Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 5/4/2006 8:53:24 PM
Louisiana officials soon will launch a quality rating system for child-care programs. Just as restaurants and hotels are rated, this system will grade child-care programs and help consumers choose programs based upon their quality.
"This rating system will help child-care providers focus on how to help children experience optimum development – socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively--while being cared for in a safe, nurturing, high-quality environment," explains LSU AgCenter child-care associate Cheri Gioe.
Gioe said such a system has been discussed for a while, but state policy makers decided this was an appropriate time to implement such a program – now as our cities and economy recover from hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
"In the aftermath of the hurricanes, only 80 percent of our child-care programs are operating across Louisiana," Gioe said, adding that the numbers for some parishes hardest hit by the storms are substantially lower than that average. "Just about 15 percent of the child-care programs are operating in Orleans Parish, but there are none in St. Bernard Parish, and Calcasieu now is back to 80 percent.
"The majority of centers that were licensed prior to the storms in some of the hardest hit areas have yet to indicate if they will re-open."
The Louisiana Department of Education indicates that children are moving back into the storm-affected areas faster than anticipated. Therefore, supports such as childcare are critical to reestablishing a workforce. As child-care programs reestablish themselves in the communities they will be able to rebuild with quality care in mind and support from the child-caring community.
The state’s new quality rating system will be voluntary and will be available to day-care centers, before- and after-school programs and family day-care providers. Parents will be able to access information on participating child-care centers’ rating online.
The LSU AgCenter’s "Be Child Care Aware!" educational program is designed to educate parents and child-care providers about quality child care. It is funded, in part, through a contract with the Louisiana Department of Social Services’ Office of Family Support.