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What Parents Need to Know About the Look for the Stars Quality Improvement System

Why does quality matter?

The quality of care that a child receives in the early years has a life-long effect on intellectual, social, emotional and physical development. Choosing child care may be one of the most important and challenging parenting decisions that you will make.

When, where, how much?

As a parent you should think about more than location, cost and operating hours when choosing a child care program for your child. In a quality program, the child care areas should be comfortable and provide interesting learning materials for your child. The staff should be warm and friendly, to you and your child helping you both feel good about leaving your child in their care. The playground should be a safe and creative place to play.

Are all programs part of Look for the Stars Quality Improvement System?

Look for the Stars is a voluntary system for all child care programs in Sarasota County that has been available since 2008. Over the years, at least 65% of all licensed programs have consistently earned a quality star rating. These programs have made a commitment to provide quality care, nurturing attention, and appropriate educational experiences that are so important for the development of each child.

You mean that attaining a star rating is not the same as being “licensed”?

In Sarasota County all child care programs must be licensed by Department of Health child care licensing unit as per Department of Children and Families, Child Care Services Program Office requirements, except for a few who meet requirements for licensing exempt status. Look for the Stars programs have chosen to meet substantially higher standards than are required for licensing, which primarily addresses health and safety minimum requirements. Look for the Stars requires an annual comprehensive evaluation of the program by independent assessor. Several domains are assessed including program environment, classroom interactions, staff qualifications, and curriculum.

How is this different from accreditation?

Pursuing accreditation is a financial and business decision. Many sites that offer consistently good care are not necessarily accredited. Fortunately, with the option of a local star rating system, many sites choose to participate in the local Look for the Stars program as an indication of their commitment to quality.

Will a Look for the Stars rating make a difference for my child?

Here’s what we know about children who attend high-quality child care and preschools:

  • more eager to learn
  • relate better to their teachers and peers
  • more likely to receive assessments of developmental
  • milestones and additional help in areas needed
  • are better prepared to adjust to kindergarten and school

What should I see in a Look for the Stars program?

  • Comfortable space and furnishings that encourage children to explore and learn
  • A wide variety of toys, games, and books that help children develop in all areas
  • Interesting pictures, posters, and children’s art work displayed
  • High standards for health, safety, and nutrition for children
  • Children engaged in conversation throughout the day
  • Many opportunities for creative art, music, and pretend play
  • Specially trained adults who are warm and loving; who respect children and appreciate individual differences
  • Frequent, effective communication with parents
  • Positive guidance techniques that help children learn appropriate behaviors and self-control

What does this mean for my family?

Families who enjoy stable, high-quality child care have better work attendance, are better able to concentrate on the job, and have fewer stress-related health problems. They feel comfortable with the care their children are receiving, and consider the child care site to be a resource for them and a partner in meeting the needs of their young children.

How do I find a high quality program?

If your program is not a part of Look for the Stars, ask the question “Why is this program not participating in Look for the Stars Quality Improvement System?”