ELYRIA – The state`s new Step Up To Quality child care rating system has not caught on in Lorain County, but that has not stopped one local child care center from shooting through the criteria like a star – or two stars by the new system`s measure.
The aim behind the volunteer rating system is to improve the quality of child care and early education received in Ohio by providers who are licensed by the state as well as provide parents with an easy tool to assist in selecting quality child care. However, since the state implemented the program close to a year ago, only one Lorain County child care center has received a star rating.
The Horizon Activities Center on Dewhurst Road was recently honored with a two-star rating on the three-star rating system and will be honored for its achievement Friday in a ceremony with state Sen. Sue Morano, D-Lorain, and state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria.
“It was a lot of work, but we are proud to be the first,” said Joyce Roy, Horizon`s director. “There was an extensive list of quality benchmarks that had to be met, but in the end it was all about increasing the quality of our daycare center and improving the growth and development of the children.”
The center`s two-star rating means it has a lower teacher-to-child ratio than is required by the state, half of the lead teachers in the center have an early childhood education certificate or degree, center teachers have 10 hours of child development training per year and employees are offered at least two employee benefits, which results in a lower turnover rate.
Roy said the center`s 22 staff members care for 147 kids ranging in age from 18 months to 12 years. About 50 percent of the staff has either an associate or bachelor`s degree and two are working toward their master`s.
Achieving these benchmarks is crucial for the future of Ohio`s children, but not easily obtainable, said Jennifer Bartlebaugh, Step Up To Quality`s local coordinator with the Child Care Resource Center of Lorain.
“There are a lot of pieces that have to be in place prior to a center applying for a star rating,” she said. “Licensing standards are minimal health and safety requirements. But these standards reflect more about the quality of the program and provide a good foundation for an optimal learning experience for children.”
However, Bartlebaugh hopes the program will work to gradually improve the quality of child care in the state, which is especially important as the state is reporting 65 percent of children under the age of six have both parents in the workforce. At the same time, 90 percent of brain development occurs before the age of five.
“Early child care has to move beyond just health and safety because it`s what`s best for Ohio`s children,” she said.