Child care program receives ratings

By Megan R. Harrell

The Star Quality program, Tennessee's new rating system for child care facilities, is quickly becoming a success, according to the Tennessee Department of Human Services. Approximately 230 child care centers and homes participate in the program.
   "We are pleased at the number of providers who have chosen to participate in Star Quality," said Commissioner Natasha K. Metcalf. "This is an indication that the program is working, and working very well."
   Star Quality is a program which child care facilities enter voluntarily. The program recognizes and encourages quality child care through a star rating system. Licensed child care homes are evaluated on a number of different areas, including:
   * Staff training, education and experience
   * Compliance with state licensing rules
   * Ratio of caregivers to children and group size
   * Parental involvement
   * An on-site assessment of activities and interaction between children and caregivers
   Participants in the Star Quality program earn a one, two, or three star ratings based on how far beyond the state's minimum licensing standards they go. To date, 27 child care agencies have received one star; 108 have been given two stars; and 95 have received three stars.
   Each year all licensed child care facilities are evaluated for the Report Card system. Facilities that make higher grades on their report card are eligible to participate in the Star Quality program. "Choosing a child care program is one of the most important decisions parents have to make," Metcalf said. "Both of these programs are simply additional tools for parents to use in selecting the best possible care for their children and for providers to use in improving their programs."
   East Side Day Care, 206 Old Siam Road, Elizabethton, was one of the first child care facilities in Eastern Tennessee evaluated under the Star Quality program. The program went into effect in July 2002, and East Side Day Care was evaluated in September. "We only had two months to prepare, but we already had a lot of things in place so it was just a matter of getting it all organized," East Side Day Care Director Debbie Miller said.
   Child care workers were watched to see how well they engaged in conversations with children, how well they promoted good hygiene habits, and if they were presenting material to the children which encouraged independent thinking and reasoning.
   Miller and her staff were evaluated for approximately five hours before the day care received its two star rating under the Star Quality program. Children at the East Side Day Care that received state funds prior to the Star rating will receive a percentage increase in funding based on the facilities new two star rating.
   The owners of East Side Day Care and Miller decided together to volunteer for the program. "We thought it would be a good idea for the children," Miller said. "The children get better care because the Star Quality program requires a lot more training hours for care givers."
   All participating child care facilities' report cards are on display, so visitors and parents can be aware of the grade received. Miller noted that the parents benefit the most from the program because they are now able to see the day care's rating when they come in the door.
   "So much has been taken away from the family unit, and we wanted to give some of that back to them," Miller said.
   All licensed and regulated child care facilities in the state will have received a report card by October of 2002.