National and local health and wellness data collected by DLEC highlight the challenges that childcare workers experience in their everyday work life. They also serve as a call to action to implement strategies that will take care of the people who are caring for some of the most vulnerable children and families in the community.
Though staff in early learning programs experience joy in their work, the work is arduous, physically demanding and emotionally exhausting. The 2019 National Center on Early Childhood Health and Wellness report indicated that although 87% of Head Start staff feel satisfied and happy about their work: one in three suffer from lower back pain, obesity, or severe headaches and 23.5% were diagnosed with depression.
Similarly, DLEC data collected in 2020 indicated that 65% of our staff identified stress management as a wellness goal. Soon after reviewing staff feedback, we formed a committee, composed of representatives from different childcare sites to help plan and launch our first Staff Health and Wellness Program. The voices of staff from all of our childcare sites paved the road ahead. The activities we implemented fell into the following categories:
Physical activities such as virtual yoga, and healthy habits tips.
Mental wellness activities, newsletters, and healthy habits tips.
Social fitness competitions and groups.
Wellness check-ins with staff to identify their needs, design and customize health and wellness services.
Wellness advocacy to identify mental health and other wellness resources for staff members.
We hope to sustain and grow our wellness programming as we believe that having a strong, well-cared for workforce is essential to provide high quality childcare. We want to prioritize caring for those who care for others. We expect that these strategies will increase staff job satisfaction and job retention underscoring our deep appreciation for the sacrifices and contributions staff made during the epidemic and continue to make every day in their work.