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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — High staff turnover at day care centers hurts a child’s social and educational development, a University of Tennessee professor of child and family studies said Thursday.

Dr. Jan Allen said the low pay of day care jobs causes many workers to leave their jobs. With high turnover rates, children are less likely to have warm, stable, responsive caregiving, she said.

“It is important for infants to form relationships with the people who take care of them,” Allen said. “If the teacher-child relationship is not a good one, young infants don’t develop the ability to form a good relationship with adults, which is the basis for what happens throughout life.”

Allen headed a UT study in 1986 that showed a third of day care center professionals in Tennessee planned to leave the industry because of low pay and other reasons. A survey update is scheduled to be conducted this summer, she said.

This week, about 200 parents, children and child-care workers marched on the State Capitol to call for higher salaries for those who care for Tennessee’s youngsters.

Wages for Tennessee child-care workers have dropped since 1994, according to surveys by the state Department of Employment Security. In 1994, the average starting wage for a child-care worker was $4.74 per hour, but had dropped to $4.54 in a 1996 survey by the state.

Allen said stability among child-care providers is particularly important during preschool years because they help lay the foundation for future learning.

“Part of forming a responsive relationship is teachers getting to know the child well enough so that the care provided can be sensitive to the needs of that child,” Allen said. “Teachers need to know how a particular child learns best.”


Contact: Dr. Jan Allen(423-974-6273)