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Online Program Provides Child Care Credential

  • Teacher Stacy Tillman, left, and head teacher Sami Warner help with lunch at 4 Corners Children's Center in Hartland, Vt., on Jan. 18, 2019. Having lunch in the infant room are Sage Goodwin, one and a half, left, Emma McLeod, nine months, and Eloise McEntyre, 16 months. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Teacher Stacy Tillman plays peek-a-boo with Eloise McEntyre,16 months, at 4 Corners Children's Center in Hartland, Vt., on Jan. 18, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • At 4 Corners Children's Center, Sami Warner, operations manager and head teacher plays with Eloise McEntyre, 16 months on Jan. 18, 2019 in Hartland, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Val Raney, director at 4 Corners Children's Center in Hartland, Vt., on Jan. 18, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 22, 2019

On occasion, Val Raney, director and owner of 4 Corners Children’s Center in Hartland, gets a call from someone asking to put a yet-to-be-conceived child on the center’s waiting list.

That might sound like a radical idea until you consider that her waiting list is 24 babies long, illustrating the challenges Vermont families continue to face in meeting their child care needs.

There’s no quick fix to problems like these, but a little bit of help is on the way. In the new semester, which begins today, Community College of Vermont is offering a new accelerated online child care certificate. Divided into intensive, seven-week blocks, the program can be completed in four semesters and will equip child care workers with credentials that are increasingly in demand in Vermont.

“One thing we’ve been actively doing is reaching out to the state to see where the gaps in education are and trying to fill those gaps,” said Jennifer Alberico, lead coordinator of academic services online for the college. “One place where they have a huge gap is child care.”

That gap is no secret to anyone with a stake in the field. A report released in November by members of the state Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office finds that the number of child care slots in regulated centers has decreased by seven percent in the past three years. In Windsor and Orange counties, 11 center-based programs and 48 registered home-based providers have closed during that period.

Another report, released last week by Building Bright Futures, an advocacy and advisory group based in Williston, finds that while the quality of child care providers statewide has increased in recent years, the quantity has decreased. The report states that recruiting and retaining qualified staff are among the biggest challenges facing providers.

Raney, who has been running 4 Corners for almost 20 years and serves as president of the Vermont Child Care Industry and Career Council, said she knows several providers who want to expand to meet the demand for quality child care but can’t find the staff to do so. She recently attended a job fair for child care workers to which only five people showed up.

“It’s gotten really challenging,” she said.

Along with attracting potential workers to the field, the CCV’s new program is designed to help current child care workers meet changing state requirements. In 2016, the state updated its child care regulations to include, among other things, higher qualifications for staff.

“That has put on a little bit of pressure, and rightfully so. We want educated people ... being involved in the oversight of our children,” Alberico said.

The accelerated child care certificate program — CCV’s first full program to be offered in the seven-week block format — is designed to meet the needs of people already working in the field. “We’re really thinking about the busy working person who has little time to go to campus and take on a big course load,” Alberico said. “A lot of times they’re working parents, and they’re already booked up.”

In addition to seven three-credit courses, the program includes a seven-week practicum to be completed in the field. Students already working in regulated centers can waive the field experience and take an elective instead. Tuition is $268 per course credit, which works out to $5,628 for the entire course.

Almost 2,500 students took one or more of the college’s 278 online courses last fall. The courses that were available in the seven-week format were especially popular among early childhood education students, Alberico found through data analysis.

Along with helping child care workers obtain necessary qualifications, the program can help them net a larger paycheck in a field that’s notorious for low pay: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly pay for child care workers in the United States was $11.42 in 2017.

Credentials correlate with pay scales on Vermont’s Early Childhood Career Ladder, which divides early childhood professional development into six levels. A childcare worker who completes the CCV’s childcare certificate, along with working for one year in the field, will achieve a level 3a. The Vermont Northern Lights Career Development Center, which works closely with the Early Childhood Education program at the CCV and is funded by a state grant, suggests a pay rate of $14.10 per hour for a level 3a worker on its career ladder sample salary scale. The accelerated certificate also dovetails with the associate and bachelor degrees in the CCV’s Early Childhood Education program.

CCV is one of several organizations and initiatives seeking to address the shortage of quality child care providers in the state. Raney also recruits staff through the Vermont Child Care Apprenticeship Program, a collaborative project between the Vermont Department of Labor and the Vermont Child Care Industry and Careers Council. Sponsored by a regulated provider, a participant in the program is matched with qualified mentors to complete 4,000 hours of on-the-job training in addition to taking six or seven college courses. Scholarships are available for the coursework.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com and 603-727-3268.