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Institutional Child Care Worker Job Description, Career as an Institutional Child Care Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training High school plus training

Salary Median—$13.19 per hour

Employment Outlook Very good

Definition and Nature of the Work

Hundreds of thousands of children live in institutions. Some need settings other than their homes because of emotional problems or physical and mental disabilities. Abandoned children and those whose parents are unable to give them proper care may be placed in institutions by courts or social service agencies. Most of them are placed there until foster homes can be provided. Children who live in institutions are usually between the ages of six and eighteen.

Workers at these institutions, which are run by both government agencies and private charities, usually provide primary care and guidance for groups of five to fifteen children of the same age. Sometimes a husband and wife team acts as house parents, living with the children in cottages on the institutions' grounds. They give the children some of the affection ordinarily provided by actual parents and see that they are fed, clothed, and in good health. They also rehabilitate the children using programs designed by medical doctors, psychologists, and other specialists. Mentally handicapped children, for instance, are taught how to get along with other people by living and learning in groups. Some of these children are trained for jobs and return to live with their families. Children with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and sight and hearing difficulties receive therapy.

Education and Training Requirements

Child care workers must have high school diplomas, or the equivalent. Grades are not as important as an interest in children and desire for further training. Many two-year colleges offer associate-degree programs, with courses covering child and adolescent development, child care techniques, English, social science, health, and physical education. Students are supervised working with children in several types of institutions.

At some state and charitable institutions, workers may be employed part time while they attend college at no cost. Many institutions provide special seminars and workshops that help workers learn care techniques.

Getting the Job

Job seekers who do fieldwork during college programs can develop contacts for future employment. College placement offices and state mental health agencies can provide referrals. Volunteer work with children and jobs at summer camps are assets for beginning child care workers.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Experienced child care workers who are graduates of two-year college programs may become supervisors of several child care units. Some child care workers earn bachelor's degrees in psychology or social work to advance in the field. A few colleges have four-year programs in child care for those who wish to become institution administrators.

The employment outlook for institutional child care workers is very good through 2014. Both men and women are needed as house parents and for a variety of other child care duties.

Working Conditions

Child care workers usually work eight-hour shifts, forty hours a week. In smaller communities and rural areas they may have longer workweeks. Shifts may rotate, and workers may be on call twenty-four hours in case of emergencies.

Child care workers must enjoy children and have a great deal of patience. They need an understanding of the problems institutionalized children face and the cultural and economic conditions from which many of the children come.

Earnings and Benefits

Salaries vary greatly, depending on location, experience, and education. In 2004 the median wage for institutional child care workers was $13.19 per hour. Untrained child care workers may earn less.

Where to Go for More Information

Administration for Children and Families
371 L'Enfant Promenade SW
Washington, DC 20447
(800) 424-2246

Council for Exceptional Children
1110 N. Glebe Rd., Ste. 300
Arlington, VA 22201
(888) 232-7733

Orphan Foundation of America
21351 Gentry Dr., Unit 130
Sterling, VA 20166
(571) 203-0270

Public institutions usually pay higher salaries than charitable institutions. Nearly all institutions offer child care workers pension plans, health insurance, paid vacations and holidays, and sick leave.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEducation & Training