Children’s Center earns 5-star rating

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013

FRANKLIN—The Franklin Early Head Start Center, which is run by The Children’s Center, has received a 5 star rating from the Virginia Star Quality Initiative. Five stars is the highest rating a child care center can receive. Only one other child care center in Virginia has a 5 star rating.

The announcement was made to the staff Friday at the 507 Third Avenue location in Franklin.

The VSQI is a partnership between the Office of Early Childhood Development and the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. The local administrator of the VSQI is Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater. The VSQI is aimed at accessing and improving quality in early childhood programs and helping parents make more informed choices about child care options. Programs that volunteer to participate in the VSQI are rated on many factors including:

•Is the staff qualified? Do they have a degree in early childhood? Do they go to workshops to continue their training?

• How do the teachers interact with your child? Do they talk with your child? Do they support your child’s social and emotional growth? How do they discipline children? Do they have a positive attitude towards the children? Do they encourage children to learn and be creative?

• How many children are in the classroom or the family child care program? How many teachers or assistant teachers are in the classroom?

• How is the classroom furnished? What kinds of activities are offered? Are there materials for children to do art, read, play dress-up, or play music? Is it clean? Do the children get to play outside?

• How do they help get your child ready for school?

In the rating report, the Children’s Center scored 40 of 40 points in the area of environment and instruction. This includes stimulating a child’s cognitive development with classrooms divided into smaller activity centers. A high quality curriculum addressing the appropriate development of children is important, but the way a teacher implements that curriculum is more significant.

The Center also scored 30 of 30 points in the area of structure. This includes small class sizes and low child-to-teacher ratios.

Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater has provided training and a mentor to work with the Children’s Center staff.

“We appreciate Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater and their partnership with us. They provided a mentor (Gretchen Mandley) to work with us. That was a big piece,” said G. Lee Taylor, education manager with the Children’s Center. “We have had experienced teaching staff that are eager to attend trainings offered through Smart Beginnings. They stay up to date and are on top of best practices in the classroom. The teachers have bought into the VSQI rating system.”

Taylor said the Center set goals with the mentor.

“We developed a plan and set goals. Sixty percent of the VSQI score is based on the interaction between the teaching staff and the children. We are very aware of how important that is,” Taylor said.

Taylor noted that Early Head Start standards helped the Center obtain the rating because EHS classroom ratios are stricter than Virginia licensing.

Ellen Couch, the executive director of Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater, said she is thrilled the Children’s Center received a 5-star rating.

“It is only the second 5-star in the state. That is exciting,” she noted. “Smart Beginnings continues to support child care centers and home care providers throughout the region with ratings, mentoring, professional development, and we welcome additional centers being a part of the VSQI program. Smart Beginnings also provides classroom supplies and materials to participating centers.”

Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater has helped sponsor VSQI for 16 centers in Western Tidewater.

The Children’s Center is a private, nonprofit organization (501(c)(3) tax exempt) that has served families living in Western Tidewater (Suffolk, Isle of Wight County, Franklin, and Southampton County) since 1983. The Center serves children of all levels of ability, including those with disabilities, and those who are economically disadvantaged. The Children’s Center’s mission is to nurture and educate children and their families.

The Children’s Center provides Early Head Start services to children ages birth to three and pregnant women, Head Start services to children ages three and four, early intervention to infants and toddlers with delays in development, licensed pediatric therapy and mental health services, and licensed early care and education for children six weeks to five years of age. These programs are provided in the child’s home and in integrated settings at five sites throughout Western Tidewater.