Did you know that a Wilder Foundation study found that in Minnesota children entering kindergarten unprepared costs the school system $113 million annually?

Research shows that the first five years of a child’s life is critical for social and cognitive development and that the economic benefit of early childhood programs is substantial. 360 Communities invests in programs that support early childhood development knowing that the strength of our future rides on the success of today’s children.

360 Communities Child Care Aware staff partner with child care providers in Dakota County to ensure that child care providers are able to best prepare children for kindergarten. They train and mentor child care providers as they work to achieve Parent Aware star ratings. A star rating in the Parent Aware program indicates that a child care provider has gone above and beyond what is required for licensure in the state and has invested in additional training.

To date, 360 Communities Child Care Aware have helped:

  • 65 providers earn star ratings in the program.
  • 20 providers increase their star ratings.

Currently our staff are helping:

  • 20 providers become rated for the first time.
  • 25 providers work on increasing their star ratings.

I think that being part of the Parent Aware program has really helped me become a better provider.  I was already doing a lot of the things that are required of star providers, but now have more of a “purpose” in doing them. I feel more professional and  better able to articulate what my daycare offers because I can relate the things we are doing to standards and Kindergarten readiness.
Kellie Kimmes, Child Care Provider
Parent Aware is a two-pronged program.  For parents, it’s a one-stop-shop for finding a quality child care program. The ParentAware.org website allows them to search for different types of programs – family child care, centers, preschools – and get some information about the programs before contacting them to set up an interview.  Nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting to find the right match for their family, but having all the programs listed on one site is a powerful tool. They can also check on the licensing status of the program.

I am looking forward to … doing more educational hand outs for families, a yearly slide show for the parents and children to look back on, … keeping my business finances more organized, and the list could go on and on. I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do this without this fabulous grant from Parent Aware and I am truly grateful.  I look forward to learning more through this program and improving Lil Bees one star at a time.
Sarah Johnson, Lil Bees Family Child Care in Eagan
For providers, Parent Aware is a program to help them identify the quality standards of their program. Many providers do an excellent job of caring for children and communicating their daily activities to the parents. The Parent Aware program helps them analyze the indicators of quality that a successful education programs contain.

Minnesota has defined the indicators of quality as the following:

  • Physical Health and Well-being
    • helping families find access to programs they may need, like preschool screening or special ed. information
    • being trained in nutrition and obesity prevention
    • assessing their own environment and practices.
  • Teaching and Relationships
    • Taking training in child development, Minnesota’s Early Childhood Indicators of Progress and other classes that will help them meet the children’s needs.
    • They become more intentional about planning their day, concentrating on a daily schedule and lesson plans that meet EVERY child’s needs.
  • Assessment of Child Progress
    • they step forward from daily verbal communication with parents and start documenting authentic observations – keeping track of the child’s activities and progress so it can be used in summarizing and future lesson planning, all to meet the children’s needs.
  • Training and Education
    • where providers can track their education and create their own professional development plans.

These standards are the same across the board – for family providers, preschool, center, and Head Start teachers. The state of Minnesota recognizes the importance of early care and education, they want every child to be kindergarten ready, and programs using these quality standards can help children to meet that goal.

As child care providers sign up for Parent Aware training across the state, the quality of Minnesota child care will only strengthen, preparing more children to hit the ground running in kindergarten. With more children ready to learn, all students benefit.