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    • To learn about the unique roles T&Cs and program managers hold that contribute to overall program organization and quality.
    • To reflect on the importance of keeping staff, families, and community members focused on the program’s goals, objectives, and mission.
    • To learn about the importance of relationship-based and culturally-sensitive leadership.



    Program organization means all members have specific roles and responsibilities within the program.

    As you read the following vignette, consider how the training and curriculum specialist and the program manager have roles and responsibilities that are separate, but complementary. Pay particular attention to the fact that Tori and Maria share a clear vision of the program's goals, objectives, and mission. Their collaborative efforts ensure that children and youth, staff, and families are secure in how policies and procedures will be carried out on a day-to-day basis.

    Tori is a training and curriculum specialist at a School Age Care program located on the installation. She works closely with Maria, the director or manager of the School Age Care program. As leaders, their focus is to serve children, youth, families, and staff to enhance the quality of the instruction and care provided at the center. Tori and Maria meet regularly to discuss how to best support program staff, and assistants. In this vignette Tori discusses her upcoming observation in the school-age classroom and shares information about an upcoming webinar.

    Tori: "Hi, Maria. I wanted to open our meeting by letting you know I plan to observe Ken and Marissa's class this week. They asked me to give them some feedback about how to best manage the group games they plan for the school-age children. I also would like to have about 10 minutes during the next staff meeting to discuss a new webinar that program staff may want to view. It's about teaching children conflict resolution skills through stories."

    Maria: "I'm happy you are observing in Ken and Marissa's class. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist them as well. I know that they have had the school-age children indoors more than usual due to the number of rainy days this month. I'm happy they have asked you to problem-solve with them. I'll make sure to add you to the staff meeting agenda so you can introduce the webinar. I am interested in knowing more about it. I think we can see about using some staff development time to view the webinar and discuss it afterwards."

    Tori's role is to support staff in

    • carrying out curriculum,
    • classroom management,
    • assisting with professional development planning and implementation.

    Maria, the program manager, knows that the largest resource she is responsible for are the people she supervises. In addition to supervising staff, she also creates a responsive program climate that is welcoming to all children and families. Management tasks can include

    • ordering food and classroom supplies and materials,
    • meeting with families,
    • hiring staff,
    • providing orientation to new employees, and many other tasks.

    Maria views her role as one of service, striving to balance both management tasks and leadership tasks. Maria and Tori work as a team to bring their individual talents and skills together to enhance the quality of the child and youth program.

    Focus on the Big Picture: Program Goals/Objectives/Mission

    An important task for T&Cs and program managers is to maintain their focus on the big picture.

    They model and remind staff members that their words and actions support the program's mission.

    For some staff, it may be a new experience to be part of a collaborative workplace.

    Child and youth programs are primarily people-centric workplaces. This means that the most important resources are people. The outcomes are happy, secure children, youth and families. T&Cs and program managers understand that people are what is most important in their daily work.

    T&Cs and program managers must be able to demonstrate and articulate the program's goals, objectives, and mission to staff, families, and community members. They lead with integrity and by example. It's critical to understand that T&Cs and program managers are viewed as leaders and therefore are held to a high standard. It's easy to become overwhelmed by daily tasks, but by keeping focused on the big picture and reminding staff (who are often looking to their leader for guidance) that they are working together, leaders help create the best possible program for children, youth, and their families. Families and community members will also view the program manager as the key representative of the program.

    The following are ideas to help keep everyone in the organization focused on the "big picture" of meeting the program's goals, objectives, and mission:

    • Write staff notes of appreciation and describe what they have done to promote the program's goals and mission.
    • Acknowledge whole group accomplishments during staff meetings.
    • Celebrate when program goals are met (order in pizza, bring a special treat for the staff work room, etc.).
    • Revisit and discuss progress on program mission, goals, and objectives during each staff meeting.
    • Post the mission statement in prominent places (each classroom, the office, etc.) throughout the program and include it in staff and family handbooks.

    Your Program's Records

    Your advance preparation and planning can ensure the well-being of the children and families you serve. Take a moment to reflect on why documentation of those attending, working, and volunteering within your program is important. How does having the documentation listed below help ensure and promote well-being in your program? How might you communicate this with staff?

    One crucial role as a program manager is to make sure you have accurate and up-to-date records and documentation. Be sure your files contain:

    Documentation related to staffing and/or providers, such as: 

    • Employee’s health screenings
    • Employee’s required immunizations (including any documented exemptions)
    • Pre-employment reference checks
    • Statement of non-conviction or similar as required by your state licensing agency, along with annual updates
    • Employee’s education and experience
    • Driving records for all staff who transport children
    • Current background checks

    Whether employee, regular volunteer, or contractor, make sure you have a system in place to address uncompleted background checks. For example, staff, volunteers, or contractors whose background check is pending must work within line-of-sight of a cleared staff member and also wear identifying apparel that indicates line-of-sight supervision.

    Documentation related to regular, non-paid helpers, volunteers, or family child care providers' family members such as:

    • Statement of non-conviction or similar as required by your state licensing agency, along with annual updates
    • Reference checks for regular volunteers
    • Signed agreement forms for regular volunteers 
    • Immunization forms for regular volunteers
    • Current background checks
    • Daily visitor sign in log

    Documentation related to contractors (for example, contracted camp staff):

    • Contractor agreements
    • Statement of non-conviction or similar as required by your state licensing agency, along with annual updates
    • Current and completed background checks for contractors

    Documentation related to your program, such as:

    • Daily attendance records
    • Sample plan of program activities or daily lesson plan
    • Findings and remedies from any recent inspection reports, for example:
      • Safety inspection documentation, including documentation of any remedies resulting from inspections
      • Health and sanitation inspection documentation, including documentation of any remedies resulting from inspections
      • Playground inspections, including documentation of any remedies resulting from annual inspections

    Fire-related documentation, such as:

    • Fire evacuation plans, including posted primary and secondary routes
    • Fire drills include methods to account for all persons and to note deficiencies for correction, such as lack of complete and safe evacuation.
    • Fire inspections, including monthly inspections and fire drill documentation, including documentation of any remedies resulting from inspections
    • Documentation that fire drills vary and do not occur at the same time of day or evening each month

    Documentation related to those enrolled in your program, such as:

    • List of the names, addresses, and birth date of each child enrolled in your program
    • Updated list of parents’ or guardians’ names, addresses, telephone numbers and places where they can be reached in an emergency
    • Annual sign-off or update from guardian regarding accuracy of information in their child’s information file 
    • A list of the names and addresses of people authorized to pick up children from your program, and a system in place to ensure release occurs only from authorized individuals 
    • Children’s health records, including current immunization records and their updates
    • Informed, written consent (as appropriate) from enrolled children and youth, and their
      parents or legal guardians, prior to recording, photographing, or filming. Rather than obtaining consent each time, instead consent could be provided at registration and maintained in program records or files. Consents should be reviewed and updated annually.

    Contact your administrator or licensing agent for a list of exactly what forms and documents must be available for inspection at all times. Work with this individual to ensure you are using the most current forms necessary.

    You will also want to think about what happens when or if your program receives a request for the release of confidential information about a child or youth, or when the release of confidential information is necessary for program participation. Prior to releasing such information, you will want to:

    • Determine if the reason to release information is valid
    • Obtain informed, written authorization from the child or youth's parent or legal guardian
    • Offer a copy of the signed authorization to the parent or legal guardian, and maintain a copy in the child's file
    • Involve the child or youth in the process, to the extent possible and appropriate based on age and developmental level.

    Documentation is always important. Take some time now to review this list and think about any areas where your program’s record-keeping process might need adjustment. Strong programs have standard enrollment processes they use for children, families, staff, volunteers and contractors to ensure the necessary documentation is gathered and also have an annual review process to confirm all information is up-to-date. In the long term, this process should make your job, with all its responsibilities, run more smoothly.  

    Relationship-Based Care: It's Not Just for Children and Families

    Caring for children and families is all about relationships. Positive, warm interactions build a sense of trust among program staff, children and youth, and families. Building a strong foundation of care that is relationship-based makes challenging situations easier for everyone to navigate. Just as relationship-based care is essential when program staff interact with children and youth and families, relationship-based leadership is also important when T&Cs and program managers interact with program staff. When T&Cs and program managers build warm, trusting relationships with program staff, it demonstrates to staff members how they should interact with children and families. It is critical for T&Cs and managers to understand the impact their words and actions have on the individuals they supervise. Just as program staff should focus on children's strengths and talents, T&Cs and program managers should focus on staff members' strengths and talents while working alongside staff to strengthen areas of weakness. T&Cs and program managers should take time to acknowledge staff members' progress in their professional development as teachers and caregivers.

    Establishing and nurturing relationships should be at the core of your practice with children and youth, families, colleagues, and program staff. It is important to build relationships with each staff member to promote trust. You build trust by taking the time to get to know each staff member, honoring and incorporating their customs and culture in your program, and inviting their input on the program. The relationship between a supervisor and an employee can withstand difficult situations when there is an understanding that the supervision relationship is professional and supportive. T&Cs and program managers should continuously focus on building partnerships with staff members. In addition, using relationship-based leadership in supervision meetings builds a strong sense of community within a program. Part of relationship-based leadership is knowing that different staff members may need different kinds of support. Just as each child is unique and has a right to experiences and care tailored to their development and needs, the same is true for staff members. Every member of the staff, including T&Cs and program managers, is on his or her own professional journey, understanding what it means to provide high quality care and education and embody the program's goals, missions and objectives. Strong T&Cs and program managers meet program staff members where they are and work with them to move forward.

    Staff members who have strong relationships with their T&C and program manager feel more comfortable seeking the support they need, whether it be training or resources, to provide optimal care for the children and youth and families in the program. In addition, when program staff witness a supportive, strong professional relationship and teamwork amongst T&Cs and program managers, this provides a model of how to approach their professional relationships with colleagues.

    Culturally and Linguistically Sensitive Leadership

    T&Cs and program managers demonstrate that staff, children and youth, and families are welcome in the program setting. As leaders, the T&Cs and program managers need to learn about the cultural and linguistic practices of the staff members they supervise and to provide resources to staff members to assist them in working with culturally and linguistically diverse families. There are a variety of books, articles, DVDs, and webinars that address cultural and linguistically sensitive practices with children and families. As leaders, the T&Cs and program managers need to learn about each staff member. It is best to ask questions directly when one is unsure about how to provide evaluative feedback. Because one person from a cultural group is, for example, uncomfortable with audiotaping herself during a small-group learning activity, that does not mean that all teachers from that same cultural group feel the same way. Once again, the focus is on building relationships and trust between the program leadership and each staff member. Being sensitive to language differences and cultural practices demonstrates an openness to learning about an individual's knowledge and beliefs. T&Cs and program managers demonstrate what they want staff members to model with colleagues, children and youth, and families.

    In regard to workplace sensitivity, it’s also important that program managers and T&CS avoid blanket statements and management strategies based on stereotypical characteristics of generational groups. While we know that humans, by nature, generalize, stereotypes about generational groups often seen in the popular press are not backed by research. In fact, the 2020 National Academies Press study on the topic indicated that “while dividing the workforce into generations may have appeal, doing so is not strongly supported by science and is not useful for workforce management. Research has shown there is much variation in worker needs and performance within all age groups.”

    Watch the video below to hear staff members share what program management means to them.

    Program Management: An Introduction

    Staff members describe what program management means to them.

    Completing this Course

    For more information on what to expect in this course and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the Management Program Management Course Guide

    To support the professional development of the direct care staff members or family child care providers you oversee, you can access their corresponding Course Guides:



    Leadership responsibilities and program organization go hand in hand. Organizations that serve children and youth and families are organized differently than organizations that produce a product. Caring for other people’s children is a privilege. Read and reflect on the attached list of knowledge and competencies for leadership in child and youth programs.

    What particular knowledge and competencies for leadership lend themselves more to the role of the T&Cs or the program managers in your particular organization?



    Read some of the following articles about leadership and then use the handout Perspectives on Leadership to reflect about leadership in your program.

    In addition, using the handout, Knowledge and Competencies for Leadership in Settings with Children Birth Through Age 8 (see Explore Section), circle the particular knowledge and competencies for leadership that lend themselves to your role in your program’s organization. Which competencies do you already demonstrate? Which competencies would you choose to focus on to develop your own leadership skills?


    CompetenciesMeasurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors critical to successful job performance




    True or false? The roles and responsibilities of managers and T&Cs are separate and do not complement one another.


    Which of the following ideas will help managers and T&Cs keep staff members focused on program goals?


    Staff members in your program have diverse cultural practices. You are planning to videotape staff during their circle time activities so that you can offer constructive feedback. What do you need to consider?

    References & Resources

    Derman-Sparks, L., Nimmo, J. , & LeeKeenan, D. (2015). Leadership Matters: Creating anti-bias change in early childhood programs. Exchange, 37(6), 8-12.

    Jablon, J., Dombro, A. L., & Johnson, S. (2014). Coaching with Powerful Interactions: A guide for partnering with early childhood teachers. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2020.) Are generational categories meaningful distinctions for workforce management?. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

    Neugebauer, R. (2015). Knowledge and Competence of Early Childhood Leaders: New insights from the National Academies of Science. Exchange, 37(6), 92-94.

    Schweikert, G. (2014). Winning Ways for Early Childhood Professionals: Being a supervisor. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.