Wolf Administration Launches Revisions to Early Learning Provider Program

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The Department of Human Services (DHS), joined by advocates and providers, announced revisions Monday to Pennsylvania’s early child care and education programs.

DHS says the revisions will reduce barriers for child care providers to participate in and earn quality ratings through the Keystone Standards, Training/Professional Development, Assistance, Resources and Support (STARS) program, allowing more Pennsylvania families opportunities to access high-quality services.

Keystone STARS promotes quality improvement among child care and other early childhood education programs through quality standards and targeted supports. Programs currently earn a STAR 1 through STAR 4 rating, with STAR 4 being the highest and most rigorous quality designation, by meeting standards for staff education and professional development, the early learning environment, family engagement practices, and business management. Keystone STARS serves children from birth through school age in every county.

Changes to the Keystone STARS program will go into effect August 1, 2017.

“The Department is thrilled to launch the revisions to the Keystone STARS program. Our hope is that these changes will alleviate administrative burdens to child care programs, and allow providers to be acknowledged for the quality programs they have developed while setting a threshold for all child care programs to adhere to,” said DHS Deputy Secretary for the Office of Childhood Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) Suzann Morris. “Most importantly, it will allow providers to spend more time nurturing and caring for the children in their care.”

The new STARS Performance Standards focus on practices that impact quality services for children and families. The improvements to the program include:

– All licensed child care providers with a full certificate of compliance will be at least a STAR 1 facility;

– Approximately 50 percent fewer quality indicators, meaning less paperwork for providers;

– Performance standards that are achievable and meaningful to programs; and

– Built-in flexibility with choice for providers.

How will this impact child care providers?

Providers not currently participating in Keystone STARS: 

• All child care providers with a full certificate of compliance will automatically be awarded a STAR 1. Child care providers will not have to complete any additional paperwork to receive a STAR 1.

• These providers will now have access to many resources, including support to help the program earn a higher STAR rating, both through people and financial resources, scholarships for staff to earn college credits and degrees, and recognition that the program is a healthy and safe environment for children. STAR 1 Providers

• Base level, showing provider is DHS certified and meets general health and safety requirements • No longer receive a Daily Quality Add-On for children who participate in Child Care Works subsidy payment

STAR 2 Providers:

• Will continue to receive a Daily Quality Add On* for children who participate in Child Care Works

• Ability to apply for a Family Child Care Home or Center/Group Merit Award

STAR 3 & 4 Providers:

• Increased Daily Quality Add-On for children who participate in Child Care Works

• Ability to apply for a Family Child Care Home Merit Award or Education and Retention Award All DHS fully certified programs will now be at least a STAR 1, but programs can choose to move forward to a higher STAR level.

Benefits to obtaining a STAR 2 level or higher include Daily Quality Add-Ons, and potential eligibility to receive Merit Awards and Education and Retention Awards. “With these changes, the administration’s goal is for every family in the commonwealth to have access to a high-quality program that provides their children with the tools necessary to succeed in the future,” said Morris.

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