Child Care and Early Education Workforce Recruitment and Retention

Insights from a Current Landscape of Strategies


a treacher sittting among kids standing around her
By Alexandra Bernardi, JoAnn Hsueh, Sydney Roach

The challenges of recruiting, strengthening, and retaining the child care and early education (CCEE) workforce are well documented. Members of the CCEE workforce typically have low levels of formal education and compensation; limited opportunities for education, training, and professional development; inconsistent working conditions; and high levels of stress and burnout. Additionally, the field is well known for high turnover rates, which can strain remaining educators and decrease the quality of care they offer. Turnover can also lead to diminishing returns on an organization’s professional development investments. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these issues.

The Building and Sustaining the Child Care and Early Education Workforce (BASE) project sought to identify and review strategies that are currently being implemented across the country to build, advance, and sustain the CCEE workforce in the face of these challenges. In particular, the research team sought to understand the context in which these strategies are implemented and how that might influence their operation. The team also examined how strategies reach or are tailored to prospective and current CCEE educators, especially educators from historically marginalized racial, ethnic, indigenous, immigrant, or linguistic groups.

This brief summarizes important themes that emerged from this “environmental scan,” which was conducted between March 2021 and January 2022. The brief presents conclusions that were drawn from a literature review, an assessment of recommended sources and materials that were submitted in response to an open call for information, and interviews with key informants from the agencies responsible for putting strategies into place. It concludes with recommendations for building additional evidence and knowledge about CCEE workforce strategies in the United States.

Key findings:

  • Current strategies target five influences on CCEE educator recruitment and retention: educator economic well-being, educator qualifications and competencies, educator psychological well-being, workplace demands or supports, and CCEE system alignment and inequities.
     
  • Most strategies are in the early stages of development and are limited in reach, serving fewer than 50 participants at a time. 
     
  • Strategies are limited in breadth and scale due to the CCEE system’s fragmentation. 
     
  • There is limited evidence on whether current strategies are effective. 

Bernardi, Hsueh, Roach, and Rau (2024). Child Care and Early Education Workforce Recruitment and Retention: Insights from a Current Landscape of Strategies. OPRE Report 2023-178. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Available at: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/project/building-and-sustaining-early-care…