Thursday, December 6, 2012

Child Trends- Providing and Choosing High Quality Child Care

Child Trends
December 6, 2012

Providing and Choosing High Quality Child Care

Many states have implemented Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS). One main purpose of QRIS is to support parents in selecting high quality child care for their children. To develop effective QRIS, it is important to understand how parents make child care decisions, what they value in selecting a child care arrangement, and what skills they expect their children to be developing in preparation for school. Child Trends, in partnership with the Maryland State Department of Education, has conducted several group interviews with low-income parents, child care providers, kindergarten teachers, and resource and referral counselors.
Three research briefs were produced from these interviews:
Key findings include:

  • Low-income parents cited three trusted sources for information about child care providers: personal or professional referrals, media outlets, and independent research via the internet.
  • Parents considered, on average, 2-3 options during their last search for a provider, and three-quarters of parents said their options were limited.
  • Though more than half of the interviewed parents cited learning opportunities as a characteristic of ideal care arrangements, very few reported considering this when making their last child care choice.
  •  More than two-thirds of parents (70%) reported that whether providers were "licensed," "credentialed," or "accredited" was a low priority or not a consideration when making their last child care choice.
  •  Most of the elements parents cited in their definitions of "school readiness" mirrored the topics included in Maryland's Model for School Readiness, though parents also included basic safety skills like the child knowing their name and knowing to call 911 in an emergency.

As administrators continue to develop consumer education materials and validate their Quality Rating and Improvement Systems, this is an ideal time to ensure that 1) programs developed for parents are using terms that reflect parents' values for child care, particularly provider trustworthiness and the safety and security of children, and 2) all parents can access and afford high quality care options when selecting care for their child.

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