August 2017 Updates

It’s true: you get what you pay for. Especially when it comes to hiring and retaining the best of the best to teach, train, and nurture Compassion Child Care’s kids. “We decided from the beginning that if we were going to do this, we were going to do it well,” says Rich Merkouris, chairman of CCC’s board of directors. “We owed it to our donors and the families we serve. CCC’s board soon zeroed in on the staff. As the heart of CCC’s ministry, they knew that the quality of its teachers was going to be integral to achieving their mission.
However, they’d seen the data and read the studies: daycare workers are notoriously underpaid and under-educated, resulting in high turnover within the industry— about 30% compared to a national average of just over 3% among all other sectors of business combined. Given the hard places that some of CCC’s families come from, the high turnover rate was especially concerning. “Stability is key, and we can’t provide it to our families if there’s a new teacher in their class every other month,”explains Merkouris. “It just adds to the chaos and uncertainty they’re already struggling with. We want kids to be able to relax and learn while they’re here, and a big part of that is being able to build lasting relationships with their teachers.” And that’s happening at CCC. Merkouris credits the generosity of CCC’s donors for the daycare’s success at bucking the national turnover rate. “Those dollars allowed us to invest in our people,” he says Hoping to attract more skilled educators, the CCC board set its starting hourly wage for full-time staff noticeably higher than the average amount offered by comparable daycares in Sioux Falls. It was a bold move, claiming 85 percent of CCC’s annual operating budget. It didn’t work at first. “It took a while for word to spread that CCC offered a more competitive starting wage,” Merkouris explains. “But as our reputation grew, so did the quality of applicants we were able to attract.” With the right people on board, retention became leadership’s next target. As history and numbers bear out, keeping an employee is farmore cost effective than hiring and training a new one. With that in mind, CCC put a premium on developing its staff, earmarking funds to cover the cost of child development courses through Sanford Child Services. “An attractive hourly wage can only get us so far,” says Merkouris. “Supporting and equipping our teachers to do their jobs more effectively helps avoid burnout and keeps our teachers on board here. It’s money very well spent.” Well spent indeed. However, Merkouris acknowledges that ultimately it’s the Lord who has provided such a top-notch staff.
“He’s given us people — missionaries really — who are more qualified and more dedicated to our families than we could have ever imagined. We’re proud of them and the work that they do.”