North Carolina Child Care Star-Rating System Explained


Published:

Joyce Robinson, director of The Happy Face School in Raleigh, is proud that her center has earned five stars since the rating program started in 2000. "We've gotten our five-star license three times," Robinson says. "Child care is a lot different than it used to be, and this system helps ensure that the teachers are educated and able to work well with the children."

While Robinson's track record makes it sound easy, the requirements for achieving a five-star rating are pretty intense, and the ratings are important for day-care centers when it comes to attracting parents. "These days, the Internet is such a big factor in almost any sort of research, that when parents go to look for quality child care, they begin by searching for five-star schools," says Allison Frye, director of the Goddard School in Matthews, N.C. And that's just one reason why having a five-star rating is important. It's also a valuable tool when it comes to marketing a school, talking about the school to prospective parents and receiving public recognition.

While the rating system is extremely important for day-care providers, it's also an important tool for parents. If you've searched for child care for your kids, or are looking into day-care options as you anticipate the birth of your first child or plan to re-enter the workforce, you've probably used the star-rated license system as a guide. But what does it really mean?

The history of the stars

The North Carolina Division of Child Development instituted the star-rated licensing program as a way to offer parents more information on the quality of available child-care options. All child-care centers and family child-care homes that are licensed now also receive a star rating, with one star being the minimum.The license is renewed every three years. Religious-sponsored programs continue to operate under a notice of compliance, unless they request a star-rated license.

When the rating system was first introduced, the assessment looked at three areas: staff education, program standards and compliance history. After a revision in 2005, the compliance history was removed.

"They took this requirement off to make the ratings more weighted on staff education and program standards," explains Stephanie Rietschel, former director of the quality improvement project for Randolph Community College, a program that provided technical assistance to help centers improve their ratings.

The compliance history is assessed every six months by the health department, so centers are held to a certain standard even though it's no longer part of the star-rating assessment. Centers have to have at least a 75 percent grade in compliance history to remain open.

"Taking off the compliance history was just a way to eliminate the chance that a center would be meeting the program standards and have a really well-educated staff but overlook something simple in the compliance history and have their star-rating lowered," Rietschel says.

Since the revision, the two components give equal weight to staff education and program standards. For staff education, centers can earn more credit if employees have gone beyond the basic requirements of training. The program standards part of the assessment looks at aspects of the center such as the staff-to-child ratio, the square footage per child, the materials available for kids to play with, and sanitation issues such as how often kids and teachers wash their hands and if they wash them consistently.

Looking at the entire experience

While it's important to pay attention to the star rating of your child's center, it's not the only thing parents need to look at. "North Carolina provides the star-rated licensing program to us as a guide, and I think parents should look at it as just that, an indicator of quality," says Erin Reiter, director of family support for Child Care Services Association in Raleigh.

So what else should a parent consider when choosing a child-care center? Here is some advice from professionals around the state.

First, be sure to visit each center that you are considering. "Make an unannounced visit and ask for a tour," Rietschel says. "While you're there, make sure they take you through all the classrooms and watch to see if the teachers are happy and that the students are engaged, either with materials, the teachers or each other."

Katherine Davis, director of The Growing Place in Asheboro, suggests looking at the environment. "While you can't really change your building, whether it's old or new, you can make sure that it's clean and organized. And if it is an older building, check that current safety precautions have been met."

Staying up to code also is important. "When visiting a center, make sure they have a handbook for you and their license displayed," says Faye Anderson, owner of Faye's Daycare in Greensboro for 18 years. "You should also make sure they're following the rules as far as health and safety, and provide good, nutritional meals and snacks."

Resources for parents

There are plenty of resources in North Carolina to turn to for help when it's time to make that big decision of where your child will spend part of his days away from you. Most parents will start their search online, and the North Carolina Division of Child Development has a Child Care Facility Search, which is a good place to start. You can search by ZIP code, type of center and age of child, and the results will tell you the facility's rating, the services they provide and a link to a Web site if available. Carolina Parent also offers an online directory of child-care facilities and preschools.

It's also a good idea to visit your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCR&R). Child Care Services Association, which is a nationally recognized nonprofit agency working to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality child care to all families, provides child-care resource and referral services to the Triangle.

"We want parents to come to us when looking for child care," Reiter says. "Our services are free, and we're here to help." In addition to resources, checklists and advice on what to look for, representatives at your local CCR&R have access to a database of all child-care facilities with the ability to do a more customized search, helping find quality centers based on factors such as proximity to parents' work, classroom size and services provided.

Of course, some of your best resources will be other parents. "When I was looking for child care for my now 1-year-old daughter, I talked with friends before calling the centers," says Kim Raper of Durham. "The biggest factor influencing my decision was finding the best quality day care for a good price, and while doing my research I found centers don't list pricing in their ads." Raper was able to use her friends to find centers within her price range before spending a lot of time visiting places she couldn't afford.

When it comes to choosing a child-care facility, the most important advice is to follow your instincts. "I tell people to go with their gut feeling," Frye says. "Star ratings are important, but they don't always tell the whole story. Once you have your rating, it's good for three years, but in this industry things can change quickly. For example, if you have a big turnover, the level of staff education could change dramatically overnight."

Be sure to visit, walk through the school, pay attention to how you feel about the place and talk with the teachers. If you feel comfortable, your child will feel comfortable, too.

Karen Alley is the Web editor for Piedmont Parent, a sister publication of Carolina Parent.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Content

Finding Child Care for Children with Special Needs

Tips for finding the best child care or preschools, especial for children with special needs.
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

December 2017

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about tummy time alternatives, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
Website »

More information

Take part in a class that teaches individualized ways to foster motor development for your child. Learn about carry positions, best positions for your baby, how to help your child learn to crawl,...

Cost: $18

Where:
Open Arts
1222 Copeland Oaks Dr.
Morrisville, NC  27560
View map »


Sponsor: Babies On The MOVE
Contact Name: Rebecca Quinones
Website »

More information

Barriskill Dance Theatre School present its annual production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Reynolds Theater, Duke University
125 Science Dr.
Durham, NC  27708
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy a family Chanukah concert from local band, Mishpacha (Hebrew for “family”). Mishpacha’s music is influenced by a variety of musical genres including folk,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Quail Ridge Books
4209-100 Lassiter Mill Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Join Burning Coal Theatre Company as it presents a stage production based on the children's novel by JM Barrie. Purchase tickets online.  

Cost: $25/adult, $15/student

Where:
Burning Coal Theatre
224 Polk St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919-834-4001
Website »

More information

Learn about winter. Sip pine needle tea, and observe the ice and snow through hands-on science experiments. All ages with adult. Registration required. 

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Crowder District Park
4709 Ten-Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

Cary Ballet students presents a condensed version of the holiday story for younger audiences. Join Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends on a...

Cost: $21-$25

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
Website »

More information

Build a LEGO menorah, discover chocolate making and enjoy games from 3-4:45 p.m. at the Apex Community Center. At 5 p.m., a menorah lighting and fire show take place at 220 N. Salem Street in...

Cost: Free

Where:
Downtown Apex
, NC


Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly holiday gospel tradition. The show, created by Langston Hughes, features soaring singers, inspirational dancers and the heartwarming and humorous procession of...

Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Enjoy a 3.5-hour bus tour in the heart of downtown Raleigh during the holiday season. Pullen Park Holiday Express tickets included. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $55/adult, $39/child

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
, NC  27601


Website »

More information

The Triangle Youth String Orchestra performs its annual holiday concert. All ages. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15/adult, $5/child

Where:
Athens Drive High School Auditorium
1420 Athens Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Website »

More information

Cary Ballet students presents the holiday story of Clara, her heroic nutcracker, the evil Mouse Queen and all of Clara’s colorful friends. The Raleigh Boychoir's Resident...

Cost: $21-$25

Where:
Cary Arts Center
101 Dry Ave.
Cary, NC  27511
View map »


Sponsor: Cary Ballet Company
Telephone: 919-200-3939
Contact Name: Michelle Gisondi
Website »

More information

Join in celebration of Hanukkah with a group menorah lighting (bring your menorahs from home), fun crafts for the kids, latkes, jelly doughnuts and more. This fundraising event is open to the...

Cost: $10 children 3-18, $12 adults. At the door: $12 children 3-18, $15 adults

Where:
Beth Meyer Synagogue Social Hall
504 Newton Road
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Beth Meyer Preschool
Contact Name: Michelle Panek
Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly holiday gospel tradition. The show, created by Langston Hughes, features soaring singers, inspirational dancers and the heartwarming and humorous procession of...

Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Come experience O'Henry's classic Christmas tale “The Gift of the Magi." Be transported back to the Roaring '20s in...

Cost: $25

Where:
Sonorous Road Theatre
3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113,
Raleigh, NC   27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Create a snow globe to take home. All ages with adult. Registration not required. Meet at the Cardinal Shelter. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Crowder County Park
4709 Ten Ten Rd.
Apex, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-662-2850
Website »

More information

See 10 unique play homes built by Terramor, with $10 raffle tickets available per play home benefitting Duke Children’s Hospital and the YMCA of the Triangle. The Play Homes include a fire...

Cost: $10.00/raffle ticket

Where:
Terramor Homes Corporate Office
7208 Falls of Neuse Road, #201
Raleigh, NC  27615
View map »


Sponsor: Terramor Homes
Telephone: 919-810-2504
Contact Name: Rebecca Newsome
Website »

More information

Family members join teams to shoot foul shots for a chance to win a holiday ham. See website for age divisions and times. No registration necessary.

Cost: Free

Where:
Apex Community Center
73 Hunter St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Telephone: 919-249-3402
Website »

More information

Enjoy a family-friendly holiday gospel tradition. The show, created by Langston Hughes, features soaring singers, inspirational dancers and the heartwarming and humorous procession of...

Cost: $26/adult, $22/student

Where:
Stewart Theatre, N.C. State University
Raleigh, NC


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

See a family-friendly movie on a big screen. Take snacks and a blanket. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Cost: Free

Where:
The Halle Cultural Arts Center
237 N. Salem St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore toys that children enjoy all over the world. Make a toy to take home and read a story. All ages with adult. Register online.

Cost: $1/person

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Children's Book Buyer Sarah reads stories to babies, toddlers and preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
McIntyre's Books at Fearrington Village
2000 Fearrington Village Center
Pittsboro, NC  27312
View map »


Website »

More information

Kids ages 6 and younger enjoy stories. Take part in an optional arts and crafts session after storytime for $5.

Cost: Free

Where:
Read With Me Book Shop
111 E. Hargett St., $110
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Toddler Time is a special time for ages 5 and younger to bounce under the supervision of their parents, and without interference from the big kids. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $7-$10

Where:
Sky Zone Durham
1720 Guess Rd., Ste. 90
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Explore creative movement. Ages 2-5 with caregiver. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $5/member, $8/nonmember

Where:
N.C. Museum of Art
2110 Blue Ridge Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Kids enjoy crafting and nature while parents enjoy holiday shopping. Take a lunch and water bottle. Ages 6-10. Meet at the park office. Registration required online. 

Cost: $16/child

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
View map »


Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St.Clair
Website »

More information

Kids hike, make projects and engage in nature activities. Ages 5-8. Register online.

Cost: $9/resident, $12/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Learn what the Ingalls family did to survive one especially long winter and how they celebrated Christmas. Taste an old-fashioned peppermint candy stick and take home a homemade holiday craft. Wear...

Cost: $6/child

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Rd.
Raleigh, AL
View map »


Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

A wonderfully kid-paced hour featuring music, play and dancing with toddler stars singing on the mic at Cotton's gently amplified & participatory music show. Children delight in...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Pump It Up Raleigh
10700 World Trade Blvd, #112
Raleigh, NC  27617
View map »


Sponsor: Pump it Up
Telephone: 919-828-3344
Contact Name: Owner/manager Kellie Paterson McHugh
Website »

More information

The Raleigh Boychoir presents its annual holiday concert. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Edenton Street United Methodist Church
228 W. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Come experience O'Henry's classic Christmas tale “The Gift of the Magi." Be transported back to the Roaring '20s in...

Cost: $25

Where:
Sonorous Road Theatre
3801 Hillsborough St, Suite 113,
Raleigh, NC   27607
View map »


Website »

More information

Take the family to this witty and warm journey through a lifetime of Christmases as Scrooge finally finds redemption, charity and love. Purchase tickets online.

Cost: $15 and up

Where:
Kenan Theatre
120 Country Club Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit Module

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Education Guide

The 2017-18 Education Guide offers 660 education resources in the Triangle, including area preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.

The Triangle Go-To Guide

Our debut Triangle Go-To Guide connects you to family fun resources across the Triangle. Plus, find out who our 2017 Readers' Favorites are.
Edit ModuleShow Tags