Why Quality Rating & Improvement Systems Are Good For All Family Child Care Providers


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?

Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).

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

Categories: Advocacy, Marketing

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7 replies

  1. tom, i was the first star 4 rated family child care home in my county in PA. after a year the state changed the standards and i would have had to go to college at age 54, plus way more paper work. I stressed out so much i finally realized that the quality of the care i provided had diminished, and decided to drop out. The requirements were way too much for one person to accomplish and stay sane while working 12 plus hours a day caring for children. The centers have directors who do not provide direct care to do all the same paper work that was required for me to stay a star 4. I have never regretted my decision

  2. Mary – Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your concerns are real.

  3. I agree with Mary. I have a BA but only 6 units in child dev. I am not going back to school. Here in California we those who take subsidy will not receive a pay raise for the next 3 yrs. we must charge all families the same price. In my small town we have lost 10 family daycare food had gone up more red tape more state LPA not knowing anything siting because that’s their job. Make QRIS realistic and let children be children Thanks for the grip time

  4. I feel the same as Mary. I have been in Family Child Care for 28 yrs.-before that in a center for 3yrs. I provide a quality program, and love working with the children and parents. With all these requirements, changes I feel the state of MD and Dept. of Ed want to put us out of business. The training requirements are great, but the state following through lacks people understanding child care. My excels person never used child care and knew nothing about Family Child Care. Hmmmmm? Makes me question the process…..

  5. Quality Improvement Programs are an avenue for professional and personal growth. I am a Early Childhood Wellness coach for mainly family child care. You will have a more positive experience if you learn to work a coach to get out of your comfort zone and try new things. If something does not work for you or isn’t practical then you need to tweek it. I believe a honest relationship between coach and provider is key to making an improvement long lasting and mutually positive for families and providers.

  6. I sometimes feel like the rest of you. I also have been in the field of child care since 1977. I have a AAS degree, CDA (renewed & now has lapsed ) and many years of working experience. It is never quite good enough and I sense that these programs are just reinvented. Its kind of like job security for all the government workers associated with these programs.
    In a rural community, many parents need and want a safe place for their child of high quality, but can not afford some of the costs that go along with all the bells and whistles. Sometimes, just like providers, you just can feel it when the provider is the best person for their child. Often, the children still go to another program for “preschool”. I also know a few wonderful providers that have done Childcare for years and still will never qualify under the standards set up by some of these programs. Now the QRS is being reinvented by a new name – Parent Aware. Most parents have no idea all of this is going on.
    I love what I do and I know I am a great provider. I also am in my mid 50’s and not sure it is worth going thru all this again. Childcare is a physically and emotionally filled calling and as one ages does get harder to put in all the energy and hours required for the job.

  7. I am also in my 50’s and considering the CDA credential, but I’m not sure, after reading these thoughtful comments, that I could accomplish the necessary course work. It sounds too demanding..as one poster wrote.. to work the 10 to 12 hour day AND then complete strict course requirements. Might be too much for one person in my situation. In quite a few providers situations it seems.

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