Primary caregiving is the assigning of one caregiver to primarily provide the care for one small group of children. In this system for operating an infant program, the director, the infant teachers, and the parents all understand which staff member has primary responsibility for each child.
Of course, primary caregiving in a center-based program cannot be exclusive. The classroom is staffed by more than one person for a reason and the other staff in that room are responsible for contributing to the care of each child in the room. Because most programs are open for more than 8 hours per day and your staff can’t work more than 8 hours per day on a regular basis, and because they need lunch breaks, the children will obviously be in the care of someone else at some point during the day. Or, even if the primary caregiver is in the classroom, but is busy caring for another child, another member of the caregiving team will need to step in to help. The primary caregiver is just that, primary, but not exclusive. This individual will provide the majority of the care for the child and, therefore, the majority of the communication with the parent. This person will also work with other staff members to help them understand the needs of each child in their care when they cannot be with them.
Primary caregiving has a few important benefits; all centered around relationships. The primary relationship is the relationship between the caregiver and the infant. The caregiver, while assisting with other children, spends most of their work days focused on just a few children, really getting to know them; feeding them, diapering them, playing with them, consoling them. The children learn to trust this person to care for them. This relationship allows the child to be more comfortable in the child care environment and allows the caregiver to better respond to, and even anticipate, the needs of each child. Better understanding the child helps the caregiver to develop a stronger relationship with the parent.
Parents, especially parents of infants, can have a difficult time entrusting their beloved child to the care of someone else. If parents know, and have a positive relationship with the individual assigned to be primarily responsible for their children’s care, it is much easier to leave their child with that person. The parent can learn to trust that the caregiver has their child’s best interest at heart and will keep them apprised of their child’s care and development.
Make sure that the Infant Teachers you hire have the appropriate skills, education and experience that they need to be able to be a member of a primary caregiving team. If you don’t already have a Job Description for your Infant Teachers (or Infant Teachers’ Aides), check ours out at: http://www.daycaretools.com/DaycareProducts.aspx#Personnel