New program to rate Alabama day cares

Published: Feb. 3, 2016 at 11:23 PM CST|Updated: Apr. 14, 2016 at 12:37 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The state will soon start a new program to help you better choose a day care.

It's called Alabama Quality Stars. It's a new five star scale rating program. Just like you see hotels ranked up to five stars, the state will now rate licensed day care centers that go above the required minimum standards.

This program is part of a national system to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early child care and education programs.

Centers will be rated from one to five stars based on four components: staff qualifications and professional development, management and administrative practices, learning environment and curriculum, and family involvement and community partnerships.

"We saw the difference it made in the quality of child care settings in other states. We also saw that we were getting this huge difference between how many programs were licensed and meeting minimum standards and how many programs we had that were exempt and not subject to regulations by our department," said Jeanette Green, assistance director for Alabama DHR child care services division.

This is only for licensed centers and is voluntary, so only centers that want to participate choose to do so. Leaders say this is a way to recognize centers that provide great care and also help parents when choosing the center that's right for their children.

"It's a way for parents to be able to look and see whether or not they are getting to an environment that cares about quality, that cares about health and safety and cares about it so much that they are voluntarily doing these things that are not required to do," Green said.

The hope is it will also bring to light centers that are not licensed and make parents start to question if centers are even evaluated.

"It will be a way for parents to judge [the centers] and parents start to ask about it. If a program doesn't have a star rating, they will start to ask about it, 'well wait a minute why isn't there a star rating when there are other programs that do have star ratings.' And recognizing that any star rating means that the program is doing more than the minimum standards requires," Green said.

The star rankings will be listed on the state's website, making it easy for parents to see. Orientation sessions will be held starting this month for day care centers. Leaders hope to begin evaluations by April and have some programs ranked as early as May.

The evaluations and orientations will be conducted by trained personnel at the University of Alabama.

The program is funded with federal dollars.

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