Cheri M. Gioe, Merrill, Thomas A. | 6/13/2007 1:17:22 AM
An LSU AgCenter child care expert says looking for the facility’s license is one of the quickest and easiest methods for gauging quality when you are shopping for child care.
"Look for the license," LSU AgCenter specialist Cheri Gioe advised. "A child care program that is licensed or certified is one of the surest ways of choosing a quality child care setting.
"A license or certificate indicates that the program is visited in some way by the State of Louisiana," she explained, adding, "Child care regulations require that licenses be displayed."
Louisiana child care centers are regulated by the Louisiana Department of Social Services through its Bureau of Licensing. The Bureau of Licensing conducts the department’s licensing program, as mandated by the state’s licensing laws.
"These laws give a measure of protection to the children and adults of the state who are in care on a regular or consistent basis," Gioe said. "This measure of protection covers the health, safety and well-being of individuals being cared for."
Two sets of regulations govern child care centers in Louisiana – known as Class A and Class B regulations.
Class A regulations are Louisiana’s minimum standards for child care, and Class B regulations are considered less than minimum. Child care centers have the choice of a Class A or B license. Head Start programs also are regulated by the state and are licensed as Class A programs.
Parents who are eligible for the Child Care Assistance Program can select any Class A child care center, school-based before- and after-school program, registered family child day care home or in-home provider.
Family day care homes and in-home providers are inspected by the state fire marshal for safety and are issued a certificate. Certificates and licenses should be either displayed or available upon request.
"Another indicator of quality may be a license indicating that a child care program is accredited," Gioe said. "Several different agencies validate child care programs for quality. One of the most well-known is the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
"Nationwide, NAEYC-accredited programs are thought to offer some of the highest quality care."
Gioe said accreditation programs usually are costly for the child care provider or program and are voluntary.
"Accreditation generally requires a program to meet more stringent guidelines than those of the state," she explained, adding, "Programs that are accredited usually are given a certificate of accreditation to display."
In the near future, Louisiana child care centers and Head Start programs also will be encouraged to participate in a new voluntary state program that will assess the level of quality the program provides for children in their care.
This program currently is generically called the Louisiana Quality Rating System. Based on the plans, programs participating in this system will be assessed and awarded a star rating – much like the ones awarded in some hotel and restaurant rating systems. The programs, in turn, will be encouraged to display their star rating as a means to communicate their level of care.
"A lot of people in the market for child care want to find just the right setting for their children, but they just don’t know enough about all the options to choose one," Gioe said. "That’s when it’s probably time to learn more about your options.
"What type of setting you choose for your child depends on you – and your child’s individual needs and interests," Gioe advised. "After you’ve assessed your needs, you are ready to explore the options available to you and to find the child care that best fits you and your child."
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.