How to Give Working Parents Great Child Care? Invest in Teachers

Bright Horizons Child Care Centers

Earlier this month, Slate ran an article entitled, "Child Care Providers Want Degrees. We Have to Figure Out How to Pay for Them."

This is not news to us; it's something we've invested in and continue to take on in a profound way.

At Bright Horizons, our service isn't just providing child care so parents can go to work; we're also providing early learning so that children can get a great start. We know from our research that these first years are precious; they provide the foundation for what we often refer to as a lifetime love of learning. And we know we need skilled teachers to make that happen.

Where Great Child Care Begins

We believe that education is the starting point. But many years back we began to realize that universities weren't offering early care and education programs anymore; people who wanted to become certified had no place to go. Our solution was to do it ourselves. Our team of educators created our nationally recognized Bright Horizons University Child Development Associate (eCDA) Program. The program is administered through our in-house university, and it's free for all of our center staff. The goal is to make sure our teachers have the right skills, so that they can give children what they need for the future.

And it supports more than just the children. One of our core missions here at Bright Horizons is employee growth. We believe in the power of employer-supported education and we've had great success with employees who have built skills with tuition assistance to ascend the company. We want the same career growth for our teachers. And last year we took the additional step of offering all eCDA graduates academic advising to help them see how those newly earned credits could transfer toward an associate or even a bachelor's degree. Currently, we have more than 2400 eCDA graduates; and the numbers continue to grow.

A Growing Early Education Issue

This issue is going to become even more important as states begin to make higher education a requirement for early educators. As the Slate article points out, Washington, D.C. is already on the way, requiring associates degrees for all educators (bachelor's degrees for center directors) by 2020. We're on top of it, with our people in Washington creatively working with local schools and our tuition assistance program to make learning and earning practical and affordable for these important employees.

Two of the most important things we do at Bright Horizons are taking care of the employees in our own company, and caring for the families we serve outside of it. On one side, we want to make sure we give our clients the very best. On the other, we want to make sure our own people have the opportunity to grow. Nowhere do those two things intersect more profoundly than in our centers.

As the Slate article so well says, "high quality early childhood education is more than hugs and safekeeping."

We couldn't agree more. And to the clients and families who trust us - we're on it.

Written by: Mary Lou Burke Afonso

About the Author

Mary Lou Burke Afonso at Bright Horizons

Mary Lou Burke Afonso is a 20-year veteran of Bright Horizons, having served in a variety of leadership roles in nearly every aspect of the organization, including operation, finance and client relations. In her current role as Chief Operating Officer, North America Center Operations, she is responsible for overseeing the operational leadership and management of all North America-based child care centers and schools. She also oversees all center relations with current clients. Mary Lou is a graduate of Boston College School of Management.