RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If you have a child in need of day care you are probably already aware that there are an ocean of options to choose from. But with such a wide range of programs, it is difficult to determine which one is the best fit for your child.
It has the potential to be the most important decision you make in the early stages of your child's life. But with more than 3,000 programs in Virginia alone, picking the right day care is no easy chore.
Almost every day, Kristi Bowles has the responsibility of teaching young people lessons they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
"This is how they start their life and we need to help foster resiliency in these children," said Kristi.
Kristi teaches Pre-K at the Walnut Grove Children's Learning Center in Mechanicsville. She thinks their program does pretty good job of molding young minds, but thanks to a new independent system, you don't have to just take her word for it.
"It takes a commitment to quality to put yourself out there," she said.
Walnut Grove was one of only 17 operations that volunteered to have their performance rated by a new system developed by the smart beginnings program. It uses early child care professionals to give parents an assessment of just how well a day care is run.
The Virginia Star Quality Initiative determined that Walnut Grove was worthy of four stars. Validation for the facilities director Michele Moore.
"A lot of people didn't even know that we were even here. So now people know that we are and that we are doing a good thing," Moore said.
The system assesses day care programs based on 5 stars. But those 5 stars begin after the licensing process ends.
"Anyone who is at a two star or above is going above and beyond the requirements that have previously been important in Virginia," said
And while the system will obviously give parents plenty of guidance as to which early childhood education programs are run the best, it will also provide programs with experienced mentors to help them improve.
"We know we want to get better, but we need someone holding us accountable to make sure our goals are actually getting done."
A system that has the potential to provide a resource that up until this point, parents and day care providers, had to create on their own.
Of course the big problem now is getting more providers to take part. As we mentioned the program is voluntary, so only a few have been willing to put themselves out there and risk a poor rating.
Officials at Smart Beginnings hope that the system catches on, so that more day care facilities feel compelled to take part. To see the current list of ratings just click here.