Does your child’s day-care center make the grade?

Just 10 of 25 facilities in SCP meet tough new voluntary standards

April 18, 2007 at 1:18 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

A study of child-care centers conducted by the respected National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies placed Louisiana 51st in the nation, dead last in providing adequate child-care services for kids. But 10 facilities in St. Charles Parish meet new high standards recommended by the state, placing them among the best of the best.

They are:

- Boutte Christian Academy

- Kids Club

- Noah's Ark

- 4 Star

- Small World

- The First Few Years

- Kid's Academy

- Grace Kids

- Little Acorns

- Little Doves

Just because your child’s center isn’t on the list doesn’t mean it’s a bad one. There are other quality facilities in the parish, too.

And you can determine if your child’s center is a good one by checking its grade.

“B” centers meet minimum state standards and are both approved and adequate. “A” centers meet even higher standards. By law, grades must be posted where you can see them.

The facilities named in the list above have gone “the extra mile” to meet what are, for now, strictly voluntary criteria the state has established in an effort to upgrade child care statewide.

Ann Williamson, secretary of the Department of Social Services office in Baton Rouge, told the Herald-Guide: "This new study highlights the importance of the ‘quality child-care movement’ now under way at DSS.

“I - like other child-care professionals in Louisiana - was troubled by the low ranking,” she continued.

“That's why we're committed to turning things around.

“We’re working hard to overhaul the state’s child-care licensing requirements.”

Sherry Guarisco, director of child care and early childhood education in the DSS Office of Family Support, added:

“Our new child-care licensing regulations and our newly launched Quality Rating System will help us provide children with a high standard of care.

“Through participation in QRS, DSS will offer increased training and technical assistance to centers, as well as help with incentives to retain child-care staff.”

Louisiana is one of only three states in which child-care businesses in private homes are not required to be licensed, which lowered the state’s overall score, the national report said.

Other factors that contributed to the low rating were heavy caseloads for center inspectors, low frequency of inspections, overall health and safety requirements, background checks for staff, staff qualifications generally, and the number and quality of children’s activities.

Guarisco is heading up the state’s QRS initiative to establish the Quality Rating System and also “up the ante” on licensing requirements.

Louisiana is the only state with a “legislatively mandated two-tier licensing system.”

There are 327 Class B centers meeting minimum licensing requirements in the state. On an even higher note, there are1,435 Class A centers that meet regulations of a higher standard.

The national survey was based on Class B centers.

DSS spokesmen says the state would have ranked higher than 51st if Class A centers would have been considered.

“We have a lot of work to do (regardless) and we expect to see improvements as the result,” Guarisco said.

The first-of-its-kind national study, called, “We Can Do Better,” was conducted by the Virginia-based NACCR, which sets voluntary national standards for the operation of centers with more than five children.

The report said the highest-ranked centers overall were operated by the Department of Defense on military bases. Illinois was named the top-ranked state.

In the so-called “oversight category,” Louisiana ranked not last, but a respectable No. 22.

In this category, it was noted that all of the state’s licensing staff have earned a bachelor’s degree, inspection reports aremade available to parents, and all child-care centers (aside from those in private homes) are licensed. “While no one is pleased to see such a low overall ranking, we hope parents in Louisiana and other residents will appreciate our efforts to turn around the situation,” Guarisco said.

“Our new QRS rating system, although voluntary, will provide a benchmark for child-care program improvement and an accountability measure for future funding.

“We’re focused on improving the quality of child care in Louisiana, with an emphasis on staff qualifications and training. Many of the criteria used by the study will be covered in our new proposed licensing regulations or will be addressed in our Quality Rating System.”

The system will evaluate child-care centers in the state based on one to five stars, using the criteria of programming, staff qualifications, administrative practices, and family and community involvement.

The first rankings are expected by late summer or early fall

View other articles written Shonna Riggs

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