for the current situation dulls our enthusiasm and ultimately dimin-
ishes our efforts. Ultimately, they invite us to create an environment
in our programs where the adults, not just the children, continue to
learn, grow, and use their imaginations to guide their work, family,
and community life. And they offer an array of strategies toward that
end. Why does using our imaginations matter so much? On the most
basic level, this is a critical task. Our current work environments,
more often than not, fail to attract and retain highly skilled teaching
staff. The most recent follow-up to the National Child Care Staffing
Study found that only one-third of the teaching staff in a sample of
centers rated higher than average in quality had remained in their
jobs for at least five years. Such high turnover signals inconsistent care
for children and demoralization for staff and parents.

It is a steady combination of using our imaginations, enhancing
our skills, and mobilizing our collective will and political clout that
will move us beyond the basics to create child care programs that re-
ally nourish and strengthen children, families, and staff. If we are to
address the real issues in our programs and the early childhood field
and, as Deb and Margie suggest, have our work influence the larger
social change required, it is essential for us to reach a common un-
derstanding of goals. Otherwise, we will pull ourselves in opposite
directions, leaving no one with a sense of accomplishment or satisfac-
tion. We can start on a practical level. For example, if we can agree
on how much paid planning and preparation time the caregiving and
teaching staff really need, we can take steps—even if they are small
at first—toward implementing a policy that’s closer to our goals.

But first and foremost, we have to have a vision. Without one, it is
mighty hard to reach a destination and easy to get where we never
intended to go.

I came to child care in the early 1970s, a time when envision-
ing alternatives was the name of the game. For myself and many of
my peers, child care held the promise of the future. As I phrased it
then, child care was the key to women’s liberation and the path to a
more just world. A good child care system, we reasoned, would en-
able women to help support their families and feel secure in knowing
their children were well nurtured. Children would be helped to reach
their full potential. Our society would recognize child care and other
forms of traditional “women’s work” as highly skilled professions.

It was probably a good thing that I didn’t know how formidable
the barriers would be to realizing this vision, or I might have never
xx Foreword to the First Edition