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Your Resource for ACES Prevention and Georgia Resiliency
  • Kristin Denning

Cultivating a Culture of Care for Early Care Educators

Resilient Georgia and the Center for Interrelational Science and Pediatrics (CISP) have partnered together to create and launch a wellness training for infant and early childhood professionals in Georgia. The free self-guided online course Wellness for Early Childhood Professionals, together with a live virtual Community Resiliency Model (CRM) workshop and Wellness practice, provides four Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) approved training hours for staff and administrators of Georgia childcare and education centers. These trainings are a part of larger Community Resiliency Model (CRM) course for infant and early childhood professionals.

However, the importance of these trainings goes beyond DECAL approved training hours. The Wellness for Early Childhood Professionals training highlights specific wellness skills to build resiliency and connect professionals to their sense of wellbeing. Infant and early childhood professionals will learn skills to provide stress relief, a sense of control, and the ability to deescalate emotions under stress, which will help them feel more engaged, secure, and to contribute in ways that they might not otherwise feel able to when feeling burned out. This training equips staff with wellness skills that support their ability to bounce forward, which in turn supports children in early childcare and education through improving quality of care and retention. While our culture often speaks about wellness in terms of individual self-engagement and skill development, leaders also play an important role in supporting learning and skill development. Directors and administrators, as leaders in their centers, can set the tone and create a supportive culture of wellness and of self-care.

Over the course of the past three years, the topic of mental health has become a part of the national conversation with 59% of the US workforce reporting moderate to very high levels of “burnout”, a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged or repeated exposure to stress. News stories about burnout leading to high turnover rates in various fields, including interviews with mental health professionals, frequently cross our news feeds. For early childhood care professionals, this is a problem that existed before COVID-19 and has seen a continued increase because of the effects of the pandemic. The Institute of Medicine and National Research Council noted in 2015 that the national average turnover for preschool teachers was 28.1% and 29.4% for childcare workers. When leadership supports the wellbeing, satisfaction, and psychosocial needs of staff, they are also supporting the full potential and success of the organization.

Since the pandemic, an estimated 100,000 early childhood care workers have left the profession entirely. According to researchers from Indiana University, factors like supportive structures, collegial relationships, and professional beliefs and values influence individual professionals’ level of job satisfaction and their choice to stay or leave. The Early Childhood Professional Wellbeing Model (EPCW Model) developed by these researchers identifies nine senses that influence EPC wellbeing: sense of contribution, sense of engagement, sense of efficacy, sense of agency, sense of affinity, sense of self-respect, sense of communication, sense of comfort, and sense of security. Together, these senses impact the overall experience of childcare professionals and their resilience.

Wellness for Early Childcare Professionals and Community Resiliency Model training addresses many of these senses through the CRM model for building resiliency, leading to increased self-awareness, self-care, autonomy, connection, and competence. By utilizing the CRM training as part of onboarding and annual professional development, early childhood education centers can create a culture of wellbeing that supports staff and helps employees and the children they care for thrive.

Infant and Early Childhood Professionals and Leaders can learn more about the Wellness for Early Childhood Professionals course, the live virtual Community Resiliency Model (CRM) workshop and Wellness practice, and the full Community Resiliency Model (CRM) course by visiting the course landing page on the CISP Website and can request enrollment here.

The project described is supported by the Community Transformation Grant (CTG), Grant Number 469-G23-921-RGAI-014, from Federal Funds awarded to the State of Georgia and to the Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) by the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The contents of the course will solely be the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of DECAL, the Granting Federal Agency or the U.S. Government.

Author’s Bio:

Kristin Denning MPH, BSN, RN is a pediatric nurse and recent Master of Public Health in Global Health and Community Health Development graduate from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, with a Certificate in Public Mental Health. She has worked for over 10 years in the child and adolescent health field, first as a pediatric ICU nurse then as a school health nurse. Her passion for ACEs prevention and strengthening community resiliency comes from her experiences working with educators, parents, children and adolescents in hospital and community spaces.



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