Why is child development significant?
Loving and supportive relationships, social interaction, cognitive challenges, and physical health are paramount to the development of a child into a responsible and well-adjusted adult. The early years have a cumulative effect on a child’s life. For example, stressful conditions can alter a child’s perception of the world as he/she grows into adolescence. Studies have shown that adverse experiences in childhood may lead to chronic health problems, anxiety, anti-social behavior, as well as alcoholism and heart disease.
In most cases, a child’s development is dependent on the family environment. The family where the child usually spends most of her/his time, even during the early school years. However, many children attend daycare and other childhood care facilities during a parent’s working hours. These non-parent caregivers have a significant influence on a child’s emotional and social development through their daily contact and activities. In some instances, the caregivers may provide a more caring and supportive setting than the home environment.
This article explores some of the potential careers for those with at least a master’s degree in child development or related discipline. Other degrees that may qualify for jobs in this field are child psychology, childhood education, and social work.
Child Life Specialist
Child life specialists provide a supportive and nurturing setting for children facing challenging experiences, especially those related to healthcare and hospitalization. These professionals promote the means for children to cope with stressful conditions through play, education, and self-expression activities. A background in child development, psychology, or counseling allows the specialist to develop coping strategies for the child and family.
The typical workplace is a large hospital with an extensive pediatric department. One of the prominent and distinguished hospitals is St. Jude’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. This children’s research medical facility employs as many as 21 child life specialists. They perform a critical role in dealing with the unfathomable consequences of children facing life-threatening diseases, specifically cancer.
Child Care Director
Preschool and childcare center directors are responsible for their staff and the daily activities generated for the children. Additional duties include the development of educational programs, training staff, budgeting, and communicating with parents.
A foundation of knowledge in child development, business skills, economics, and leadership is beneficial. Courses in these subjects are advantageous to the operation of a center, some of which are privately owned, nonprofit, franchise, or government-supported.
Family Support Specialist
Families, who have chronic problems with their health, emotional issues, or physical disabilities, may require assistance from a family support specialist. Anyone of these or other societal pressures can create an adverse environment for youngsters. Support specialists direct families to community and related public services to those families in need of direction.
The success of a family specialist demands an understanding of child development, childcare policies and regulations, and familiarity with local resources that are available for parents. Excellent communication skills come into play addressing parents, public officials, and staff.
Employment opportunities exist in independent agencies, childcare centers, school-run facilities, and community service organizations.
Child Development Specialist
There are child service agencies who work with state governments. For example, one such agency in the State of California contracts with various agencies that work with children in the home environment. The job may also involve dealing with special needs and children with behavioral problems.
The services in child and family services extend to offering full case management, in-home assistance, family reunification services, prevention and intervention services, as well as foster care and adoption. Additional duties may include the recertification of foster homes, inspection of those homes, writing recommendations, and assessments.
Individuals considering advanced study beyond a master’s degree might find this area of interest. Some medical centers and medical schools analyze the development of child and family-centered programs as an example. New York University School of Medicine employs research coordinators to assess and create enhanced pre-kindergarten programs that stimulate both the child and the parents. In this position, coordinators’ activities may include attending childcare facilities with leaders and early education staff.
Various jobs fall under this title. Armed with the appropriate credentials and degree, you can work as an independent child development services consultant. Services in this field focus on supporting, advocating, and empowering children and families. Responsibilities include working collaboratively with families, childcare centers, and team members to assess and determine types and levels of support needed. The Child Care Consultant acts as an inspector, consultant, educator, coordinator, researcher, and resource developer for early childhood development, and education of children.
Certifications and Licensing
You should check with your respective state of employment regarding the certification and licensing requirements. A Child Life Specialist, for example, may mandate a Child Life Professional Certification. There are required courses and clinical internship hours needed to be eligible for the examination. Information is available at the Association of Child Life Professionals.