Monday, July 16, 2007

Making the Grade: Child Care Centers in Los Angeles

While we're not currently in need of child care, we don't know what the future holds. Besides, I'm always on the lookout for interesting and progressive programs that exist to help families in an era when being disconnected from family is so routine. In Los Angeles in particular, so many residents are transplants. A city like this needs as many resources as possible.

The Santa Monica Daily Press reported that Los Angeles County will begin a pilot program in 9 select cities in which a trained researcher will assess the quality of service of each provider and make that information available on the Web to parents. Steps to Excellence Program (STEP), similar in concept to the county's restaurant rating system, intends to measure the following 6 areas:

-Regulatory Compliance
-Teacher/Child Relationships
-Learning Environment
-Identification and Inclusion of Children with Special Needs
-Staff Qualifications and Working Conditions
-Family and Community Connections

The county's goals are to:

-Provide parents with clear, concise information on the quality of individual child care settings
-Create incentives and supports for programs to meet and maintain higher program standards
-Distinguish programs that are meeting these higher standards
-Provide benchmarks to determine if the quality of care in individual programs or communities is improving over time

The pilot phase, which began June 22, 2007, will last 3 years and is both free and voluntary. At an estimated annual cost of $500K, the program will begin posting results on their website in January 2008. They hope to recruit 200+ child care centers and 400 family child care homes in the following communities:

-Long Beach
-Santa Monica

Locally, Connections for Children, a non-profit resource and referral agency, will pilot the Santa Monica centers. So if you live or work in the area, you should consider contacting them for further information and assistance.