Many, many years ago when I first began the process to become a licensed family childcare provider there was a significant divide between home based childcare and centre based childcare. There was a separate Family Day Care Association which amalgamated with with the Manitoba Childcare Association shortly after I opened my childcare home.
I was never part of the Family Day Care Association but early in my career I met many providers who had been. There were many family childcare providers who resented the loss of their close-knit little association. They felt they were now little fish in a big pond where the big fish didn’t understand them and had no interest in listening to what they had to say.
There were some who felt the line between home based childcare and centre based childcare should never be erased. They would have preferred to have had that line drawn with a thick, black permanent marker. I have met line drawers from both sides of the line.
As a newly licensed provider I was lucky to have a large, active family childcare networking group in my area. These veteran providers offered vast amounts of knowledge and support that made diving into the big pond a whole lot easier.
In the beginning we struggled to gain acceptance. Most of the workshops and events we attended were so specific to centre based childcare that there was often little that was pertinent to our environments. Occasionally there were workshops offered explicitly for family childcare providers but, although the information was useful, being offered separate from centre based groups often simply strengthened the divide.
Many family childcare providers would only attend events if they knew others that were going and we could all sit together. At one time or other we had all experienced some sort of discrimination from centre based ECE’s – sometimes being dismissed as mere annoyances – much like the little sister of the teenager who is forced to let them hangout.
At this point I have to say that since those early days things have improved immensely. I have many really good friends who work in centres and value the work we do in family childcare. The important thing is understanding the differences. We each have our own unique set of challenges and benefits. Centre based childcare and family childcare are not the same thing – and neither one is ultimately better than the other.
We do, or at least should, have the same goal – providing the best possible opportunities for all children to reach their full potential. Our fight should be for the children and not against each other.