YoungStar Officially Passes in Wisconsin!

Yesterday, June 23, the bi-partisan Joint Committee on Finance unanimously passed YoungStar, Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system. The committee approved full funding- $10 million- for the launching of the program. $5.6 million has been immediately provided to DCF and the additional $4.4 million has been set aside for DCF to request later. Full funding for YoungStar means more training and technical assistance for providers, more funding for scholarship and wage stipends for providers, an online system of ratings for parents to access, and quality improvements in child care especially for low-income children and families.

The committee approved the following measures (link to the complete document here):

*$3,000,000 for assessment and data collection. Programs would be assessed and information collected through regional organizations- who would be chosen beginning in October 2010. These organizations are required to collect data on the four sections of YoungStar- staff qualifications, learning environment and curriculum, professional practices, and health and wellness program aspects- as well as data on provider life experience and continuing education, participation of children with disabilities, and what providers believe they need in order to improve their programs.
*$500,000 in additional funding immediately for the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Wisconsin scholarship program and the R.E.W.A.R.D.™ Wisconsin stipend program for the 2010-2011 year.
*$1,500,000 in additional funding for training and technical assistance activities in 12 counties throughout the state.
*$616,900 for 3 full time positions and administrative costs to DCF to oversee and implement the program.
*$4,429,900 for micro-grants, additional training and technical assistance, and other costs. This pot of money would be allocated after DCF completes a 5-year plan- due November 2010- for YoungStar that must be approved by the Joint Committee on Finance.
*DCF must list all accredited providers on their website beginning July 1, 2010.

WECA is committed to providing accurate information and assistance on YoungStar to all early childhood professionals across the state. Please visit our resource page here or check out our webinars that describe each of the YoungStar sections here. These resources were created to help programs decide what they can do now to prepare for YoungStar ratings.

As the process unfolds, continue to follow WECA as we update you on trainings, assessment information, and any legislative changes. Training for programs going through YoungStar will be announced in our Professional Development eNews, so make sure you’re subscribed here.

Joint Finance Committee to Discuss YoungStar: URGENT Action Needed

Wisconsin’s Joint Finance Committee has set the date to discuss and decide the fate of the proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care providers, YoungStar. This meeting is NOT a public hearing– the public can attend to listen only. The meeting is set for: Wednesday, June 23 at 10 am.

The Department of Children and Families continues to respond to child care provider concerns with updates and improvements to the system. YoungStar is now stronger because of YOUR feedback- and it will continue to evolve in response to ideas from the field. Visit our website for more information, resources, and webinars on the program.

We need your help! Please contact your state Representative, Senator, and the two Joint Finance Co-Chairs- Senator Mark Miller and Representative Mark PocanTODAY.

Quality child care matters. Help us send a message by telling legislators:
• to support YoungStar, the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care, and
• to urge Joint Finance Committee members to vote for Alternative 1 (full funding and a phase-in approach) from the Legislative Fiscal Bureau’s May 24, 2010 paper on the section 13.10 request by the Department of Children and Families to fund their YoungStar plan.

Find out who your representatives are, and how to contact them, by clicking here and entering your mailing address. You can also call the Legislative hotline toll free at 1-800-362-9472.

Please join us for a final push in support of YoungStar and quality care for kids! The quality of care children receive has a huge and proven impact on their development and school-readiness. YOU can take a stand for quality by contacting your legislators and members of the Joint Finance Committee.

Did you miss our YoungStar informational webinar series? Do you want to watch it again?

Thank you to the approximately 500 viewers who participated in our YoungStar webinar series. If you missed any of the three events, or if you want to watch them again, we have posted links to each archived webinar on our website for you to view at your convenience! View one or more of these one-hour events to learn more about each of the four sections within YoungStar.

If you missed it live, one hour of continuing education credit will be accepted by the Registry for viewing each of these archived events. More information is posted on our website.

During the series we presented lots of great resources for providers in the field. We now have all of these resources listed on our YoungStar Resource Page. We hope these resources, and the webinars themselves, are informative and helpful.

Receive Licensing Updates as they Occur!

This past year has brought several legislative changes impacting child care providers in a variety of ways. In August 2009, the Jalen Knox-Perkins day care van alarm bill went into effect. This law mandates that a child safety alarm be placed in the rear of certain child care vehicles (see our previous blog post here). Act 76, or the caregiver background check law, went into effect February 1, 2010 across the state. The act 1) requires much more frequent criminal background checks for child care providers, 2) bans individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding a child care license, working in a child care facility, or living in a family child care home, and 3) requires the Department of Children and Families to suspend a provider’s license if they are charged with a serious crime and revoke the license if the provider is convicted of the crime (see our previous blog post here). In response to these laws, the Department of Children and Families will be releasing a newly revised set of rules for all child care providers in June.

To receive immediate, electronic notice when this newly revised regulation summary is released, and to receive notices about any future changes that affect the child care field, sign up here to join the Bureau of Early Care Regulation’s email list. Select “regulation and licensing memos” to receive emails notifying you to visit the Department of Children and Families website each time a new memo describing regulation and licensing changes is published (see previously released memos here). Providers will continue to receive paper copies of these memos each time there is a change, but the department is encouraging interested parties to sign-up for emails in case these memos are only distributed electronically in the future.

Watch and Learn with our YoungStar Informational Webinars!

Do you have questions about how YoungStar could affect your program? Do you want to learn more about how program ratings occur and how programs can advance their own quality? We cordially invite you to join us for a FREE informational webinar series on YoungStar, the proposed quality rating and improvement system for child care providers in Wisconsin. Experts in the field, family and group child care providers, and representatives from the Department of Children and Families will be on hand to discuss the system. View one or more of these one-hour events to learn more about each of the four sections within YoungStar. There will be time to address questions from viewers during each event.

We will be presenting the following webinar events:
Monday May 17, 1-2pm: Overview and Learning Environment & Curriculum section of YoungStar
Wednesday May 19, 1-2pm: Health & Wellness and Professional Practices sections of YoungStar
Wednesday May 26, 1-2pm: Staff Qualifications section of YoungStar

Sessions are free of charge but registration is required. Simply click here to register for one or more sessions. Once registered, a link will be sent to you for use on the day of the session.

*Note: WECA will be offering one-hour of continuing education credit through The Registry for participation in each these events.

DCF Responds to Questions on YoungStar

Since the January introduction of YoungStar-Wisconsin’s proposed quality rating and improvement system for child care- questions have been raised from child care providers across the state. Providers want to know more of the details within the program and want to know how it will affect their own programs. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been collecting these YoungStar related questions and has recently published a “frequently asked questions” section on their website. Examples of questions and answers on the website include:

Q: Will programs charge parents more if they are rated at a one or two star level?
A: No. Star ratings will not affect co-payments. Child care programs are owner operated, and programs set their own prices. The star rating will be an important marketing factor for child care programs, and parents are encouraged to choose programs that demonstrate quality practices and have earned points within the quality indicator areas identified.

Q: What can a program do to prepare for an observation rating?
A: Programs should examine their own quality through the use of a program self-assessment tool to identify the strengths of the child care program and areas that may need improvement. YoungStar quality indicator areas are: teacher/director/provider qualifications, the learning environment, professional practices, and the health and wellness of children. Star ratings, quality improvement plans, technical assistance consultation, and/or resource development will focus on these four key areas. Examples of program self-assessment tools can be found here, here or here.

Q: How is Regulatory Compliance defined?
A: A program will be considered to be in “regulatory compliance” unless there are at least two serious violations in the past 12 months. The Department will work with stakeholders to develop a “severity index” which clearly defines “serious violations.” Examples of serious violations could include: violations that endanger the safety of children, failure to conduct background checks, failure to report abuse or neglect of a child, and grossly exceeding the staff to child ratio.

These are only 3 of many questions addressed. To view the entire page, and see if your burning question(s) was answered, visit the site here. Still have a question? Let us know! We’ll answer it if we can and connect you to the correct contact person if we can’t.

Changes Made to YoungStar: Show your Support for this New Version

Changes to YoungStar
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been traveling across the state and meeting with many stakeholders about the proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care providers, YoungStar. In response to several child care provider concerns, they have made many updates and improvements to the system. WMELS, CSEFEL, and Strengthening Families trainings are now OPTIONAL points, CDAs have been added to the staff qualifications sections, and more options are available for programs to meet required points in every section. YoungStar is now stronger because of YOUR feedback- and it will continue to evolve as DCF responds to ideas from the field. Please review this new, updated breakdown of points by clicking here.

Take Action and Support YoungStar
Quality matters! The quality of care children receive has a huge and proven impact on their development and school-readiness. YOU can take a stand for quality by contacting your legislators in support of YoungStar, Wisconsin’s proposed QRIS. This is an opportunity to put the early education profession in its proper light, with the real story of its importance. The field is NOT all about fraud, nor is it about “babysitting” kids for money. Early education professionals are key to effective, high quality programs for Wisconsin’s young children. Please contact your state Representative and Senator TODAY and tell them to support YoungStar, the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care. Either call the Legislative hotline toll free at 1-800-362-9472 or send your representatives an email message. Find out who your legislators are by clicking here and entering your home address.

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) believes YoungStar will: improve the overall quality for children in child care, provide a tool for parents to identify and select quality child care, create incentives to improve services to low-income children, link quality to Wisconsin Shares payments, and provide a mechanism to further prevent fraud in the Wisconsin Shares program. Join us in support of YoungStar and quality care for kids.

Two More YoungStar Events in Milwaukee

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) has been traveling across the state and meeting with many stakeholders about the proposed Quality Rating and Improvement System for child care providers, YoungStar. In response, they have been making updates and improvements to the system.

Two more events will take place in Milwaukee this week. DCF staff and other community partners will discuss the program and hope to receive feedback from childcare providers. If you have questions or comments, please attend one of the following events:
Tuesday, March 23 from 6- 8 pm at Milwaukee Brotherhood of Firefighters Hall, 7717 West Good Hope Road
Wednesday, March 24 from 6- 8 pm at Milwaukee Public Schools Central Services Auditorium, 5225 West Vliet Street

RSVP to either event by emailing: michelle.warren@wisconsin.gov

Waiver Process in Response to Child Care Criminal Background Check Law

Since it was enacted in November 2009, Act 76 (or the caregiver background check law), has been met with mixed reactions from the child care field in Wisconsin. The bill- created to increase safety and decrease fraud within child care programs- went into effect February 1, 2010 across the state. The bill includes legislation that 1) requires much more frequent criminal background checks for child care providers, 2) bans individuals convicted of certain crimes from holding a child care license, working in a child care facility, or living in a family child care home, and 3) requires the Department of Children and Families to suspend a provider’s license if they are charged with a serious crime and revoke the license if the provider is convicted of the crime. The bill was passed unanimously in both houses.

When the bill was originally drafted, the list of crimes that would result in a permanent ban from the field was small and included first/second degree reckless or intentional homicide, kidnapping, and armed burglary. During the legislative process, several amendments were approved and additional crimes now carry a permanent ban for licensees or certified providers only. These crimes are broad and include identity theft, felony forgery, felony retail theft, and felony cable theft. As a result, some providers in the field are losing their licenses for nonviolent crimes that they committed many years ago (see article here). DCF has stated that, as of now, 31 licenses have been revoked or surrendered because of Act 76.

Representative Tamara Grigsby, one of the original co-sponsors of the bill, is currently in the process of creating waiver legislation that if passed would allow providers who are affected by Act 76 to apply for a waiver from DCF under certain circumstances (especially for financial related crimes that currently hold a permanent bar). There will hopefully be a public hearing on this legislation by the end of March. Click here to watch Representative Grigsby discuss this issue on Wisconsin Public Television’s Here and Now series. Keep checking our blog for updates on this waiver bill.

Milwaukee Child Care Summit Announced

The Unity Caucus and Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) recently announced a child care summit in part to address concerns that the child care community has raised in response to changes in background checks, Wisconsin Shares, and quality ratings. According to a press release sent from Senator Taylor’s office:

“The summit will offer advice ranging from how to open a day care center to questions about receiving micro-loans. In addition, information about Wisconsin Act 76, the recent changes to the Wisconsin Shaves Program, will be shared and discussed…The event seeks to teach individuals the inner workings of an audit and what one must do during the procedure. Questions will also be answered about any possible issues or concerns one might have about child care centers and how to use the proposed YoungStar system.”

Experts will be available to answer questions and will include Secretary Reggie Bicha, Joyce Mallory (executive director of the Malaika Early Learning Center), a representative of Jo’s Daycare Academy, and attorney Felicia Miller Watson.

The summit will take place on Saturday February 27th between 9 am and 1 pm at the Greater New Birth Church, 2207 West Center Street. For more information, you can contact Senator Taylor at 608.266.5810.