Once you have the requisite experience, finding a good job in childcare is still a challenge. It used to be that anyone who was willing could be hired to provide childcare -- as baby-sitting -- and that's still probably true in some locations. But it's not the same as a professional childcare position. In order to get the best job, you need to make it clear that you are the best childcare pro for the job. That means preparing a portfolio.

Components of a Childcare Portfolio
A portfolio in childcare is concrete evidence of your readiness for the job. Unlike with telephone references and the recommendations of friends, a prospective employer can hold your childcare portfolio in her hands during an interview, getting to know you firsthand. The most convincing childcare portfolio has a look of permanence to it, with materials assembled over a period of years. If you are new to childcare, it could start with photos of your own family -- including, e.g., little cousins that you've cared for -- and neighbor children you've spent time with, whether paid or not. No matter what you include, though, your materials should be personal, projecting your personality and interest in both children and families. The style of your childcare portfolio is up to you. It can be a loose-leaf binder with plastic sleeves that allow you to update materials as needed. Or it can be a scrapbooking project, lovingly assembled and decorated to show your skill in crafts. However it does need to include a few basic components.

Component #1: Written Childcare Resume.
A resume is a written chronology of your skills, education and experience in childcare. Before assuming that you know what this amounts to, consider checking the Web for guidance. A Google search on "to write a resume" produces sites with guidelines, pointers, and written examples. But remember, Every item on your childcare resume needs to be true -- exaggerating your skills or education can get you into hot water. Since families (and agencies) are increasingly careful about hiring a nanny, a lie found on an application can lose the job of a lifetime, even after you have been hired. If you already have a resume, be sure it is targeted to childcare. If not, edit it. For instance, your stated job objective should be specific to the childcare interviews you plan to do rather than to some other kind of employment. A different job objective suggests that you might prefer not to be a childcare professional, or that childcare is only a second choice. If you are, in fact, considering other opportunities, make up separate resumes for your separate job objectives. The educational credentials listed on your childcare resume should include First Aid and (infant and child) CPR as the minimum. List additional training as, e.g., a lifeguard, a dance teacher, and any courses your may have taken in childcare or child development. Component #2: Childcare References
Contact information for previous childcare employers, including name, address, telephone numbers and best time to call, and the duties of the job. Be sure to ask your references for permission to include them. Request written references from various people who know and like you: former teachers, teachers of the children you've worked with, or your neighbors, in addition to actual employers in childcare. Warm and friendly notes on personal stationery can be a big addition to your childcare portfolio.

Component # 3: Your Philosophy as a Childcare Professional
Professional childcare providers generally agree that you should include a personal statement about your approach to your duties as a childcare pro. For instance,
  • As a childcare professional you may be called on to fill many roles, including chauffeur, cook, nurse, teacher, friend, role model, coach, and so much more. What do you think your role includes?
  • Your philosophy of childcare discipline: do you believe in rewards, punishments, guidance, timeouts…? How exactly do you implement them?
  • Many families expect a childcare provider to cook and clean for parents as well as for their children. On the other hand, professional nannies say that the only housekeeping for which they should be responsible -- indeed, for which there is time in the day if one is doing one's job in childcare -- is child-related: children's meals, children's rooms, and children's personal belongings. This may leave you responsible for sewing on lost buttons, shopping for children's clothes and birthday parties, and spring cleaning of their closets. But it's not the same as being a housekeeper.
Component #4: Ongoing Education in Childcare
Since raising happy, responsible and capable children requires growing with them, look into continuing childcare education workshops. Include completion certificates for these courses in your childcare portfolio, and add to them over the years. Consider attending college part time, especially if you are working with school-age children. Every class you take in curriculum development, language arts, dramatic play, child psychology, or special education will help you with children and help you develop as a childcare professional, either directly or indirectly. You will be their role model in seeking to understand and know more about what you have chosen as a profession. And a degree may be the ultimate plus in your portfolio.

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    My name is Jennifer Coats. I have a 16 year old son with autism.  I have realized that there is a shortage for ways to find great daycare providers, and vise versa.  I thought this might be a step in the right direction.  I will be adding articles from time to time of what I have found useful or experiences we are having in our current daily life.  Enjoy! 


    September 2011



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