Finding the Right Day Care for Your Child

Choosing a day care can be tough. Rating systems in Ohio and Kentucky aim to make it easier.

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All publicly funded day cares in Ohio are part of Gov. Mike DeWine’s Step Up to Quality, a five-star system for programs licensed by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Education.

Five stars might be the top ranking, but that’s not to say a day care with one star is bad for kids—it’s more likely that a one-star spot is new. “It’s a building block approach,” says Kristi Burre, DeWine’s director of children’s initiatives, “so a three-star rating has to have everything that the first and second star [day care] has,” plus additional qualifications.

A one-star day care, for example, must have a written wage structure, a description of professional development plans, community resource information, and a curriculum action plan. By comparison, a five-star program meets the qualifications of programs that receive one to four stars, plus additional offerings like family education information and health screening processes. “The thought is, it’s helping those new providers to put nuts and bolts in place to have a quality program,” Burre says. “As you continue to operate, these are things that’ll continue to grow.”

Kentucky All STARS is a similar system, run by the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood. All Head Start, public preschools, and childcare centers that receive public funding are required to participate, according to the Kentucky All STARS website.

A program that receives one star has met all regulatory requirements. Requirements are added gradually, until a care center receives five stars, with additional points for qualifications including family and community engagement and administrative and leadership practices.

Four Tips for Finding the Right Day Care

There’s so much to know when selecting a day care, and the U.S. Department of Education provides tips to find the best fit for your child.

What’s the best kind of day care for your child? For example: A relative? A provider who works out of their own home? A childcare center? A caregiver who comes to your home? Know the answer to this before even getting started.

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Which option fits your budget? Head Start is available for low-income parents and guardians, as are state-funded programs. Based on your income tax forms, some families are entitled to childcare credits. Plus, some businesses offer low- or no-cost childcare to their employees.

If you select a publicly funded childcare option, what qualifications are necessary? Is a five-star provider required? Is a two-star one sufficient? You can search for regional childcare providers at childcaresearch.ohio.gov or kynect.ky.gov/benefits/s/child-care-provider.

How long has your provider worked with children? Why are they in the childcare field? Do the other children they care for seem happy?

Regardless of the type of childcare you’d like, the Department of Education urges parents and guardians to find facilities that are clean and safe. Childcare providers should be kind and responsive, energetic, and patient. They should have experience working with children—and they should like children.

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