The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

By Hannah Van Ree
Sun-Telegraph 

Local providers support child care rating bill

 


According to Nebraska lawmakers, the state spends approximately $95 million on child-care subsidies each year for low-income, working families.

Until now, the state has had no way of tracking the quality of care that these children receive through the subsidies.

Yesterday lawmakers gave initial approval of a bill that would make it mandatory for those child-care providers that collect at least $250,000 a year to be rated by the state.

An AP source said that last year 62 private child-care providers collected that amount. This served over 12,000 children and cost the state $27 million combined.

This bill would not only require some of the bigger child-care providers to measure and rate their services, but also the bill would increase the eligibility of families to receive the subsidies.

The current law qualifies a family of three making less than $23,400 a year.

According to the AP source, this bill would increase that maximum threshold to $25,400 by 2015.

Both Rhonda Schuessler, Director of the Here Wee Grow Child Development Center, and Tiffany Jones, Director of the Kid’s Korner Childcare Center in Sidney, said that they hoped the bill would pass and that it would be a great investment for Nebraska.

“I think it is a fantastic idea that this type of money is being distributed to lower income families and that it is being tracked by the child care that they do get, just because it is the setting a child is raised in at a young age that is very important,” said Schuessler.

“It just goes hand-in-hand with these young children sometimes who are in foster care. The brain developmental stages are done by age three,” she said. “Being in child-care five-to-eight hours a day - it’s imperative, it’s important and it’s nurturing.”

“I think it’s a great program and I’m very happy that it is going forward,” Jones agreed. “It is very important that it passes to give early childhood the recognition that it deserves and needs. Early development is very important, as well as the quality of care.”

Sen. Kathy Cambell was a chief sponsor of the bill and told AP sources that quality is just as much a necessity in early child-care as safety and health standards.

“I would strongly agree with Senator Kathy Cambell of Lincoln, the bill’s chief sponsor, that we do need to focus highly on the quality of care that our young children receive and having a quality place for them to grow to his or her fullest potential is also a key factor,” said Schuessler.

“I also think it is very beneficial for centers to be involved with something like this to make sure that we are up-to-date on early childhood and it puts a focus on the importance of early childhood development,” said Jones.

“I think at a young age, social development is very important. I believe that children need a good social base before they can really start learning. Preschool is very important before they hit kindergarten,” she said.

Both directors agreed that training staff properly was a big factor in a good quality child-care facility.

“Offering a quality childcare center with quality staff is also important,” said Schuessler. “Educating your staff in the developmental stages of our young children brings a higher quality to teaching. Our program at Here Wee Grow is designed to meet the developmental needs of young children.

“It provides experiences that enrich and enhance each child’s cognitive, language, social, emotional, physical, and creative development. Each child has opportunities to create, explore the environment, learn problem solving and personal interaction skills, and learn concepts through first-hand experiences.

The director also said that children are able to develop a “positive self-concept through a balance of self and teacher facilitated activities,” and that it is vital to assist children in growing to their fullest potential.

“This is done by recognizing each development and fashioning a curriculum that will nurture and facilitate growth during those stages,” said Schuessler.

Jones said a representative of the pilot program from Eastern Nebraska conducted a conference call with Western Nebraska Directors and early childhood workers and explained the different rating steps, as well as the importance of good faculty and administration.

“The biggest ones (aspects rated on) are in staff development because the professional training of the director and owner of the program - these are going to be musts,” said Jones. “Then education falls into place. You must have your CDA and Associates in Early Childhood, for example.”

The director explained that she was given a packet which explained each step and requirement a child-care provider would be rated on under the new bill.

“How I take it is it’s equivalent to how hotels go by stars, like a five-star, so this would be a step program like that,” said Jones.

“What it does is you apply for it and then you go through these requirements and steps.

“It goes by points and as many points as you can get,” she continued. “They come in and rate you on how you are and you can go up steps as you go and it depends on the points you get. Points are rewarded to the programs through step three and five.”

Jones explained that some of the different components graded on are Child Outcomes, Classroom and Environment, Curriculum and Staff Support, Professional Development and Training Standards, Family Engagement and Partnership, and Program Administration.

“For each component, they come in and give you points for what you achieve and what you’re doing so at the end of each component you’re scored,” said Jones. “Each step has different rating as to how many points achieved.

“For instance, for your Child Outcomes if you follow the developmental screening that is conducted within 90 days of enrollment you get a point for that. If you share individual child data with parents you get a point,” she said.

“So they will come in and rate you and give you points for each one that you meet.”

Jones said that this program would give center officials a chance to look at the requirements they must meet and what aspects they want to work on to achieve one of the three through five rating steps.

She said that she believed that the child-care providers in the program would be reassessed every year or two.

“You can change,” she said. “You can step down when they come in and reevaluate you, or you can step up.”

She said that step one of the program consists of being licensed, and step two is “professional growth, safety, and facility management.”

Both step one and two are needed to apply for the rating system of steps three through five.

“Everybody pretty much starts at step one depending on what their management classes are,” she said.

Schuessler said that parent support is also a big factor in child-care and this program.

“We respect parents as the primary and most important provider of care and nurturing, and we believe parents and teachers are partners in children’s care and education.

“If the Advanced Quality Bill helps to offer a place that parents are able to have their children in care, and bridge the gap early, then one can agree that quality comes first when it comes to the children of our future,” said Schuessler.

Jones said that even though this program would be mandatory for only the bigger Eastern Nebraska centers, she believes that this would be a good thing to adopt at her center.

“It wouldn’t be mandatory for me - it would be optional,” said Jones. “But I would definitely be involved with it.

“We meet our state regulations every day but this is a step up with quality and I think it’s a great program and I hope it passes and they get it done.

“This isn’t the first time they’ve tried something like this. It’s just putting the funding behind it,” she continued.

“I think more people are becoming more aware of how important early development is. Hopefully they can put the funding behind it and help with the quality of care,” said Jones.

 

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