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Big step up for child care

| April 14, 2010 9:00 PM

Retiring state Rep. George Sayler spent the better part of eight years putting state licensing on the legislative radar. What he might have lacked in getting enforceable standards enacted, he more than made up for in an informal awareness campaign that extended from Twin Falls to Bonners Ferry.

Another positive has emerged from attention focused on this important initiative. A program called Idaho STARS Quality Rating and Improvement System now offers valuable information and assistance that will help parents decide which child care facility in Kootenai County might be best for their children.

It's a voluntary system, which means participation won't be all-inclusive. However, that also means the homes and facilities that do participate are likely more conscientious and caring than those that don't, so it's an early plus for the participants.

Program participants conduct a self-study, create a plan for improvement and then work on that plan over time. And this isn't just theory. During the process, they seek grants, scholarships and other assistance that will help them improve. Each facility or home receives a rating of between one and five stars, which offers instant identification that will help parents select the best place for their children.

Facilities are graded in eight categories: environment, current education of director and staff, ongoing professional development, inclusion of children, programs to strengthen families, ratio, group size and business practices.

We not only encourage parents to avail themselves of this service, but urge every child care facility, no matter how small or large, to participate. Whether you're an interested parent or owner/manager of a child care facility, contact Jennifer Ross, program manager of the Child Care Resources Center at Panhandle Health District, for more information. Jennifer's number is 415-5145.

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