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Date Posted: 11/09/2020

DHS Celebrates 10 Years of Major Effort to Improve Quality of Child Care in Arkansas

For Immediate Release:

Media Contacts: 

Amy Webb
Chief of Communications

Marci Manley
Deputy Chief of Communications


DHS Celebrates 10 Years of Major Effort to Improve Quality of Child Care in Arkansas

Better Beginnings rating program has expanded high-quality care options for families; additional levels being esablished for continued growth


(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) --- High quality child care and early education set the stage for how well our children learn, how they think of themselves, and how they interact with their world. Research shows that about 90 percent of brain development happens in the first five years of life. That’s why 10 years ago Arkansas created Better Beginnings, a quality rating and improvement system for child care and early childhood programs, giving parents a tool to find high-quality care and setting higher expectations for child care centers and homes.

“A decade of higher-quality child care means so much not just for families but the overall Arkansas economy.  Nobel prize winning economist James Heckman and others have done a great deal of research to show a significant return on investment in high-quality early childhood programs,” said Tonya Williams, Director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE). “I am thankful that Arkansas is focused on improving quality and investing in our youngest citizens.”

Better Beginnings, created in 2010, established a 1, 2, and 3-star rating system using evidence-based criteria. It also has helped educate Arkansas families on the importance of quality child care by encouraging a “Learning Through Play” approach. 

Since Better Beginnings was created, the number of quality child care and early childhood programs in Arkansas has doubled – from 670 to 1,346. Out of 1,989 licensed programs, 67 percent participate in Better Beginnings and 690 have the highest quality 3-star rating.  

Particularly important, Williams said, is that all children in Arkansas who participate in the federal child care assistance program for low-income and working families – about 19,000 in 2019 -- are now in a Better Beginnings program compared to only about two percent 10 years ago.

There also are multiple tools, like a child care checklist, to help parents choose child care as well as a family resource library that holds over 40 hands-on math, science, and literacy activity resources for families – each of which is available in Spanish and English versions. There also are resources to support  social/emotional development for children up to age five.

Williams said DHS is now working to expand Better Beginnings to encourage continued improvement and recognize programs achieving high quality. DCCECE, working with many partners, has established criteria for additional quality levels to celebrate the programs who have gone above and beyond the current quality levels. A pilot program for these new levels, comprised of about 15 programs, will begin in early 2021. The results from this pilot will be reviewed, and any needed enhancements will be made before rolling out the new quality levels statewide.

“We are very proud of the progress we’ve made in helping Arkansas children and families access quality child care in their communities,” she said. “But I’m even more excited about the future of the program and our efforts to create some of the best early childhood programs in the country to help children develop optimally.”

To learn more about the Better Beginnings program or get more information about the tools and resources available to Arkansas families through Better Beginnings, visit https://arbetterbeginnings.com/.

To download video footage from some of our Better Beginnings child care and early childhood education providers, click here


Arkansas Department of Human Services
Arkansas Department of Human Services

Arkansas Department
of Human Services
(501) 682-1001

TTY: 1-800-285-1131 or dial 711 for Arkansas Relay Service

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