Do Babies Rate In Quality Rating Systems?
Jan 22, 2008
Many states either have statewide systems to rate the quality of child care (14 states) or are exploring them (31 states), hoping to encourage providers to exceed state licensing standards and help parents find good care. But are the unique needs of babies and toddlers addressed in these systems? A new resource developed by the National Infant and Toddler Child Care Initiative (NITCCI) provides suggestions for state policymakers to ensure an intentional focus on babies and toddlers in state quality rating systems. Only six of the 14 states who have implemented such systems have quality standards specific to babies and toddlers.
Designing Quality Rating Systems Inclusive of Babies and Toddlers recommends that states weave provisions specific to babies and toddlers through each of the five common elements of state quality rating systems: 1) standards, 2) accountability measures, 3) program and practitioner outreach and support, 4) financial incentives, and 5) parent/consumer education. For example, states should require training and education standards that ensure providers caring for children under three have a credential or coursework specifically addressing the knowledge and skills needed to care for babies, such as how to be responsive to babies cues, and safe sleep practices to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). They can also require better adult-child ratios and continuity of care practices in order for providers to receive higher ratings. NITCCI also recommends that standards are inclusive of all legally operating care systems, including family, friend and neighbor care, given that a significant proportion of babies and toddlers are in this type of care. Recommendations include providing training and mentoring, as well as quality enhancement contracts to providers that are linked to attaining higher standards.
Building the supply of high quality infant and toddler care, especially in low-income and high immigrant population areas, is one of the top recommendations CLASP makes for state policymakers to chart progress for babies in child care. The NITCCI tool can help states work toward this recommendation. The tool also points to the importance of including supports and financial incentives for providers and practitioners to meet higher standards encouraged by these systems. Quality rating systems are not likely to be effective without financial resources and supports to help child care providers, especially those caring for low-income children, move toward higher standards.