CHILD:STAFF RATIOS

As promised, I said I would periodically post selected standards from Caring for Our Children Basics (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ecd/caring-for-our-children-basicsand talk about why they are important. For the interested reader, I would suggest going to the full Caring for Our Children (http://cfoc.nrckids.org/book to get the full information on each standard I post.

This first standard, Child:Staff Ratios, is a very well researched standard. I remember when I first got started in the ECE field and the FIDCR Appropriateness Study was being conducted back in the 1970’s, child:staff ratios and group sizes were researched in great detail. Although child:staff ratio and group size do not predict overall quality they do always correlate with overall quality in that they set up the conditions in which high quality care can occur.

Ratios for Centers and Family Child Care Homes

Appropriate ratios should be kept during all hours of program operation. Children with special health care needs or who require more attention dur to certain disabilities may require additional staff on site, depending on their needs and the extent of their disabilities.

In center based care, child provider ratios should be determined by the age of the majority of children and the needs of children present.

For children 12 months or younger, the maximum child:provider ratio should be 4:1. For children between 13-23 months of age, the maximum child:provider ratio should be 4:1. For children between 24-35 months of age, the maximum child:provider ratio should be 4:1 – 6:1.  For 3 year old children, the maximum child:provider ratio should be 9:1.  For 4 to 5 year old children, the maximum child:provider ratio should be 10:1.

In family child care homes, the provider’s own children under the age of 6, as well as any other children in the home temporarily requiring supervision, should be included in the child:provider ratio. In family child care settings where there are mixed age groups that include infants and toddlers, a maximum ration of 6:1 should be maintained and no more than two of these children should be 24 months or younger. If all children in care are under 36 months, a maximum ratio of 4:1 should be maintained and no more than two of these children should be 18 months or younger. If all children in care are 3 years old, a maximum ratio of 7:1 should be preserved. If all children in care are 4 to 5 years of age, a maximum ratio of 8:1 should be maintained.

Taken from Caring for Our Children Basics (2015)

Why this standard is important

Low child:staff ratios for non-ambulatory children are essential for fire safety.

Children benefit from social interactions with peers.  However, larger groups are generally associated with less positive interactions and developmental outcomes. Group size and ratio of children to adults are limited to allow for one to one interactions, intimate knowledge of individual children, and consistent caregiving.

Studies have found that children (particularly infants and toddlers) in groups that comply with the recommended ratio receive more sensitive and appropriate caregiving and score higher on developmental assessments.

Child:staff ratios alone do not predict the quality of care.  Direct, warm social interactions between adults and children is more common and more likely with lower child:staff ratios.

Low child:staff ratios are most critical for infants and young toddlers. Infant development and caregiving quality improves when group size and child:staff ratios are smaller. Improved verbal interactions are correlated with lower ratios. For three and four year old children, the size of the group is even more important than ratios.

The children’s physical safety and sanitation routines require a staff that is not fragmented by excessive demands.  Child:staff ratios in child care settings should be sufficiently low to keep staff stress below levels that might result in anger with children. Caring for too many young children increases the possibility of stress to the caregiver/teacher, and may result in loss of the caregiver’s/teacher’s self control.

Taken from Caring for Our Children, 3rd Edition (2011)

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About Dr Fiene

Dr. Rick Fiene has spent his professional career in improving the quality of child care in various states, nationally, and internationally. He has done extensive research and publishing on the key components in improving child care quality through an early childhood program quality indicator model of training, technical assistance, quality rating & improvement systems, professional development, mentoring, licensing, risk assessment, differential program monitoring, and accreditation. Dr. Fiene is a retired professor of human development & psychology (Penn State University) where he was department head and director of the Capital Area Early Childhood Research and Training Institute.
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