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When the Staff Shortage Hits Home

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Back in January I texted “Things just got real” to my supervisor.

You see, I had been hearing about the current challenges with finding qualified staff from various people throughout the state of California but I personally hadn’t been impacted by it. Then things changed, we needed to put my youngest son in the fee-based after school program on his campus (not the program I work for). When I went in to sign him up they told me they would have to put him on the waiting list. What! There has never been a waiting list before? They were experiencing the same staff shortage I had heard so much about earlier in the year. Fast forward two months- we are still on the waiting list. We are exhausting our playdates, relatives, and “mom network” connections but he still remains #6 on their list.

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I started thinking about why I got into the after school/school age care field. Quite honestly, it was because I needed something to do the 9 months out of the year I wasn’t working at camp. At no point did I actually see my part time, college job as a career-with a pathway. But then one day it happened. It became my fulltime job and passion. This got me thinking about the current situation.

Maybe it is because of the fragmenting of job titles – Just in my own tenure I was a group leader, rec leader, teacher, and youth worker. And that doesn’t include management titles- supervisor, director, center manager, and lead. What job title do you look for? Are your staff required to meet district employee qualifications, Title 22, and/or Title 5? With the diversity of regulations, titles, and qualifications can make it difficult to navigate the classifieds.

Maybe it is because the “field” is a broad patchwork – Speaking from the California perspective, this field is inclusive of a variety of programs. State funded services through After School Education and Safety funds, 21st CCLC funds, General Childcare, and Alternative Payment programs are just the start. There are programs that are parent fee-based, city/county funded services, community based providers, and private after school enrichment programs. Phew, that is just the funding. Then you have to consider are you licensed through Health and Human Services or licensed-exempt. Oh, and don’t forget summer camps and summer learning programs. I appreciate the depth and breadth of services available to children and families after school and I realize “one size does not fit all” but how can we streamline the concept while still providing diverse services.

Maybe it is because there a collection of names to describe the services provided – Is it out of school time, expanded learning, extended learning, after school (and before too), care. Yes, I see that each definition has its nuances that are impacted by legislation and funding but how do you describe it to a person outside of the field.

Maybe it is because many people work in this field as a “Pathway to a career” not a career pathway – Many staff get into this field as a way of getting experience working with children and youth, a way to build their resume for a classroom teaching position. Yes our field gives people the opportunity to work with groups of children and create & present activities but we are more than just a field work or classroom management experience. How many people start their schooling and work experience with the goal of working in afterschool or out of school time? I happen to be lucky and the agency I work for has multiple career pathways that support a staff member’s development based on their goals, seeing after school as a full time, long term career.

I really don’t have any answers to these questions but I do think it is time we open a dialogue. Maybe it is time to unite the diverse field to create a career path that includes shared job titles, education, and experience. It is time to make the field a career of choice not a stepping stone to another career.

I invite you to share your strategies for uniting the field and advocating for the whole. Please use the social media links in Facebook and Twitter to share your thoughts on this subject.

(Opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not her employer).

For breakfast, I made a veggie egg scramble and a whole wheat English muffin with marmalade.


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