia, is the result of research commissioned by FDCA and undertaken by market research agency Survey Matters. The research formed part of FDCA's Member Initiatives for 2018-2019 and will be a valuable base for our promotion and advocacy work in 2019-2020 and beyond. It explored the current socio-demographic profile of family day care educators :

  • who they are
  • their motivations for becoming an educator
  • the challenges and barriers they face
  • the factors that make working in family day care both attractive and rewarding; and
  • the likely profile of future family day care educators.

Thank you so much to all the educators who took time out of their busy schedules to respond to the online survey and thereby contribute to this study. The research also drew on the input of several family day care service managers, as well as two focus groups with educators working in alternative settings and students and educators currently studying early childhood education and care.

The results have yielded some important insights into how the profile of a family day care educator has changed over the past 10 years and what the profile of a family day care educator in the future is likely to be. As the national peak body, FDCA is committed to ensuring a strong and viable future for the sector so that more children and families can experience the benefits of family day care. FDCA will be utilising this evidence base to address barriers to entering the sector, promote the value and increasing professionalisation of family day care, utilise the findings in FDCA's marketing campaigns, and better support both current educators and services to continually improve.

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Key Findings

Family day care educators – age, values, attributes and perceptions

The age profile of family day care educators has remained fairly constant over the past decade, with the majority (57%) in 2018 continuing to fall into the 30-49 age group, compared with 59% in this age bracket in 2010.

Educators share many common characteristics, which have changed little over time, suggesting personality plays a key role in suitability for being a family day care educator. For example, family day care educators are comfortable working independently and have a high degree of confidence in their own skills and ability to design educational programs and provide quality care for the children they look after. They value flexibility and like to work autonomously, with few expressing a need for more support over and above what is currently available to them.

Education and qualifications of family day care educators

The research showed a growing professionalism of the family day care workforce over the past decade, with a majority (55%) now holding Diploma level qualifications or higher, and 39% having a Certificate III qualification. A small proportion (4%) are classified as "working towards Certificate III".

Home ownership

Reflecting national homeownership statistics, the proportion of family day care educators who own their own home is declining. While 88% of long-term educators own their own home, this falls to 65% of "early career educators" (i.e. educators that have been in the sector for 0-3 years). Data also reflects the importance of stability of housing with 79% of all educators having lived in their current residence for over 3 years.

Motivations for becoming a family day care educator

While many of the reasons educators began their career in family day care have remained consistent over time, it is clear there are also significant changes occurring:

  • Overall, 47% of educators indicated that the ability to work from home while caring for their own children was a key motivation for starting a career in family day care.  However, this is significantly lower amongst early career educators (37%) than more experienced family day care professionals (64%), with only 32% of early career educators reporting they had preschool aged children when they first became a family day care educator.
  • A growing proportion of family day care educators have experience in other settings - nearly half (45%) of survey respondents who became educators within the last three years have previously worked in a long day care centre. This has increased significantly over the last ten years, with dissatisfaction from working in centre-based early childhood education and care settings one of the major drivers of this trend.

What educators enjoy most about being a family day care educator

The results clearly showed that family day care educators are passionate about the work they do. Over half (51%) stated that working with children was the most enjoyable part of being a family day care educator and the strong bonds and good relationships that they developed with the children noted by 39%.

Other aspects that educators enjoy about their work include the flexible working times, days and hours as well as the quality of the care they are able to provide to the children.

Challenges facing family day care educators

Family day care educators cited a diverse range of challenges in running their family day care business, including:

  • difficulty taking time off. Twenty eight percent (28%) of respondents indicated this was the most challenging aspect of their role. This rises to 33% of early career educators.
  • increasing administrative and compliance requirements. This was cited by a total 20% of educators as the biggest challenge they faced, rising to 35% of educators working 10+ years in the field. However, interestingly newer educators felt less burdened by administration and compliance than long term educators, with only 11% citing this as a challenge.
  • financial considerations, such as business set up costs and access to secure and stable housing as well as lack of employment entitlements.
  • lack of understanding and awareness of family day care from the community.

Attracting the next generation of educators

The research confirms that, due to the unique nature of family day care, it is likely that those most likely to be attracted to the profession are individuals who are confident in their abilities, comfortable working on their own and committed to using their skills and qualifications to make a difference in the lives of the children they care for. The next generation of family day care educators is also likely to continue to be aged between 30-50 years of age.

Future family day care educators are more likely than in the past to:

  • be qualified, experienced early childhood education and care professionals;
  • be increasingly a renter rather than a home owner;
  • have previously worked in a long day care setting, kindergarten or preschool;
  • be attracted to a career in family day care by the ability to use their own skills, knowledge and experience to develop individual care programs; and not necessarily have their own young children at home when they first set up as a family day care educator.

Future educators will continue to face a number of barriers remain to setting up a family day care business, including:

  • Set-up costs
  • Finding enough children to care for
  • Lack of financial and housing stability

Once educators have set up their family day care, there are additional barriers they are likely to face in maintaining the viability of their business, including:

  • Taking time off
  • Administrative and compliance burden
  • Lack of employment entitlements

The study provides an evidence base that will assist FDCA to be understand, support and promote educators and services, foster growth and increase viability. As a result of this study, FDCA will be:

  • creating a resource for services to assist them in their recruitment planning;
  • update relevant FDCA resources to take into account the changing demographic;
  • utilise the findings in FDCA's marketing campaigns; and
  • drawing on the results to inform FDCA's advocacy with policy decision makers and regulators.

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