The missing link to child care quality: Compensation

As of  January 1, 2013, child care programs designated as “5-star” programs with Wisconsin’s new YoungStar quality rating system got a boost of up to a 25% higher reimbursement rate for low income families on the Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy program.  If you’re like me, your first thought might be, “Wow, that’s a really big jump and if they’ve already reached 5 stars they probably have more resources than my program has ever had!  We need to focus on bringing the rest of us up; we’re really trying but need more help and money to get there…”

My second thought, however, is: “Congratulations 5-star programs. You’re paving the way for the rest of us and leading us toward where we need to be.”  All of us, regardless of star level, need to acknowledge that it not only takes money to get to high quality, but it will take money to stay there!  Sustaining our quality improvement efforts will be our on-going challenge.

For most programs, certainly for 5-star programs, the biggest investment so far has been in staff education, and if a program does not have the resources to retain its well-educated staff, it can quickly drop from a 5-star status.  Despite more than a decade of research that links compensation to child care quality, public policy has produced little in terms of a solution. Perhaps we’ve just landed on a policy that actually impacts compensation!

What do you think? Could YoungStar be part of the solution to low wages in our field? We’d love to hear your comments.

This blog post is the first in a series of three posts authored by Peggy Haack, WECA Staff and former coordinator of the National Worthy Wage Campaign, Center for the Child Care Workforce.


36 thoughts on “The missing link to child care quality: Compensation

  1. As a family provider, an 25% increase in W2 payments isn’t worth a whole lot. I suppose there’s some providers out there that service only those on WI Shares but I don’t have any. That means no increase in pay for me from the YoungStar program. Centers benefit the most here with volume and more children on W2 enrolled.

    I’ve had 1 or 2 on W2 in the past, but the last ones I had on the program took a long time to get an authorization and our local office wasn’t too interested in working with me, the provider. No helpful information or advice on pending authorizations or ways that we could help the family. They couldn’t meet copays and it wasn’t worth my time.

    YoungStar is great but I can’t afford to hire an employee to to help me meet requirements. Sure I want to be a 4 or 5 star but it’s a lot of work for one person with no/little increase in pay. It’s nearly impossible for me to “do it all” and yet I’m trying. Yes I can raise my rates and just did but now we’ll see if I can get families who not only see the value in the quality of care/teaching I’m proving but are also willing and able to pay for it.

  2. I TOTALLY agree with slransom…and would like to add… I have 2 children that are W2 …from the same family… I am only one person here as well taking the time to teach and feed the children and also taking the time to give each one individual attention! I Love every one of my little Buddies here and we work hard daily learning and doing projects as well as learning how to be a group of friends that treat each other with Respect and kindness. Some days can get a little crazy but mostly I LOVE WHAT I DO! I am a 2 star Provider because I also see no benefit in going higher. This is the first w2 family I have had since I opened in 2005… I Work hard Everyday…and havn’t raised my rates since I opened my daycare in 2005. Why havn’t I raised the rates? Because I feel for a parent trying to find and pay for childcare while they go off to work and have to pay 157.50 a week per child. I give discounts for 2 children but really…$157.50 a week… thats $630.00 a month and when they have 2 children it is almost $1,200.00 a Month! So I try to keep it affordable! I find it “VERY DISSAPOINTING” …that I do all this work…teaching and caring for “ALL” the children that I have ….I also feed the children nutritious meals within the guideline of the State Food Program and How am I Rewarded for that ….I get a percent taken out of each 2 week check that I get from the W2 state WI Shares check for Childcare! I cannot become a 5 star provider I dont have the time …Im busy caring for the children! I can understand if you want to GIVE a BONUS or INCENTIVE to providers that are “5 star”! I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHY WE ARE PENALIZED AND DEDUCTED INCOME WE RIGHTLY DESERVE AND WORK HARD FOR IF WE ARE NOT “A 5 STAR PROVIDER” for the W2 Children we take in! This whole issue Really upsets me! When I get my check for the 2 W2 children and it shows a Deduction of $30.00 because I am only a “2 Star Provider” it Irratates me to No End! This is sooooo Unfair to us Family Childcare Providers that work Hard Everyday to make a Difference in Childrens Lives!!!!!! My Career is the Most Rewarding Career I could have ever chose …This “5 star” Program makes it so unfair that someone Judges the Rewards and Takes away a Rightfully Earned Income!!! Reward those above but why TAKE AWAY????!!!!!

  3. I agree with the statements above. I feel that quality programing is very important and some programs do need government agencys to help them acheive that, but not all. Some of us want to have quality regardless. But, quality can be defined many different ways. Some of the expectations of young star are completely unrealistic for small centers. We are a church run center that can’t afford to pay health benefits or dental for all staff. The thing that I feel stongly needs to be changed is the wording in the paid time off. The way it was stated for this year was that all lead teachers must have 18 paid days off in the first year of employement. Really?? How many big companies offer that many paid days off in the first year. Usually an employee has to work for a year and then start getting vacation or sick days. My cneter offers 8 paid holidays in the first year and then give a week of vacation and sick days after the first year of employment.
    The second thing that needs to change is education level. I do strongly believe in staff having a good education. I have 8 of my 16 staff with a BS. But, education is not the end all cure all. I had a toddler teacher with a BS in EC and she was one of the worst teachers I have ever had. She tought it was OK to sit around and socialize all day and “Babysit”. I fired her and hired a lady who doesn’t have all of the education but has 20 years of experience. She is outstanding!! YoungStar needs to not only look at the education of the teacher but also the experience and quality work of that teacher.
    I also don’t have very many families that have assistance. The rating doesn’t really help me financially. I just feel it is imporant to have a quality program and I feel perspective parents will look at that quality rating and think that we are not quality if don’t have a higher number. It puts bad light on quality centers who don’t have all of the funding and resourses to put in to it to achieve a high rating.

  4. Like anything, YoungStar has good (not many) and bad points. Like the replies above, we can not afford to send people back to school to get their BS and honestly, I do not want to go back to school to get mine. I did however, take the Admin. Creditials and passed but guess what, does not matter. YoungStar will not use any of it. I am not listed in a classroom as the lead teacher ( I am the asst. director) and I don’t get counted for that, only the director. So as far as I am concerned, I spent all that time getting more education and for what? I may not have a BS but I am VERY good at my job and I do not need a piece of paper telling me that.

  5. I am a two star provider because I do not have a college degree. I will never have more than two stars because I have to pay for my children’s education, I do not have money left over to pay to “continue” my own. I have learned a lot in my 21 years working with children. The way Youngstar is currently set up, I will rate the same as an 18 year old high school graduate with no babysitting experience, who signs a piece of paper promising to do a good job. Parents looking for child care…. do you want the best for your children? of course they do! who is going to settle for a 2 star child care provider? Everyone is going to want a 5 star program for their children. It sounds better. these parents probably won’t even call the two star providers because the way things are worded, we only do the minimum required work… far from it!!! I go above and beyond everyday. The big centers have employees! (5 stars)I have ME. that is all, and that is everything. ME.(2 stars)

  6. I’m very pleased to see that there is an abundance of people who feel the same as I. I’m in agreeance with all comments above.
    Us being label as a 2 star childcare center do turn parents away. Thankfully a lot of our parents are referred to us by word of mouth.

    • It is not just the two stars but how the state has spoken about two star centers- as if they should all be closed. Comments made by the top people at the state show that they really don’t understand the primary exsistance for childcare- to provide care while parents are working. The second part of that is to provide care parents can AFFORD. In our area so many centers have colsed family and group that I am waiting for something to happen to a child in a unlicensed center. But of course the headline wiill be “child hurt in daycaare” with no mention that it was an unlicensed center. We are the only group left in our COUNTY.

  7. I agree with all. I work at a center (owned by a church) and we are not a 5 star nor will we be. I know that there are provides both family and center that have made it bad for the rest of us but this has got to change.

  8. I agree with all of you above. Youngstar has some good and bad points and the increase of money is helping no one. Even if you get the 500 from Youngstar they don’t send it to you unless you pay for the accreditation or buy someting for your center. I want the money sent to the NAFCC Accreditation so I don’t have to come up with the 900 myself which I don’t have. Now our police deptmts are charging for fingerprints, you pay the FBI for a report and the list goes on. They want money we don’t have yet they want us to better ourselves and prove we are high quality.

    • Our cost just to stay in business has increased twofold over the last three years. Youngstar money is hardly worth the effort. They have narrowed down what it can be used for and where you can spend it that it has made it a joke. Youngstar keeps adding training that “surpise -surprise” only they can give and then charge for it. If you want the money to count- let me use it to give my staff a raise or at least a bonus.

  9. WOW – All of these comments hit the nail on the head. The 5 star program is very hard for a family child care provider to get. We are the only person here consistently for these children. We cook for them, we clean for them, we teach them and work with all of the parents. I have families that are here that speak mostly Spanish, so understanding them and the children is sometimes hard. The only English that the children have learned is from me. I have learned the translations for the Spanish words so that I can teach the children the English word. What appreciation is given for doing this – why a 5% decrease in pay! I work with the kids on art, math, science, large and small motor skills, language, cooking, etc. We make our parents gifts for holidays and these are not just things made out of paper! I buy miniature Christmas trees, lights and ornaments for the children to decorate, flowers for Mother’s Day, cookies cakes and breads to take home, and have even worked with the kids and the families all take home a whole meal! These are not things that are recognized by the state, but just by the families whose children we provide care for. And for all that I do, I get 5% of my wages deducted! I am in business for myself. I do not receive PAID vacation days, PAID holidays, 401K, SICK days, INSURANCE or any other benefits that some get. Is it worth it for me to go back to school to earn a degree that would probably cost me more money and years to get for something extra that I MIGHT get?! Each year we continue to get our hours needed for licensing,pay for this ourselves and get deducted 5% for this. How unfair!

  10. My center is involved with YS and currently has a two star rating. We are working toward a three star but unfortunately, unless I quit as a director we cannot get above a three star because I do not have a degree and at 50+ years, it would not be worthwhile for me to do so. With YS I believe the cart was definitely put before the horse. For a field that strives to encourage positive behaviors by encouragement and praise with children, we did not do it at all with the childcare professionals! Instead we just punished them by taking away $ if they did not comply with additional requirements. This is pretty sad. I have been fortunate to work in childcare in another state that needed to improve the quality of their care. This state, rather than punishing providers that did not increase their quality, offered incentives to encourage them to do so. Family and group programs were on waiting lists to get involved…they couldn’t wait! Surprise, surprise their quality as assessed through ITERS & ECERS was greatly improved AND the providers were tickled pink. In the same respect, the state also invested more in licensing staff to address those programs that were not in compliance with regulations. Basically bad programs were shut down and good programs were rewarded. Too bad this model was not considered or offered.

    As far as YS paving a path to higher compensation…unless there is a major shift in employer practices I sincerely doubt it. Programs can increase rates to try to cover some of the new costs but at least in our area, we will loose families because they cannot afford it. I know for a fact that wages have either stayed the same or decreased for the last 4 years. Many families have lost all or most of their benefits. If we ask them for more it may be a choice between paying for food, housing or childcare. What is happening in my area is that since YS came in effect we have had 2 centers close and many families going to unregulated care. Not sure how that is helping improve quality.

    It does make me sad that once again the cost of childcare is paid predominantly by the early childhood professional. Many of us that have been in the field for years will stay in it because it is a calling…a life work. I worry that the next generation may not have the willingness or desire to have their family bear the financial burden of raising the next generation through low wages and little recognition by society. What will happen then?

    If at any time the powers that be would consider revising the current YS system to a more positive, encouraging model I would be glad to assist in any way I can. With 30+ years in the field I may have a little insight that would be helpful. I have offered before and will continue to do so as I do want to be part of the solution, not just a complainer.

  11. We are a group center in rural Wiscocnsin. Altthough we have the same expenses, the same requirementts we get paid already more than 50% less than most areas. We have not had a “raise ” in what childcare assistance pays in over 5 years. We are a three star center and could be a 4 star but the added cost for my parents will not justify the added cost to move up. Three star centers are above the average. Being average is not a terrible thing. Two stars should be (as it was proposed and marketed) the average with no decrease in assistance.
    I believe that should be two main changes in childcare assistance
    1. Equalize payments across the board.
    2. Go back to the origiinal plan- Two stars meaning you are meeting all the requirements and should be paid the going rate. Three stars – above the regured should get an increase and 4 and 5 stars get more.

  12. I am not complaining I am just fed up and tired. Tired of doing something I love and tired of working two jobs to live. I make just as much at my part time job than I do at my full time child care job. If YS keeps going the way they are, centers and family care will have to do one of two things: raise rates, or close.

    • Wow…I’m so glad others feel the same way I do about youngstar! What a complete waste of time and money! Hey, here’s a thought, how about improving on the existing licensing program already in place. In my opinion all youngstar has done is put additional financial and paperwork stress onto already struggling programs , their teachers, and directors!!!!!!

  13. Good thoughts Lisa, Sue and everyone else! I agree if we just would have enforced the existing licensing regulations YS & all the additional state funding that was needed to do would be eliminated. That would save everyone $.

    I did not mean to offend anyone by insinuating they were complaining….only speaking about myself. I do wish there was a way though that the average person could get their voices heard more at the state level. We have extensive experience and great ideas! We could not have remained in the field for this long without it…you need to look “outside the box” constantly. Any ideas short of a letter campaign to our representatives, etc. I personally have spoken with our Lieutenant Governor on the subject but never even received a follow up e-mail about the conversation after I sent her one thanking her for the opportunity.

    By the way thanks for listening…we need to support each other as we go through these difficult times.

    • Double WoW!!!

      I am so encouraged to find that you all feel the same why about YS that I do. It is a great concept, but poorly implemented. It should not be punitive, but reward programs for doing great things. Dawn, what state where you in that did this?? I would like to see how their system was set up.

      The importance of what we do for children has been demonstrated over and over. The Wisconsin Policy Research Institute WPRI has a paper out that proves the economic importance of Child Care in Wis. It sites every $1 spent on early education returns $16 to the state by the time the child has grow. Check it out and see what they have to say.

      I very much agree that an education does not make a great Teacher, but a great teacher is enhanced by education. With TEACH these Teachers, Family Providers can choose to get help with a degree, but big deal…they won’t get more money!!! I have a bachelor degree in business and could still make more at McDonald’s working the line.

      I agree every time we turn around the state has more and more requirements for us to comply with and NO money to do it with. Enough! We all need to contact our legislators and tell them exactly what we feel about YoungStar and only getting paid for children on Shares, who need it, but what about the rest of the children we care for, they need high quality care too.

      Make you voice heard loud and clear. Family or Group we need all forms of child care in Wisconsin to keep the economy going. And the families of Wisconsin need child care to be the highest quality we can give them. But who is going to pay the cost? Families? Providers? or the state?

      My other complaint is the money YoungStar is saving by not paying 1 star providers and the 5% taken from 2 star providers, this should go back to the Shares families. We are looking at thousands of dollars weekly that is being saved. Even taking into consideration the dollars paid to 4 and 5 star centers,which is only a small portion of the money.

      DCF says that they can’t change the payment for 2 star centers to return it to the original “no change” in payment that the 3 stars now get. But I find that hard to believe when they can change wording from “5 star center will receive a 25% increase”, to “5 star centers will receive UP TO 25%” which gives them the right to pay what they want. So change the wording to be 2 star centers receive “as low as 5% less” and allow for some increase to the centers they say “need the most help to improve”. DCF but your money were you mouth is.

      Again contact you legislator and DCF and the Governor and let them know how you feel about YoungStar. It will not survive without increased money to the providers no matter what star level they are.

      It feels good to vent!!!!

      • It was in Iowa. Their childcare was labeled one of the worst in the country before they started. Not sure of the status now as I moved from there about 4 years ago but I was the CCRR director there and the centers & family providers loved it!

  14. I have enjoyed working with the YS consultant. I have learned a lot. The more we encourage sharing the more we all continue to grow and do better more efficiently and effectively. I don’t agree everyone needs a BS. Education is not the answer. I believe it is more about what we are doing. Even if you do not have the BS there should be an evaluation to see if you are doing great things and are you continuing to grow with the times. In my 25+ years in early childhood I have seen things change from being important to now this is a better way. I cannot teach an old dog to nurture but I can teach a nurturer how to grow with lesson plans, developmentally appropriate practices, etc. YS has the right idea. It just needs to be tweaked. In a large child care center all it takes is one staff member to leave and we drop down our rating. It happens to all of us. I have staff that have been teaching for 20+ years. They want to go home at the end of their day and be with their families. Isn’t that what we tell our parents “spend time with your children”. Yet we tell our staff to not spend time with their family but be gone and get more education. Does not make sense to me.

  15. wow, i can see that many of us have the same view. I am a small 3 star center who while i am striving for 4 stars, the education component will take time and money. i will never be 5 star because of the educational requirements. If I pay for accrediation i can get 5 star but that to is expense. I agree there are some areas that need to be tweeked and 2 star centers should not be penelized. I am having trouble paying my staff now, with higher education comes higher pay and how do we do that

    • One of the other discriminatory practices of YS is that they want centers to only hire or maintain persons who have a college background. Well, we all know that people with money get to go to college and those without stay in their poor neighborhoods. It is another form of discriminatory bias against the person who wants to get ahead because the employer must first look at the higher education if they want to be the twinkle in the eye of ys. I want to help people with employment and then allow them to further their education but I’m penalized for reaching out a helping hand. Young Star has a lot of growing to do before they achieve a 5 star rating! And I don’t like that they do it on the backs of providers. The way they are presenting things makes it look like the profession was low low low until they came along and lifted it up. I hope they get to progressing themselves for awhile before they keep trying to push their agenda on others.

      • YS is always changing and the only way we as providers know what is going on is to constantly check there web site to see what has been updated and what has stayed the same. As far as the professional and the degree, I get it. But where’s the money to pay these professionals?? One without the other doesn’t work. No matter how much I enjoy children and love to watch the excitment on their face when they descover something new.


  16. Absolutely correct. YoungStar has not been effective and refuses to listen to most of our issues. Not only did they not listen but the piled school-age requirements on our workload. Frustrating.

    • Many of the reguirements took to much away from what my staff needed to be doing. we have always done portfokios (yes, even before it was mandated from YS). But the time needed to do them -THEIR way was ridiiculous. The same for observations, and other components of the newer requirements for YS. The schoolage area is just plain crazy- we have the children 4-5 hours a week but the paperwork they wanted took 6-8 hours- when would my staff spend time with the kids?

  17. It is nice to see that we all feel pretty much the same way about YS. It is just frustrating and it is wearing me down to the point where I just don’t want to do it anymore which is to bad because I am good at what I do and the only ones that are going to suffer are the children. So thanks YS 😦

    • sue, I couldn’t agree more. we are struggling as it is with the day to day operations of the program; staff turn-over is a huge problem for us right now. Then, you have all the youngstar requirements to stay on top of…there simply is not enough time in the day!!! I too have felt like hanging it all up…it’s become so challenging and stressful.

  18. I feel the same way as thoses other child care providers why should we have to pay because we are 2 stars day care Ireally don t real that it is right at all so stop taking the money that we work so hard for an mean we really work hard thank you Miss Squeaky

  19. I feel the same that YS is not what it appears to be. Think of it in a different light, children and families who are not on subsidy childcare programs, only pay the going rate. It is discrimination against hard working families, the center where the family may try to get in would prefer a family that takes subsidies because the center will get more money than helping hard working families. You want to increase your bottom line then join Ys and say NO to working families. No bonus comes with them. Discrimination. It is not required to join YS. Have one voice and say NO to YS.

  20. The question we were asked to respond to is whether or not we think YoungStar could be part of the solution to low wages in our field. That’s a hard question to answer but I’ve have heard from five star programs that phones calls for new child care families are on the rise. Kuddos to al the 5 star programs! I can honestly say I am only a 2 star but looking forward to moving up the star rating. My philosophy is that when it comes to running a quality program and caring for children we need to be on our “A” game. I love a challenge and was blessed with an amazing Youngstar representative who encourages me all the way. The bottom line is that licensing and Youngstar are there for our benefit and the families we serve. I want the kind of accountability they both offer. Yes word of mouth is wonderful but in this generation parents are looking for any kind of affirmation that we are keeping up with the times. I understand that change is hard and having been in this profession for over 20 years I feel your frustration, but keeping it positive goes a long way. Being part of the solution and not a part of the problem keeps us professional.

    • What you are saying is that you believe you have been performing below average or acceptable levels. You belive that you deserve to be paid less for the work you do? The next step might be for Youngstar to take back money they paid you in the past. That is what YS is saying. Two star centers are not a good place to send your children.. And the increase in calls may simply be do the large number of centers (family and group) that are CLOSING. I have never had a parent ask what star we are. And we are a 3 star center.

  21. What is the compensation for people who run a great program and also have a 5 star rating but don’t have the demographics that include low income families using Wisconsin Shares?

  22. I am proud to be a Licensed Child Care Provider in the State of Wisconsin with over 20 years of child care experience. I am part of the YoungStar Program…currently holding a 2-Star Rating of which is spoken so poorly of. 20 Years ago, I started my child care business to do just that…”care for children”. I did not aspire to be a preschool “teacher”, a kindergarden “teacher”, or a first grade “teacher”…but someone to care and love children when their parents couldn’t be with them. As a bonus to the over 60 children I have “cared for” during those 20+ years, they learned their colors, numbers, letters, early reading, writing, and social skills (to list a few)…all through simply playing. If I was to be rated on the quality “CARE” I’ve provided these children with over the years and then added all the extra’s…I wonder how many “Stars” I’d receive then. I simply refuse to be part of the statistic that “85% of the (Wisconsin) state-subsidized child care center’s” are either “fair, mediocre or poor”! Before YoungStar, I was a Licensed Child Care Provider with 20 years of experience and a Waiting List that was a result of that experience. Now, I’m rated with a “2”. If I was looking at a resort to stay at while on vacation, I wouldn’t even consider looking at a resort with a 2-star rating. Without many of us “2’s”, many Wisconsin children wouldn’t have been as loved and cared for nor would they be where they are today.

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