Why are only 7 percent of licensed child care programs in Tarrant County considered quality?
(This article originally appeared on the Cook Children's newsroom.)
A high quality, early childhood learning environment can make a huge difference in a child’s long term academic success. By age 5, a child’s brain development is 90 percent complete, and those early experiences set the stage for a lifetime or success…or failure. Is your child’s program as good as it can be?
The options for child care can seem overwhelming. Luckily, a mother’s intuition is a helpful tool. If you feel comfortable with the facility’s teachers and staff and have a clear line of communication with them, you are off to a good start.
The next step is finding out if the child care program is accredited or certified by the proper agencies and whether the results are available for parents to review.
“While holding an accreditation is not a guarantee of quality, it’s one way to determine that a program is more likely to demonstrate quality early childhood, in general,” said Lyn Lucas, Chief Program Officer for Camp Fire First Texas, one of the largest child and youth development agencies in North Texas.
Of the 1,365 licensed programs, only 92 who meet “quality” standards in Tarrant County, meaning that only 7 percent of all licensed child care programs in Tarrant County meet one of the accreditation and certifications for parents to find a program of quality. Those accreditation and certifications include:
“Early development and socialization are important, so it’s critical that children be in a setting where they hear lots of language and learn to play with other children,” said Lena Zettler, MA, LPA, director of the Psychology Department at Cook Children’s. “If that setting is in child care, it’s important that you do your homework and choose one that ensures your child is stimulated and has opportunities for mental growth.”
Other questions for your checklist should include:
1. Does the child care center have an intentional, developmentally appropriate curriculum that is responsive to whole child development – social/emotional, cognitive and physical? 2. Does the child care center give you daily updates or send drawings home? 3. How accessible is the child care center to you? 4. Can you call and speak to the caregiver at any time during the day? 5. Can you view the child’s classroom on a video feed? 6. Are first-aid kits available? 7. Has a satisfactory criminal history background check been conducted on each adult present? 8. Is the outdoor play area safe place for children to play? 9. Is the number of children in each group limited? 10. Will I be welcome any time my child is in care?
“One of the most important things to occur in a child care setting is the connection between the teacher and the child,” Lucas said. “Quality child care teachers greet children warmly by name, get on their eye-level when talking to them, respond to the needs of children quickly and build a classroom community that gives each child a sense of belonging.”
Improving early childhood education opportunities is a priority in Fort Worth. Watch The Miles Foundation’s new video below to see the city of Fort Worth's emphasis on quality, early childhood education:
Many resources are available to help guide families on what to look for in terms of quality child care:
· Camp Fire First Texas is the local resource and referral agency for Cook Children’s six-county region. · To learn more about child care in Texas, visit the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. · Child Care Aware is a national resource and referral organization that helps parents find quality child care programs in their area.