Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 1: Staffing

1.7 Staff Health

1.7.0 Stress

Caregivers/teachers should be able to:

  1. Identify risks associated with stress;
  2. Identify stressors specific to child caregiving;
  3. Identify specific ways to manage stress in the child care environment.

The following measures to lessen stress for the staff should be implemented to the maximum extent possible:

  1. Wages and benefits (including health care insurance) that fairly compensate the skills, knowledge, and performance required of caregivers/teachers, at the levels of wages and benefits paid for other jobs that require comparable skills, knowledge, and performance;
  2. Job security;
  3. Training to improve skills and hazard recognition;
  4. Stress management and reduction training;
  5. Written plan/policy in place for the situation in which a caregiver/teacher recognizes that s/he or a colleague is stressed and needs help immediately (the plan should allow for caregivers/teachers who feel they may lose control to have a short, but relatively immediate break away from the children at times of high stress);
  6. Regular work breaks and paid time-off;
  7. Appropriate child:staff ratios;
  8. Liability insurance for caregivers/teachers;
  9. Staff lounge separate from child care area with adult size furniture;
  10. The use of sound-absorbing materials in the workspace;
  11. Regular performance reviews which, in addition to addressing any areas requiring improvement, provide constructive feedback, individualized encouragement and appreciation for aspects of the job well performed;
  12. Stated provisions for back-up staff, for example, to allow caregivers/teachers to take necessary time off when ill without compromising the function of the center or incurring personal negative consequences from the employer (this back-up should also include a stated plan to be implemented in the event a staff member needs to have a short, but relatively immediate break away from the children);
  13. Adult size furniture in the classroom for the staff;
  14. Access to experts in child development and behavior to help problem solve child specific issues.
One of the best indicators of quality child care is consistent staff with low turnover rates (5,6).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Website, “in 2007, hourly earnings of nonsupervisory workers in the child day care services industry averaged $10.53” (1). About 42% of all child care workers have a high school degree or less, reflecting the minimal training requirements for most jobs. Many child care workers leave the industry due to stressful working conditions and dissatisfaction with benefits and pay (1).

Stress reduction measures (particularly adequate wages and reasonable health care benefits) contribute to decreased staff turnover and thereby promote quality care (2). The health, welfare, and safety of adult workers in child care determine their ability to provide care for the children.

Serious physical abuse sometimes occurs when the caregiver/teacher is under high stress. Too much stress can not only affect the caregiver’s/teacher’s health, but also the quality of the care that the adult is able to give. A caregiver/teacher who is feeling too much stress may not be able to offer the praise, nurturing, and direction that children need for good development (3). Regular breaks with substitutes when the caregiver/teacher cannot continue to provide safe care can help ensure quality child care.

Sound-absorbing materials in the work area, break times, and a separate lounge allow for respite from noise and from non-auditory stress. Unwanted sound, or noise, can be damaging to hearing as well as to psychosocial well-being. The stress effects of noise will aggravate other stress factors present in the facility. Lack of adequate sound reduction measures in the facility can force the caregiver/teacher to speak at levels above those normally used for conversation, and thus may increase the risk of throat irritation. When caregivers/teachers raise their voices to be heard, the children tend to raise theirs, escalating the problem.

Documentation of implementation of stress reduction measures should be on file in the facility.

Rest breaks of twenty minutes or less are customary in industry and are customarily paid for as working time. Meal periods (typically thirty minutes or more) generally need not be compensated as work time as long as the employee is completely relieved from duty for the entire meal period (4). For resources on respite or crisis care, contact the ARCH National Respite Network at

Caregivers/teachers who use tobacco can experience stress related to nicotine withdrawals. For help dealing with stress from tobacco addiction, see the Tobacco Research and Intervention Program’s Forever Free booklet on smoking, stress, and mood at Or, for help quitting smoking, visit the Smoke Free Website at

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Ratios for Small Family Child Care Homes Ratios for Large Family Child Care Homes and Centers Ratios for Facilities Serving Children with Special Health Care Needs and Disabilities Ratios and Supervision During Transportation Ratios and Supervision for Swimming, Wading, and Water Play
  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010. Career guide to industries: Child day care services, 2010-11 Edition.
  2. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2010. Occupational employment statistics: occupational employment and wages, May 2009.
  3. Healthy Childcare Consultants (HCCI). Stress management for child caregivers. Pelham, AL: HCCI.
  4. U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. 2009. Fact sheet #46: Daycare centers and preschools under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Rev. ed.
  5. Fiene, R. 2002. 13 indicators of quality child care: Research update. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.
  6. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). 2006. The NICHD study of early child care and youth development: Findings for children up to age 4 1/2 years. Rockville, MD: NICHD.