What is Child Care Management?

Child care management often oversees daily early childhood education programs

Who manages a child care center?

Child care centers are typically managed by either the owner of the organization or a director. Sometimes the senior director-level position is referred to as a child care administrator. The director of a child care center manages daily operations including parent registration and waitlists, early childhood educator staff management, talent and recruitment, operations and finance, marketing and building maintenance. In short, this person runs the show for that individual center, whether they are part of a larger franchise model or an individually owned operation.

Education and Training

The education and training required for a child care center director varies by state and province, but the vast majority require some education in early childhood development and usually some experience working in an early childhood environment.

Learn.org offers several links to schools with early childhood director degrees or certificate programs, including certification prerequisites, job qualifications, common courses and job outlook. It is an excellent resource for beginning an educational journey into early childhood management.

In California, child care managers are referred to as a child development site supervisor, and have specific requirements and experience required in order to receive a permit to operate as a site supervisor. Some of those requirements include:

  • “Complete an associate degree or 60 semester units
  • Complete six additional semester units of course work in administration and supervision of child care and development programs. These units must be comprised of two courses: one introductory course and one advanced course, or two courses of different topical content.
  • Complete an additional two semester units of adult supervision course work.
  • Complete 350 days of experience in an instructional capacity in a child care and development program, working at least three hours per day within the last four years. This experience must include at least 100 days of supervising adults in a child care and development program and must be verified by submitting an original letter from the employer on official letterhead.”

Boy and a bookcase

In Ontario specifically, “the act and regulations also outline the training requirements for staff in regulated child care centres and homes as follows: Centre supervisors must have a two year diploma in early childhood education (ECE), at least two years experience working in a day nursery and be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario. In centres, one staff person with each group of children must have a two year early childhood education diploma and be registered with the College of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario. There are no training requirements for regulated family child care providers, although agencies may provide training.”

Operations and Finance

Average Salaries

The Bureau of Labour Statistics in the United States published in 2017 the median salary for a director in child care, which is USD$46,890 per year or USD$22.54 per hour. In Canada the average salary is higher, with current job postings in the range of CA$128K – CA$139K (though the HiMama Benchmark Report in 2017 revealed lower numbers).

Child Care Compliance

Professional development in child care management can at times be limited, and one area of focus that could be improved is training and programming around child care compliance. Luckily Michelle McGinnis provides professional training with online workshops on educator compliance within child care management.

For-Profit and Non-Profit Management

Nonprofit and for-profit child care center management is an often debated topic on the ethics around for-profit management of early childhood education, and at times brings up questions of quality in for-profit child care management, which is often dated research. The debate stems from funding and government policies in place for non-profit centers in Canada that may not be available for for-profit centers. In the U.S, there are many more large for-profit center operations that provide exceptional care within the profit model.

An article in Macleans from 2013 stated:

“For free-market types, it’s axiomatic that injecting competition into the system should boost choice and, as a result, quality and efficiency. For social democrats, it’s equally self-evident that profit-seeking providers are more likely to sacrifice standards, especially by hiring fewer and less-qualified staff, than the not-for-profits. From deep inside the latter camp comes the Toronto-based Childcare Resource and Research Unit’s new report flagging, with some alarm, the rise of for-profit daycare. For-profit spaces grew to 28 per cent of those available in Canada in 2010, up from 20 per cent in 2004. Martha Friendly, the unit’s driving force, warns that standards at for-profit centres tend on the whole to be lower. She worries that what will come next is a larger presence for the dreaded child-care chains that dominate in some other countries.”

Talent and Recruitment

Recruiting top talent in early childhood education is a newer topic in the field, one discussed numerous times on The Preschool Podcast. HiMama’s 2018 Benchmark Report found for-profit center respondents sounded the alarm on an increasingly serious problem for the industry.

  • 68% of for-profit child care organizations ranked ‘Labor’ as a top risk
  • 65% ranked ‘Talent and Recruitment’ as a top priority for 2017

As a follow up to the benchmark results, we have further investigated employee engagement in early childhood education as it relates to the labor risk reported by survey participants in the child care sector. The analysis, which used data and reviews from the website Glassdoor, found that employee ratings of employers were markedly lower for child care companies relative to the average across all companies listed on the Glassdoor website.

Employee engagement is a critical component to talent recruitment in early ed. This article explores why leadership development is so important to keeping talented early childhood educators on the team. “Leadership and culture aren’t things that you can change overnight, however, they are absolutely critical to the long-term success of any organization. On the plus side, leadership and culture are 100% under the control of management and can be improved over time with focused and proactive efforts. The other positive here is that, unlike most of the categories we looked at, leadership and culture are not directly associated to increased spending, like wages, benefits and professional development.”

Staff Management

Child care directors are responsible for scheduling, performance and payroll of early childhood educators as well as rent and financial management within the facilities. See our article on child care software for details on staff management software, HiMama is a leading technology provider in the early learning sector. The social enterprise supports child care organizations in their daily operations through streamlining processes, connecting educators with families and improving the quality of early childhood programming.

“As a technology company, we believe that improving outcomes for children means supporting educators and administrators in their daily tasks,” says Ron Spreeuwenberg, CEO of HiMama. “This feature has been highly requested from child care directors that we work with as they want a centralized system to help them keep track of ratios, teacher attendance and staff profiles. The consensus is that saving time on repetitive administrative tasks translates to more time that can be invested into mentorship and professional development.”

download the complete guide to hiring & retaining early childhood educators ebook


  • Thanks for also talking about the different moving parts in the operations of a childcare center. I’m interested in looking for one because I want to ease my daughter into eventually going to school. I think that a childcare center will help a lot in making her get used to interacting with kids her age and being obedient to teachers.

  • The fact that child care centers have very well-trained staff really impresses me. They can handle kids and make sure that they learn well, something that is crucial to that stage in their childhood. I’ll definitely make sure that I find a child care center where I can leave my son for him to learn.