Today Paula, a typical parent, is looking for child care for her new baby. She wants a high quality program that will enable her child to be ready for school. With so many child care programs to choose from, how can she find the best program for her child?
It’s not an easy task. Every child care program she has talked to describes themselves as offering high quality. Who should she believe? How can she distinguish one program from another?
State child care licensing rules set a minimum standard of quality that thousands of child care programs have met. There is an exceptionally high quality national accreditation standard (administered by the National Association for Family Child Care), that only a few programs have met.
Where can Paula go to see objective quality rankings of family child care homes?
QRIS is a rating system that assesses family child care homes (and child care centers). The primary goal of these programs is to increase the quality of child care. It is also designed to increase parent understanding and demand for higher quality early care and education programs.
There are QRIS programs in more than 22 states. The name and details of the QRIS program varies from state to state. Click here to learn more about the program in your state.
Update: Here’s a new link to the Michigan QRIS program.
Why You Should Participate
In my opinion, all family child care providers should participate in the QRIS program in your state because of the many benefits it offers.
1) QRIS will increasingly become a tool parents will use to identify high quality child care programs and compare one program with another. The higher your rating, the more you can use it to market your program and attract new families. Although many parents are not aware of QRS now, this will change over time.
2) QRIS does set objective standards for quality child care that all caregivers should aspire to. Some caregivers complain that the rating system does not accurately reflect the true quality of their program. If you are now at full enrollment and your current parents are happy with your program, unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean you operate a high quality program. Although QRIS may have flaws in how it measures quality, it’s the only rating system in town and it does reflect best practices in the field.
3) QRIS will allow homes to compete with child care centers on a more level playing field. A three-star home will be able to say that their quality is equal to a three-star center and of better quality than a two-star center. This will increasingly become a useful tool to use in advertising and promoting your program.
4) In some states there are financial rewards for achieving each higher level of quality. You can use these funds to help you improve the quality of your program. The items you buy are also tax deductible!
Are there complaints about QRIS? Yes. Some homes don’t like all of the paperwork, training requirements, and low financial rewards. These are legitimate concerns.
But, I recommend that you look at the big picture and see how the QRIS system that ranks homes according to objective standards of quality is good for you and for the field of child care. It will spur more and more homes to increase their quality. It will be used as a benchmark by parents as they choose a caregiver for their child.
If Paula can’t distinguish high quality from low quality in her child care search, she is more likely to choose the cheaper care. When she is choosing from programs that are ranked by quality she will choose the highest quality of care she can afford.
As QRIS programs grow and develop over time it will become easier for Paula to shop with more confidence that she is getting what she pays for. Quality, not price will drive her decision.
Image credit: www.bellybootcamp.ca
Tom Copeland – www.tomcopelandblog.com