When Maria opened her home child care business a few years ago, one of her goals was to begin accepting payment through the Colorado Child Care Assistance Program. She was nervous to begin the complex process so when she heard that United Way of Weld County was helping providers to become eligible, she jumped at the opportunity for assistance.
The first three years of a child’s life are a critical time of growth and development. Beginning in infancy, high quality child care affects a child’s ability to succeed in school, develop relationships and master social competence. In the United States, nearly 11 million children under the age of 5 spend some or all of their day being cared for by someone other than their parents.
It is imperative that our children’s caregivers have the knowledge, skills and tools needed to help every child flourish.
Through working with child care providers to create and maintain high quality early learning environments, United Way’s Colorado Shines Quality Improvement Program helps some of the most vulnerable children in Weld County be better prepared for school success.
The Colorado Shines Quality Improvement Program provides outreach, conducts readiness assessments, and gives technical assistance to child care providers seeking to improve their Colorado Shines quality of care rating. Colorado Shines includes five levels of quality of care environment: level one providers meet basic licensing requirements and level five have worked through a thorough improvement process.
The process begins with United Way staff contacting child care providers, asking if they would like to increase their quality of care while explaining that higher quality care is better for children and allows the provider to charge higher rates. Providers are then matched with a quality improvement coach; the initial meeting identifies areas for improvement and determines a strategy by which increases in quality can be made. This often includes the purchase of quality improvement items, modification of existing child care space, and professional development offerings. Through Colorado Shines, United Way can fund purchases and renovations. When the provider is ready, an assessor from Colorado Shines visits the center- or home-based child care facility and conducts a rating. The rating is then published through Colorado Shines and is good for three years.
“We know that environments teach, and a separate set of eyes is a great way to make improvements for sustainability. One-on-one coaching gives providers support with teaching and guidance strategies, supporting routines and coaching to a healthy and safe child care center or child care home.”Cheri, Quality Improvement Coach