Vt. DCF program grades child care providers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. DCF program grades child care providers

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BARRE, Vt. -

A Vermont program dedicated to preparing kids for the classroom is growing fast and it's joining forces with local day cares to make sure kids get a head start when it comes to education.

Diann's day care has been a staple in Barre for more than three decades.

But it's more than just a day care, it's a place where kids ages 3 to 5 come to learn everything they would learn in a pre-k classroom.

"This is where they meet as a group," said Diann Chaloux.

Chaloux's day care has been awarded 5 out of 5 stars by the Step Ahead Recognition System. It's a Department for Children and Family's program grading child care providers throughout the state for their community involvement, quality of staff, policies, practices and licensing regulations. Chaloux joined the ranks of 800 providers throughout the state, a number that's grown rapidly since the program began more than a decade ago. The bulk of the funds for STARS comes from federal money, a child care development grant.

"The gap that the STARS program is filling is the steps between being regulated and getting to the highest level possible, often referred to as national accreditation," said Jan Walker, DCF Child Development Division.

For child care providers like Chaloux, there's a bonus of up to $1,550 for every star awarded within the program, as well as subsidies for families.

"There's an incentive to seek a program that's participating in STARS and beyond that is demonstrating high quality as indicated by STARS," said Walker.

"I think it's awesome that finally, the quality of care is that important that there is yet another way for people to obtain that, for programs to obtain that credential," said Chaloux.

The kids are tested three times a year and held to the same standards as pre-k students in surrounding elementary schools.

"We follow their curriculum, we have the same assessments as they do, and the nice thing is the children can be in full time care here," said Chaloux.

Chaloux hopes to see more Vermont families take advantage of child care programs certified by the STARS Program.

"I still think it goes back to educating the parents on the quality of care," said Chaloux.

As the state continues its mission to provide access to quality education, even for our youngest students.

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