Who's Caring For Babies? North Carolina Answers The Question
Oct 14, 2008
Many states are trying to improve the supply and quality of child care babies receive and track whether state polices are making a difference. One strategy states are trying is the child care Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), which can be a means to improve access to quality. QRIS cannot be effective for babies and toddlers at risk unless: they are designed to address babies needs, infant/toddler providers participate, and low-income parents have financial assistance to afford higher rated care. A key issue for all states is the need to increase supply by providing resources and supports so that more providers choose to meet high standards AND care for children under age three. Research by Zero To Three suggests that very few QRIS address the needs of infants and toddlers.
In North Carolina, the state's star rated license means all regulated centers and homes must participate, and the state can collect data on whether children receiving child care subsidy are accessing highly rated providers. A new report by the Child Care Services Association (CCSA) found an increase in the percentage of North Carolina babies and toddlers in regulated care that were enrolled in highly rated programs since 2005. Supply remains an issue, with just 44 percent of 5-star centers enrolling babies and toddlers, compared to 98 percent enrolling preschool-age children. North Carolina s data showed great differences in the proportion of low-income babies and toddlers receiving child care subsidies who are enrolled in four- or five-star programs, ranging from 13 to 73 percent depending on which region of the state they live.
The supply of high quality care for infants and toddlers is limited. Quality Rating and Improvement Systems offer an opportunity for states to improve access to and the supply of high quality care, but the North Carolina research demonstrates that to do so, states do need to actively take into account the specific needs of infants and toddlers and provide supports and technical assistance to providers working with these children. North Carolina knows who is caring for babies and how that care rates on established quality measures. Other states should follow their lead.