Q&A: Family child care provider, Xochitl Ortega on Wisconsin State Journal child care cover story

The following Q&A is in response to the Special Report on Child Care two-part cover story (read: pt.1, pt. 2) published by the Wisconsin State Journal.

ImageXochitl Ortega is a bilingual family child care provider and a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipient. She owns X’s and O’s Educational Child Care, an Accredited 5-star rated program, in Milwaukee, WI. She is also a member of the the T.E.A.C.H. & REWARD Steering Committee and a board member of the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association. She is active in the Wisconsin Early Learning Coalition and the West Allis Family Child Care Association Support Group, and serves as an Ambassador for The Registry. She received her associate’s degree from Northwest Technical College in Green Bay and is completing her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Q: We know you’ve been a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipient. Tell us a little about your T.E.A.C.H. experience. What advice do you have for any child care providers thinking about applying for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship? Continue reading

WECA’s Ruth Schmidt in Cap Times: “Raise WI Shares payments”

The Capital Times ran a letter to the editor this weekend from WECA Executive Director, Ruth Schmidt, in response to the “Give all 4-year-olds a chance” Op-Ed by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

In the letter, Schmidt also responded to State Senator Julie Lassa’s recent statement on Wisconsin Shares payments, “The problem we see, and that she [Sen. Lassa] echoes, is that child care providers receiving Shares payments are being financially penalized as they work to grow their program’s quality rating through Youngstar. We believe raising the Shares rate by 7 percent is a smart move with long-term benefits.”

Click here to read the full letter.

What do you think? Is raising the Wisconsin Shares rate by 7% a good move for child care? Leave us your comments below…

Thanks to all who’ve responded to “the missing link” posting.

Thanks to all who’ve responded to “missing link” posting. It has sparked lively discussion. Despite a variety of perspectives, it’s important to name the common goal we all share:  We all strive for quality because we value children, their families, and the important work we do.  So, let’s keep the dialog open and let’s explore solutions to challenges, but let’s also celebrate the tremendous gains we have made to improve child care quality.

A few highlights:


  • 3 out of 4 family child care providers in Wisconsin participate in a Food Program – funded by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.  WECA alone processes almost $400,000 in claims monthly.


  • Annually, Wisconsin allocates $4M to T.E.A.C.H. scholarships that provide accessible and affordable education for child care providers and to REWARD stipends.
  • 1,100 child care providers participate in T.E.A.C.H. and 84% of them work in 2 and 3 star programs.  Last year 1,612 providers received REWARD stipends.


  • With YoungStar funding, over 3,000 Micro-Grants have been awarded – a $2.2M commitment to materials and resources for quality improvement within child care settings.
  • To date almost 15,000 on-site technical consulting visits were made to over 4,000 child care programs, and 1,500 hours of training has been provided.
  • 3,065 programs have been contacted by the Professional Development Counseling service, including all 2-star programs in Milwaukee. The service is offered free of charge.

Wisconsin’s children deserve the best possible start through quality early care. Thank you for your commitment to Wisconsin’s children.

Department of Children & Families Launches YoungStar Campaign

YoungStar Press Conference - Secretary Eloise Anderson

Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson speaks to the press about Wisconsin's new child care rating system, YoungStar.

Today is the beginning of a public awareness campaign by the Department of Children & Families Secretary Eloise  Anderson for YoungStar, Wisconsin’s child care rating program. Secretary Anderson held a press conference at The Learning Gardens Child Development Center in Madison. A new website, www.youngstar.wi.gov was revealed, along with billboard and city bus advertisements.

“Parents in Wisconsin can now quickly and easily access information about child care providers by ‘looking for the stars.’ The Department of Children and Families designed YoungStar with parents in mind to help them select the best provider for their children,” said Secretary Anderson. “Parents want to know their children are safe and secure, as well as gaining the knowledge and social skills that set the stage for a successful tomorrow.”

YoungStar rates child care programs on a five-star scale using research-based quality indicators to:

  • Evaluate and rate the quality of care given by child care providers;
  • Help parents choose the best child care for their kids;
  • Support providers with tools and training to deliver high-quality early care; and
  • Set a consistent standard for child care quality in Wisconsin.

Click to see photos from the YoungStar news conference.

YoungStar Training is Here!

Training designed to help you prepare to be rated for YoungStar, or for anyone wishing to learn ways to improve the quality of your child care program.
WECA MIlwaukee is sponsoring trainings on…
• YoungStar Overviews to get you started
• Wisconsin Model Early Learning (WMELS)
• SEFEL Pyramid Model for Developmental Social Emotional Competence
• Family Involvement
• Child Outcomes, Portfolios and Curriculum
• Environment Rating Scales
• Business Practices
• Click here to learn more and to register for a WECA Milwaukee YoungStar training!

Not in the Milwaukee area? Click here for a listing of available YoungStar trainings statewide- all organized by members of the YoungStar consortium.


YoungStar Applications due in Three Weeks!

If you are a child care program that currently receives reimbursements through the Wisconsin Shares program, you must apply to participate in YoungStar BY JUNE 1ST, 2011 in order to continue to receive these reimbursements without interruption. Your regional office must receive the application by this date, so don’t forget to leave time for mail processing if you choose to mail your application in.

How do I apply?
DCF has just revised their YoungStar website with simple, easy to follow instructions on applying for YoungStar. Find the four step application process here!

What can I do after I apply?
If you chose to have someone come out to rate your program, you will be assigned a YoungStar adviser who will contact you in the future to set up an appointment. While you wait for this initial contact, there are several things you can do to prepare:

Step 1: Consider attending a YoungStar orientation training
If you are just learning about YoungStar, and want to know more, attend a YoungStar orientation session to find out details on ratings, support for programs, and micro-grants. Find training in your area!

Step 2: Get your information on The Registry
In order to earn 3 or more stars in YoungStar, your program must meet certain education levels (what education levels do I need for each level?). This education is ONLY verified through The Registry- so if your program isn’t on The Registry, we won’t be able to check this information.
* Actions for Group Child Care: Ensure that all Lead Teachers and the Center Director qualifications are current and accurately reflected by The Registry Career Level assigned. See instructions for individuals to do this below.
* Actions for Family Child Care: Ensure that the primary caregiver qualifications are current and accurately reflected by The Registry Career Level assigned. If the owner is not the primary caregiver/teacher, then the qualifications of the primary caregiver/teacher are evaluated for purposes of YoungStar. See instructions for individuals to do this below.
* Actions for Administrators/Owners of Group and Family Child Care Programs: Create or update a Registry Program Profile within The Registry. Learn how to do this with instructions below.
* Instructions for individuals to get started in The Registry and receive a Registry Career Level.
* Instructions for creating a Registry program profile.

Step 3: Consider completing your own assessment of your program’s quality
In order to earn 3 or more stars in YoungStar, your program must complete a self-assessment.
* Your program can complete this assessment before a YoungStar staff member comes out to your program. This will give you the opportunity to point out what’s going well in your program already and what could be going better.
* Your program can also choose to complete a self-assessment with assistance from a YoungStar technical assistant.
* If you would like to complete or begin a self-assessment, we recommend you choose this tool for group programs and this tool for family programs.

Step 4: Consider creating a quality improvement plan for your program, highlighting where you think your program is doing well and where it needs improvement
In order to earn 3 or more stars in YoungStar, your program must complete a quality improvement plan, based on your self-assessment.
* Your program can complete this quality improvement plan before a YoungStar staff member comes out to your program. This will give you the opportunity to create your own plan for improving quality in your program.
* Your program can also choose to complete a quality improvement plan with a YoungStar technical assistant.
* If you would like to complete or begin a quality improvement plan without assistance from YoungStar staff, download an example to use.

Step 5: Familiarize yourself with the tools YoungStar staff will be using
Learn about what YoungStar staff will be using when they rate your program.
* Information for Group child care programs.
* Information for Family child care programs.

WECA is Hiring for YoungStar Related Positions!

Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) is now hiring for many positions to help launch YoungStar, Wisconsin’s child care quality rating and improvement system. These positions will reflect a full spectrum of new opportunities to run the program. Key positions we are hiring for include a Program Coordinator, Technical Consultants, Trainers and Assessors. These positions require a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood (or related field) and a minimum of 4 years experience in Early Childhood. Experience with ECERS/FCCERS and/or early education training and technical assistance preferred. Positions will be open in our Madison and Milwaukee offices as well as statewide for trainers or assessors.

We are also seeking administrative and support staff for the YoungStar program to work out of our Madison office. Openings include administrative assistants, program support and financial specialists. Depending on the position, these require a minimum of a high school diploma plus experience or an associate’s degree.

Qualified candidates are encouraged to apply indicating what area interested and minimum salary requirements. Competitive salary and benefits. WECA is an AA/EO Employer. Applicants from diverse backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

Please submit cover letter and professional resume to:
HR Manager
Wisconsin Early Childhood Association
744 Williamson St., Suite 200
Madison, WI 53703.
Or email HR@wisconsinearlychildhood.org

YoungStar has Begun- Apply now!

Applications are now available for YoungStar!
Celebrate Children Foundation, Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA), and Wisconsin Early Childhood Association (WECA) have been chosen to manage YoungStar across the state. We are ready to begin the work of supporting early education programs as they demonstrate the quality of care they offer to Wisconsin’s youngest children.

YoungStar applications are now available. Staff from WECA and Resource and Referral Agencies are ready to work with programs and statewide trainings are being planned. Apply now and don’t miss out on the following opportunities:

• Programs can choose to receive FREE, individualized technical assistance as a participant in YoungStar. Don’t wait in line for this assistance!
• Programs that receive 3 stars or higher could receive increases in Shares payments as early as July, 2011. Don’t miss out on this chance to increase your revenue!
• Programs that participate in YoungStar can request and receive FREE technical consultation and may be eligible for micro-grants for quality improvements!
• Programs that participate in YoungStar, are in regulatory compliance, and are currently accredited through approved accrediting bodies will automatically receive 4 or 5 stars!
• Parents will be able to view program ratings online on December 13th- make sure your program is visible for parents searching for care!

Application for Group Program (Part 1/ Part 2)

Application for Family Child Care Program (Part 1/ Part 2)

After you have completed your application, please submit both forms to your YoungStar regional office (find it here).

To receive the most accurate assessment, make sure:

• The Registry has all the information it needs: All family child care providers, group child care program directors, and group child care lead teachers should have current individual Registry profiles. Click here to visit The Registry for more information.
• Group child care directors have a CURRENT program profile on The Registry: Center directors can update their program profile here.

New Sessions Added to Help Prepare You for YoungStar!

WECA has added NEW training sessions on the Social-Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (SEFEL) pyramid model, the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS), and question-based business planning. These trainings are in addition to several others that have been taking place across the state since September. Learn more about all of WECA’s trainings for programs preparing for YoungStar, Wisconsin’s new Quality Rating and Improvement System, or click here to view the training opportunities by county. For more information on YoungStar, and on other agencies offering pre-YoungStar training, visit the DCF YoungStar web page.

SEFEL Pyramid Model Overview $5
October 13, 6-8pm: Milwaukee
October 20, 6-8pm: Wausau
October 27, 6-8pm: Eau Claire
December 8, 6-8pm: Live webinar.
Register now

WMELS Full Training in Milwaukee $40
November 6 and November 13, La Causa Family Resource Center
December 11 and December 18, Child Development Center of St Joseph
Register now

Question-Based Business Planning $10
December 1, 6-8pm UW-Milwaukee
December 2, 6-8pm Madison
December 8, 6-8pm La Crosse
December 9, 6-8pm Eau Claire
Register now

Get Professional Development Support as You Prepare for YoungStar

Are you trying to decide what professional development choices you should make to help you reach your goals? Or to help you reach the benchmarks in YoungStar? Do you wonder if higher education is right for you? WECA is here to help with a NEW, free professional development planning service!

One of the main goals of YoungStar is to improve the care and education of young children by having better educated and trained staff working with those children. To help providers prepare for this part of YoungStar, WECA has received funding to provide assistance in professional development planning. This service will be provided over the phone to people employed in early childhood education or child care who want to hear about the options for training and education available in the state of Wisconsin. This could include:

* Exploring your short and long term goals for your own professional development
* Choosing what kind of professional development is right for you
* Scholarships for credit based education (through the T.E.A.C.H. program)
* Learning about credit for prior learning options
* Discussing upcoming trainings and resources to support participation in the YoungStar program.
* And much more!

Visit our website to learn how you can take advantage of the professional development planning service through WECA!