Edit ModuleShow Tags

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

When Children Hear Horror Stories on the News

How do you nurture a children's confidence in a safe world even when they are exposed to disturbing news.

Pineapples and Palm Prints

Celebrate an endless summer with pineapples and palm prints.

How is Social Media Changing Our Schools?

Is social media a powerful educational tool or a dangerous distraction?
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

May 2016

Raleigh Junior Rollers presents MAY-HEM, a double header. The Raleigh All-Stars take on  Savannah's Sk8 City Sirens at 10 a.m., followed by the RJR home teams Derby Demons vs Black &...

Cost: $7. Free for ages 3 and younger

Where:
United Skates of America
2901 Trawick Road
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Contact Name: Charo Baxter
Website »

More information

This all-day family and pet-friendly live music event features North Carolina bands Four Founders, Night Shift, Jason Adamo Band and Band of Oz. A kids' zone, food trucks, raffles and vendor...

Cost: $5/adults. Free for kids

Where:
8501 Glenwood Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Website »

More information

Fest in the West is an outdoor festival celebrating Cary's rural past with art and crafts, demonstrations, contests, local food and fun kids zone. Compete in a contest: pie eating, hillbilly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Parkside Town Commons
7119 O' Kelly Chapel Rd.
Cary, NC  27519
View map »


Sponsor: CaryCitizen
Telephone: 919-244-6463
Contact Name: Lindsey Chester
Website »

More information

Celebrate Triangle teens' art, music, dance, poetry.  Experience teens’ beautiful expressions of what family means to them and their hopes for the future.  Through...

Cost: Free

Where:
Crabtree Valley Mall
4325 Glenwood Ave.
Promo Court
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Sponsor: Education for Successful Parenting
Telephone: 949-646-6016
Contact Name: Randi Rubenstein
Website »

More information

Learn what makes opossums unique, practice playing possum, and get to see and touch a real opossum mount. All ages. All children must be accompanied by an adult and all persons attending must be...

Cost: $5/family

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Learn about flower parts and pollinators, and the vital role of bees and other insects in our world. Designed to enhance the arboretum experience for families with young children, these hands-on,...

Cost: $5/family

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Explore why exposure to nature is vitally important to a child’s mental, physical, emotional and intellectual development. Learn simple ways to add nature play and natural elements to a...

Cost: $15/person

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Center
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Sponsor: City of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

See The Raleigh Ringers, an internationally acclaimed handbell choir based in Raleigh, deliver its spring concert. The group of 18 ringers performs original compositions as well as unique...

Cost: $10-$20

Where:
Meymandi Concert Hall
2 E. South St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: The Raleigh Ringers
Telephone: 919-847-7574
Contact Name: Nancy Ritter
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
No Events

For arts lovers of all kinds, including art makers, art teachers, arts administrators, arts supporters, ARTS Day is a chance to make a difference in the community. This annual two-day conference of...

Cost: $20-$150

Where:
Talley Student Center
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: (919) 834-1411
Contact Name: Sarah Donell
Website »

More information

Enjoy songs, stories and fun in Spanish. Infants-preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spanish for fun! Cary
100 Endeavor Way
Cary, NC  27513
View map »


Sponsor: Spanish for fun!
Telephone: 919-677-7114
Contact Name: Cynthia De Amat
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Take time out to spend with your little one as you crawl, explore and bounce in a safe environment exclusively for children ages 12 mos-3 yrs. Parents play free; admission is $5 per child....

Cost: $5/child

Where:
BounceU of Apex
3419 Apex Peakway
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Website »

More information

For arts lovers of all kinds, including art makers, art teachers, arts administrators, arts supporters, ARTS Day is a chance to make a difference in the community. This annual two-day conference of...

Cost: $20-$150

Where:
Talley Student Center
2610 Cates Ave.
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Telephone: (919) 834-1411
Contact Name: Sarah Donell
Website »

More information

Enjoy songs, stories and fun in Spanish. Infants-preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spanish for fun! Raleigh
8000 Glenwood Ave
Raleigh, NC  27612
View map »


Sponsor: Spanish for fun!
Telephone: 919-881-1160
Contact Name: Carol Marin
Website »

More information

The North Carolina Heritage Awards, a program of the North Carolina Arts Council, returns to honor the state’s masters of the traditional arts. PineCone partners with the Arts Council to...

Cost: $27.14

Where:
Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts
2 E. South Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-8711
Contact Name: Alex Franzen
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy songs, stories and fun in Spanish. Infants-preschoolers.

Cost: Free

Where:
Spanish for fun! Wake Forest
222 Capcom Ave
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Sponsor: Spanish for fun!
Telephone: 919-883-2061
Contact Name: Karina Martinez
Website »

More information

Spread a picnic blanket for garden stories and crafts. Meet at the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center. Ages 3-5 with adult. Dress for the weather as this program is held outdoors. Activities are moved...

Cost: $5/child

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Help park staff with citizen science projects. Take a water bottle and wear sturdy shoes. Ages 8-10 with adult; 11 years and older adult optional. Meet at the Cypress Shelter. Registration required.

Cost: Free

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


Telephone: 919-387-4342
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Enjoy an energetic, musical storytime with Amy Godfrey, who was a Durham County librarian for six years. Babka and challah will be served as...

Cost: Free

Where:
Levin JCC
1937 West Cornwallis Rd.
Durham, NC  27705
View map »


Website »

More information

Spread a picnic blanket for garden stories and crafts. Meet at the Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center. Ages 3-5 with adult. Dress for the weather as this program is held outdoors. Activities are moved...

Cost: $5/child

Where:
JC Raulston Arboretum
4415 Beryl Rd
Raleigh, NC  27606
View map »


Sponsor: JC Raulston Arboretum
Telephone: 919-513-7011
Contact Name: Elizabeth Overcash
Website »

More information

Celebrate our freedom and honor those who have served our nation as WRAL hosts Balloon Fest. See 35 beautiful hot air balloons take to the skies over Fuquay-Varina and enjoy more than 20 hours of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
View map »


Website »

More information

Witness the culmination of the school's art and music programs. From film screenings, music performances, paintings, sculptures, poetry readings, to dramatic performances, this is an evening...

Cost: Free

Where:
Emerson Waldorf School, Brown Wing
6211 New Jericho Rd.
Chapel Hill, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-967-1858
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate our freedom and honor those who have served our nation as WRAL hosts Balloon Fest. See 35 beautiful hot air balloons take to the skies over Fuquay-Varina and enjoy more than 20 hours of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fleming Loop Park
2321 N. Main St.
Fuquay-Varina, NC  27526
View map »


Website »

More information

Construct a bird feeder out of a pine cone and learn about feathered friends. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Register online.

Cost: $5/child

Where:
Logan's Garden Shp
707 Semart Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Website »

More information

This event was created to tackle some of the challenges facing our youth, with a focus specifically on girls in rising grades 9 and 10. Topics to be covered include improving low self-esteem,...

Cost: $21.49

Where:
Hotel Indigo Raleigh Durham Airport
151 Tatum Dr.
Durham, NC  27703
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s fast-paced romp through love, friendship and betrayal in the museum’s Fletcher Garden. Presented in conjunction with Raleigh’s Bare...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

Enjoy an outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s fast-paced romp through love, friendship and betrayal in the museum’s Fletcher Garden. Presented in conjunction with Raleigh’s Bare...

Cost: Free

Where:
N.C. Museum of History
5 E. Edenton St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Website »

More information

The Friends of Oberlin Village (FOV) invite the community to “Celebrate the O,” their annual barbecue fundraiser just off the grounds of the Historic Oberlin Cemetery, in the parking...

Cost: Free. $10 for barbecue dinner

Where:
Parking lot behind InterAct of Wake County
1012 Oberlin Rd.,
Raleigh, NC  27605
View map »


Sponsor: Friends of Oberlin Village
Telephone: 336-416-1895
Contact Name: Sabrina Goode
Website »

More information

Kids ages 7-17 take part in a hands-on magic workshop. Learn the performance art of theatrical magic from local masters on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. Details available at...

Cost: $10

Where:
The Magic Corner Magic Shop
3684 Capital Blvd.
Raleigh, NC  27604
View map »


Sponsor: Ring #199,The Int'l Brotherhood of Magicians
Telephone: 919-272-6465
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Celebrate Memorial Weekend with the monumental "Tchaikovsky 5th Symphony."  Also enjoy selections by Wagner and Smetana as “citizen musicians” perform with the North...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC
View map »


Website »

More information

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

Magazine

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Newsletter Sign-Up

Stay connected to what's going on for kids and families in the Triangle by signing up for our FREE e-newsletters!

Subscribe

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Directories

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Annual Guides

Exceptional Child

Children with special needs face unique challenges. Find resources from A-Z in areas of advocacy, education, camps and therapies to support them as they grow.

GPS [Go. Play. See]

Triangle parents are busy and on the go. Browse our GPS guide to explore 1,155 family-friendly resources located across the region.

Education Guide

The 2015-16 Education Guide offers 539 education resources in the Triangle, including local preschools, private schools, public school systems, charter schools, boarding schools and academic resources.