Choosing the right child care

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Choosing the right child care is a big decision, and it seems like just yesterday I was searching for child care for my boys.    Research shows that quality child care can make a difference. A child’s experiences in a program can significantly contribute to brain development and the future success of the child. The impact is greater for low-income children.

With child care having a huge impact on a child’s future, United Way of Central Indiana is investing significantly to improve the  quality of care through a partnership with the Family and Social Services Administration’s (FSSA) Paths to Quality program.

Paths to Quality is a free and voluntary rating and improvement system, created in 2009,  and designed to help parents find and select the best possible care for their children.

Indiana’s Paths to Quality system rates child care providers on a standards-based set of

Criteria:

  • Level One: Health and safety needs of children met.
  • Level Two: Environment supports children’s learning.
  • Level Three: Planned curriculum guides child development and school readiness.
  • Level Four: National accreditation (the highest indicator of quality) is achieved.

This rating system was unfortunately not around when my kids were in daycare.  But since so many of my friends have kids in child care now, I was curious if they know about the Paths to QUALITY rating system. Surprisingly none of them do. Most made their decision based on meeting with the center director, touring the facility, its location and cost. Some even had their kids test out the center for a few days.

Quality, affordable child care is in short supply. Too few providers meet voluntary standards for health, safety and support for children’s learning and development. My kids attended both a licensed private child care and a child care ministry in Fishers. I was not aware at the time that child care ministries are not required to meet the same regulations as licensed centers and homes. As a result, they often struggle with providing quality child care. Even though I was pleased with the ministry I took my kids to, I  recently learned that it has not achieved Level 4 , the highest quality indicator.

Thus far, United Way and its partners have helped 26 childcare providers (three in Hamilton County) reach Level 1, benefiting more than 2,000 children. Only 15 percent of center-based child care providers in Central Indiana have reached level 3 or 4. Only 17 percent of low-income children supported by government subsidies attend a level 3 or higher program.

Over the next 10 years, United Way is committed to providing intensive coaching, funding, curriculum support, books, classroom equipment and volunteers.

By 2022, UWCI’s goal is to make 80 percent of center-based providers achieve Level 3 or 4 and 90 percent of low-income children will be in a Level 3 or higher child care program.

Not all child care is the same. Hopefully, if you and your family are in the market for child care, this information will help you make the best informed decision, because the first years of life are so fragile, yet they carry so much promise.

If you are like our family and don’t need child care now, but want to do something to help improve the quality of care for others, you can get involved through United Way. We are now recruiting Volunteers to read to young children to help them improve early literacy skills and cultivate a love for reading. Visit uwci.org/volunteer to get involved!

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