Why is quality important for my child?
Parents know their child the best; they are the first teachers. Kids First recommends that parents visit early childhood programs, observe classrooms, ask questions, compare philosophies, get recommendations, and make the best consumer decision they can in regard to their child's care and early education.
Poor quality care is not good for children. In general, some characteristics seem to be present in all of the childcare programs that researchers rate as high quality. The following list summarizes research findings and identifies factors typically associated with high quality child care programs:
- Smaller group size has been found to be most beneficial for children of all ages.
- High staff/child ratios, for infants in particular, enable children to get the individual care and attention they need.
- Caregiver training in early child development affects whether child care arrangements are helpful or harmful to children.
- Stable, continuous relationships between caregivers and children are important; high staff turnover and moving children from program to program can negatively affect children.
- Programs designed, equipped, and set up by trained staff, especially those designed to encourage small-group activities, are better able to meet the developmental needs of children.
- Play has been found to be a universal need for normal child development and should be encouraged by early childhood educators.
- Family involvement and a shared relationship between parents and caregivers is essential for positive effects for children.
- Attention to basic health & safety standards, including adequate nutrition, proper diaper changing and hand washing techniques are essential.
Quality assessment and accreditation are above and beyond state required licensing; and are voluntary. Most states have developed a quality rating system, Colorado has Qualistar – www.qualistar.org. The Qualistar assessment includes 5 components in which childcare homes and centers earn points. They are: learning environment, teacher education, group size and ratio, family involvement, and accreditation. The learning environment component uses the early childhood environmental rating scales (ECERS) tool to assess all aspects of the classroom.
In addition to these factors, it is important to emphasize that each child is unique. Although all children need love and attention, their individual needs will not all be met by the same kind of caregiver or care arrangement. The fit or match between a particular caregiver's style and the child's own temperament is critical to the child's healthy growth and development. Oralee McAfee - University of Chicago
The most widely recognized national accreditation is through the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC accredits center based childcare using 10 standards. Programs must demonstrate significant compliance in each area: curriculum, assessment, relationships, teaching, health, teachers families, physical environment and leadership and management. For more information go to www.naeyc.org.
Family Childcare homes can seek accreditation through the National Association of Family Childcare - www.nafcc.org. There are 289 indicators grouped under the standards of Relationships, The Environment, Developmental Learning Activities, Safety and Health, and Professional and Business Practices. A family childcare program would apply, enroll in a self study, and submit to an observation.
There are many other accreditations available, some more widely used than others; they include campus based childcare, religious based childcare, after school childcare, The National Association of Child Care Professionals, the National Association Professional Program Accreditation, or the Council for Professional Recognition.