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By DEBORAH HICKS MIDANEK BAILEY
Chairman, Grenada Community Foundation

  A guide for parents -- and the rest of us -- when it comes to child care.

   What about in home care providers?
   These providers can also provide high quality services, and can get the same technical support via the MSCCR&R Nurturing Homes Initiative. Information on Nurturing Homes services is available at the Grenada R&R. It can be difficult for technical assistance providers to find these programs, so parents need to assess quality using the indicators listed here, as the Star system is less likely to be in use.

   Are there similar rating programs for after school programs?
   There are. The standards, called SACERS (School Age Children Environmental Rating Scale) are being rolled out across the state in stages. They are used for after school and for summer and holiday programs, and are called the Out of School Quality Rating System.

   Are there high quality centers that are not participating in Mississippi Quality Stars?
   Yes. There is a wealth, though, of technical assistance provided in teacher, director and administrative training for those who do participate, so the trend is toward increasing participation. Though the system is not perfect, it offers a nationally recognized short hand for quality measurement.

   What is the participation level in Grenada?

   Grenada County boasts 13 licensed early childhood development centers, 12 of them full time, 1 licensed part time preschool, and 1 licensed out of school program that is participating in the SACERS rating system pilot program. Of the 12 full time centers, 7 participate in MQS. One has two stars, and one has three. Grenada Community Foundation is beginning a program, working with GSD, EDD, GLAD, 100 Black Men, Charles Houston, MS Department of Health, MSCCR&R, Early Childhood Institute, and Committee for Economic Development, to partner with each center that desires to do so to accelerate its progress to 4 Stars, among other things. Greater detail on this program will be unveiled shortly.

   Are Day Care and Child Care and Early Childhood Development Center and Preschool all referring to the same set of services?
   This is another reason that the Star system can be helpful. The terminology is confusing. Though people in Grenada refer to “the Day Cares” generically, most if not all of them offer both day care (typically all-day care and includes children from infant on up) AND a preschool program for 3-5 year olds. The one pure preschool in Grenada does NOT accept infants, and provides a half day program for 3-5 year olds.

   One ugly question: what does high quality child care cost?
   Complicated question. To the working family: too much. To the center owner/director/teacher: not enough. The going rate rate per week runs around $80-85 for up to a 12-hour day, 5 days a week, which is about $1.39 per hour, so you see the center’s problem. Yet with two children, $170 each week takes a big chunk of a family’s pay check.
  
   What other models exist to help working families with early childhood development costs?

   Mississippi is one of 11 states that provides almost no state money for early childhood programs. We believe our legislators understand the issue, but funds are scarce. The child care subsidies and childcare center licenses are overseen by the Department of Human Services, while the independent Mississippi Department of Education oversees the public schools budget, so common solutions are hard to find.

   Next: What you can do to help.


DHMidanek@SolonGroup.com; 917 853 3598



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