State program will rate all childcare facilities

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Jason Smathers
Friday, August 13, 2010
— Arolyn Adams apologized for having so many questions for Reggie Bicha, the secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

Adams just wanted to put her mind at ease.

As director of Cargill Christian Day Care in Janesville, Adams was happy to hear the state was upping the standards for childcare. Next January, Wisconsin will launch Youngstar, a program that will rate the quality of childcare providers across the state.

But Adams knows that means more classes for her staff, issues with bureaucracy and extra costs. With a staff of 27, that's no small task.

To give providers like Adams a head start, Bicha announced $1.5 million in funding for staff development and on-site support for childcare providers across the state. Blackhawk Technical College will receive $81,264 to hold training on early childhood education and the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards.

Providers can enroll now for the classes, which begin Monday, Aug. 23.

Adams and other providers wanted specifics. Will the scholarships being offered for staff training be given to a Christian daycare? (Yes, said Bicha.) Will there be any experience credit for those taking required classes? (That will be evaluated at enrollment.) Will state registry lists be updated in time for ratings? (Bicha says he'll work to ensure they do.)

The nervousness is understandable. Not only will higher ratings attract more families, but they'll result in larger reimbursement payments from the state.

The Youngstar program will rate all childcare centers in Wisconsin on a five-star scale based on four categories: professional practices, learning environment, health and wellness support and staff qualifications.

But the highest ratings would require significant investments and changes for some providers. Adams said a lot of her employees have the experience but may fall short on some of the education requirements, such as obtaining associate or bachelor's degrees.

"Some of the teachers that are planning on retiring in three years aren't going to go through more training," Adams said. "You're a lead teacher before this and now, all of a sudden, you're being knocked down."

After Adams and other providers discussed the laundry list of steps they'd have to take to earn an adequate rating, Adams waxed optimistic.

"It's a real positive thing and we're better off across the board," Adams said. "If you're doing what you're supposed to be doing, you'll be OK."

Last updated: 2:44 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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