Parent Aware coming to Nobles County in 2013WORTHINGTON — Parents of young children and child care providers will soon have a new resource to go to when looking at child care quality.
By: Brianna Darling/Daily Globe, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Parents of young children and child care providers will soon have a new resource to go to when looking at child care quality.
Parent Aware, a new program designed to help Minnesota parents find ideal early learning programs that help prepare their children for kindergarten, is coordinated with the help of the state departments of Human Services, Education and Health. It will be available in Nobles County in 2013.
“Parent Aware is a quality improvement program that will be offered throughout Minnesota,” said Karen DeBoer. director of the Southwest Minnesota Child Care Resource and Referral Network. “It’s an idea that has been in the U.S. for 20 to 25 years.”
The program uses a rating tool based upon four categories: family partnerships, teaching materials and strategies, tracking learning, and teacher training and education. Parents can look up the names of child care providers involved in the Parent Aware program and learn their ratings based on those categories.
Child care providers also benefit from the program, DeBoer said, as Parent Aware aims to help improve their educational aspects and overall quality.
“It really helps them focus on how they can improve care for children,” she stated. “They will have the opportunity to attend some training sessions that they may not have otherwise participated in.”
Those sessions — and the ratings — will ultimately help child care providers, parents and children alike, DeBoer said.
“Parents can instinctively judge if a child care provider is safe, clean, affordable and in a good location,” said Ericca Maas, executive director for Parent Aware.
“But based on a brief visit or talk with a provider alone, it’s nearly impossible to learn whether that provider is using a full range of early learning best practices. Parent Aware provides this difficult-to-obtain information to help parents determine how well a provider will prepare their child for kindergarten.” Maas said.
“Child care is early childhood education,” DeBoer said, “and Parent Aware is a way that parents can truly prove that providers are committed to providing a quality educational experience for kids and helping them to be ready for kindergarten emotionally, socially and cognitively.”
Child care programs volunteer to be rated. Programs that can be rated include child care centers and pre-school programs licensed by the Department of Human Services. Providers who volunteer to be rated also receive access to quality improvement grants, as well as consultants who will coach them through the improvements needed to increase quality of care.
“All of it comes from providing information and helping that provider give better care, so by attending additional trainings they’re getting more tools and information for attending the children in their care,” DeBoer said.
The Parent Aware program differs from licensure, DeBoer explained.
“Licensing is a minimum standard,” she said. “Programs that go through Parent Aware will be performing at a level above licensing, so families that seek Parent Aware programs know that these providers are going above and beyond — that they’re putting more effort into the quality of care they’re providing than someone with just a license.”
Funding for the statewide implementation program is supported by the Race to the Top grant that Minnesota received from the U.S. Department of Education.
“In 2013 we will be focusing on programs in Nobles County, then in 2014 we will be moving into Lyon County,” DeBoer said.
Parent Aware plans to be available statewide by 2015.
Providers interested in receiving a rating in the first half of the year need to sign up by Jan. 1, 2013 at www.parentawareratings.org/providers, or by contacting Karen DeBoer at 376-4195 ext. 231 or email@example.com.
Daily Globe Reporter Brianna Darling may be reached at 376-7321.