Searching for child care is confusing enough. But in addition to understanding what kind of care you need, parents also have to evaluate centers based on the quality of care their child will receive. Most parents aren’t early childhood development experts, so most states across the country have developed an independent Quality Rating and Improvement System. That’s a mouthful. But we’re going to break it down in this article along with how families in Wisconsin use our system, YoungStar, to get the best for their children.
YoungStar is Wisconsin's child care quality rating and improvement system. Most states have a system like YoungStar in place to create standards for child care. This helps child care providers improve their services. And it helps parents understand what to look for in a provider.
Child care providers, whether home care or a center, can voluntarily participate in quality-rating. A program can receive 1 to 5 stars with YoungStar.
To use the Wisconsin Shares child care tuition subsidy at a child care provider, the provider must participate in the YoungStar Quality-rating system. Providers must have two stars or above in order to accept Wisconsin Shares.
Don’t forget that before and after-school programs may qualify for Shares if they are quality-rated.
YoungStar rates child care providers in a 40-point evaluation that takes into consideration the program’s size and structure.
The number of stars a program gets is based on many factors. There are four key areas:
1. The Provider’s Education & Training:
Has the child care provider been trained in early childhood education and development?
2. The Learning Environment & Curriculum:
What kinds of activities and learning materials are there for children to use? What are the lesson plans like – how do they help young brains develop?
3. The Program’s Professional & Business Practices:
Does the business run smoothly and responsibly, treat employees fairly, and engage parents?
4. The Children’s Health & Well-Being:
Are all the needs of the child being addressed, like safety, nutrition, exercise, and social engagement?
It’s already hard enough to find affordable and available child care, worrying about a quality-rating may seem like an added burden. Here are some things to remember for parents:
The State of Wisconsin considers a YoungStar rating of three or above high quality. So don’t get discouraged if you can’t find a center with five stars near you or in your budget.
And finally, no matter the rating, the biggest benefit to families of the quality-rating system is knowing that your child care provider is being reviewed by an independent source, so you can be assured you are getting objective information that helps you make the best choice for your family.
To learn more about how YoungStar works and find other resources for parents about early childhood development and how to pick the child care that is best for your child, visit YoungStar’s parent resource page: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/youngstar/parents/resources
Parents can search for quality-rated providers here: https://childcarefinder.wisconsin.gov