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You WonDate: 05/31/2016
For some, child care just means day care – a place for children to stay and play while parents are at work. But Tonya Williams, who oversees early childhood education and regulation for the state of Arkansas, saw the potential for it to be so much more.
“We now know, based on research, that a great deal of really important brain development happens during those first five years of life – before children are ‘officially’ in school,” said Williams, whose title is Director of the state’s Department of Human Services (DHS) Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. “We wanted children to have a better beginning to their education.”
So Williams and her team created the Better Beginnings program, a Quality Rating and Improvement System that is voluntary for licensed early childhood education and child care centers that serve children from birth through at least age five. It is mandatory for other programs, such as those that receive state funding for pre-k classes. Federally-funded Head Start programs have included participation in Better Beginnings as one of its strategic goals in Arkansas as well. Better Beginnings sets the stage for how well our children learn, how they think of themselves and how they interact with their world.
When it started in 2010, the number of children considered to be in higher-quality child care in Arkansas was 49,856.
Today, that number is 108,563.
Williams said the state is now working to expand the program even more because “all children deserve the chance to build a strong foundation for learning early in life.”
The program rates child care centers with 1, 2 or 3 stars based on several things, including:
- Education of employees
- The learning environment for children
- A curriculum, even for infants and toddlers
Within 18-24 months, DHS hopes to begin the process of expanding to 4-stars and 5-stars for facilities that exceed DHS requirements.
If you’re a provider or parent, follow this link to learn more about the program: http://arbetterbeginnings.com/. You can find the curriculum and helpful tips like how to choose a daycare and how to keep your child healthy.