Eight North Idaho child-care providers are participating in a pilot project to establish a five-star rating system similar to scales for rating hotels, movies and restaurants.
IdahoSTARS – State Training and Registry System – is in its second year. Child care providers volunteer to participate in the statewide project that aims to improve the quality of care and provide parents with more information and choices.
More than 70 facilities volunteered and 29 were randomly chosen to participate statewide, said Martha Anderson, IdahoSTARS regional quality consultant in Hayden. Six North Idaho facilities participated last year.
By 2009, IdahoSTARS hopes to have the quality rating program available to all child-care providers who want to participate.
The state will evaluate the recently selected providers and give suggestions on how to improve their quality of care, touching on subjects including the environment, staff ratios and parent involvement. The facilities also will get training from Strengthening Families, a statewide child-abuse prevention initiative.
The providers can work with an IdahoSTARS mentor to develop an improvement plan and may apply for grants to make some improvements.
After that work is done, facilities would receive the STAR rating.
It’s up to each provider to decide whether to make the rating public because it’s a voluntary program, Anderson said.
IdahoSTARS officials believe that good early childhood experiences positively affect children’s development, success in school, earning potential as adults and future relationships.
Anderson said the voluntary rating program is especially important because there are few child-care regulations in Idaho.
Small day-care centers – those with fewer than seven children – go unregulated by the state, though a half-dozen Idaho cities, including Coeur d’Alene, have enacted their own day care licensing laws.
The Idaho Legislature killed a bill in its most recent session that would have set standards, including criminal background checks for workers and annual health and fire inspections, for centers with four or more unrelated children.
“This is really grass-roots,” Anderson said. “We want to help individual providers improve their quality.”
The North Idaho providers selected to participate in this year’s pilot program are:
•Daystar Christian Day Care, Post Falls.
•Angel Academy, Coeur d’Alene.
•Prairie Children’s Center, Rathdrum.
•Christ the King Child Development Center, Coeur d’Alene.
•Moscow Day School, Moscow.
•University of Idaho Children’s Center, Moscow.
•Fingerprints Children’s Center, Lewiston.
•Childhood Early Enrichment Program, Orofino.