The term early education and child care professionals describes staff members in child care centers, nursery schools, Head Start programs, large and small family child care homes and before and after school programs. Directors, teachers/caregivers and the others who work in group care settings for young children are key contributors to the well-being of children. Formation of warm, positive, supportive relationships with children and their family members enables children to develop social, emotional and cognitive development as well as resilience to handle life stress. Protecting children from harm and promoting their health so they are healthy and able to learn makes collaboration among health professionals, early education and child care professionals and families essential.
The staff of early education and child care programs interact with children, offer them opportunities to learn and encourage them to use those opportunities. An integral component of their role is to protect children from harm by structuring a safe environment and providing necessary supervision at all times. Staff members must address their own physical and mental health to function as role models and be able to carry out the functions required fortheir jobs. Occupational health, promotion and protection of child health are all key components of early education and child care. Staff should have received pre-service instruction and continue to participate in professional development that enhances competent performance. College level course work is valuable. However, degree-earning college curricula for educators may not include the necessary information about health and safety to competently care for young children. Professional development focused on health and safety must fill those gaps.