We are in the final stretch – 12 months and counting – for child care providers to become rated under the Step Up to Quality program. The state of Ohio has mandated all child care providers must be rated by June 30, 2020, to continue serving children who receive child care subsidies. This includes both centers and homes.
Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) is a five-star quality rating and improvement system administered by the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. SUTQ standards exceed the health and safety regulations required to be licensed and are based on national research that seeks to improve outcomes for children.
Participating programs earn a one-, two-, three-, four- or five-star rating for meeting benchmarks for curriculum, screening and assessments, environment, staff support and management, staff education and professional development, communication and engagement and other standards.
The benefit to parents is simple: a higher quality program leads to better results for their children. For providers, it is about going the extra mile for children.
Hamilton County has nearly 1,000 child care centers and homes that must have at least a one star starting July 1, 2020 to continue receiving state subsidies for eligible children in their care. If a parent relies on subsidies to fund their child care, the parent will be forced to move to another center or home if theirs is not rated.
Approximately 16,000 Hamilton County children receive state subsidies every month. More than 23,000 different children received subsidies in 2018.
Internally, we have a team dedicated to the SUTQ system and helping providers secure their first star rating. So far, the team has helped, or is in the process of helping, more than 225 homes. That means reviewing applications and submitting them to the state for approval, monitoring inspections and offering guidance. Our internal team has attended trainings, created training guides and tracking forms and provided coaching sessions in an effort to encourage providers.
Hamilton County staff also work collaboratively with 4C for Children, the resource and referral agency for our region. 4C created programs and resources that are simple, streamlined and effective in helping providers reach the 2020 goal. Their classes and guidance set providers up for success at their onsite visit. This collaborative relationship has us well positioned to meet our collective goals.
In addition to this being a requirement, the SUTQ system has many advantages for providers. They will receive rate increases for each child as they progress up the star system. By raising the quality of their program, they’ll also help children score higher on Kindergarten Readiness Assessments. The increase in quality is also expected to lead to increased enrollment from parents seeking higher quality and a decrease in turnover because staff are more satisfied in higher-quality programs.
Remember, we are one year away!