In , when there's a problem, we often do our best to reassure children and their families that there is a way through. A solution.

I'm normally a pretty calm and collected person, I take pride in my ability to build and maintain strong relationships with everyone from children to the wider community.

You have to be when, like me, you are an early childhood education centre director responsible for the education and wellbeing of more than 100 children aged under six and their families, along with the professional lives of 22 educators and teachers.

So, when I say there is a crisis in early childhood education, you should know that I'm not being melodramatic.

The is causing havoc in centres and the early learning system is at breaking point.

The constantly changing rules, the inconsistences in health and safety requirements from state to state is causing confusion and chaos.

Across the country, there are . This in and of itself is alarming enough but I have also heard stories of centres working out of ratio – more children per educator than allowed under the regulations.

This is happening as a result of a combination of factors including the care needs of families, educator illness and community exposure and isolation requirements. And it is creating high levels of tension and anxiety for all involved, and making working environments and relationships hostile.

Educators are in droves. The staff that remain are juggling enormous and unsustainable workloads. They are frightened and burned out.

They are more worried than ever about their job security, their capacity to make ends meet and pay the bills. So many of them burned through all their leave entitlements when their own children were required to . They didn't have the option of working from home when they had a slight cough or allergies and were sent home to keep everyone safe.

More than ever, educators need a break but they don't have the means to have one.

But these issues are not new. It's just that the pandemic, and the current Omicron wave especially, have made them worse.

Finding quality, qualified staff in early childhood has been a problem for years but now that it's affecting the families of Australia, businesses and the government, leaders are finally hearing us.

But is it too late?

Every day I hear of a centre closing their doors or lowering their enrolment numbers.

Who do families turn to when their ? How will they go to work? What will the impact be on their children? What will the impact be on our economy?

What we need is a clear set of guidelines and consistent messaging to all Early Childhood Education and Care centres. We need better pay and conditions; and professional recognition that we are essential to Australia's economy.

In each centre, we educate and care for the children of nurses, doctors, police, ambulance, firefighters, retail, teachers – front line workers. But, for every centre that closes, those families cannot fulfill their duties.

Cass Duff is a Canberra based early childhood education centre director, with more than 15 years experience.For a daily dose of 9Honey,