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United Way sponsors pilot program for rating childcare

Linda Lembke announces Thursday at the United Way in Fargo the launching of a new pilot program that will rate daycares and child care providers in the Fargo-Moorhead area. The Quality Rating and Improvement System is the first of its kind in North Dakota. David Samson/The Forum

Discerning parents may soon have an easier way to find quality child care in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The United Way of Cass-Clay announced Thursday, Nov. 12, its plan to launch in January a Quality Rating and Improvement System pilot project for child care assessment.

The QRIS is a "quality program that goes above and beyond standards," said Ruby Kolpack, a child care licensing specialist with Cass County Social Services.

"Quality child care equals success for children," she said.

It is the first such program in North Dakota, which will join the ranks of 19 other states that either have fully implemented the program or are starting pilots of their own.

Moorhead, Minn.-based Prairies Community Action Agency Child Care Resource and Referral, which received a $135,000 grant from United Way, will kick off the QRIS pilot program.

According to the United Way, QRIS is a program that provides opportunities and incentives to child care providers and assists them in providing quality and enriching environments for children. Each participating child care site is reviewed on a regular basis and is graded using a rating system.

Linda Lembke, director of Child Care Resources and Referral, explained that there are five components to the QRIS program: standards, monitoring and accountability, program and practitioner support, fiscal incentives, and parent and consumer education.

Home-based and center-based child care providers will receive grants ranging from $2,000 to $12,000 as incentives to support and keep quality care.

Providers will then be rated on a scale of one to five stars, allowing parents to get a basic idea of the quality of child care given.

The United Way's sponsoring of the pilot program was spurred by North Dakota legislation last session in which Bill 1418 was passed supporting an increase in training and recruiting for child care workers, but that did not include a rating system.

"We are delighted to be investing in this pilot," said Judy Green, United Way of Cass-Clay president.