The state's YoungStar child care rating system is up and running, with a new web site parents can use to search for child care providers.
The Department of Children and Families unveiled the new resource on Thursday, Aug. 4.
"Parents in Wisconsin can now quickly and easily access information about child care providers by 'looking for the stars.'" DCF Secretary Eloise Anderson Anderson said in a statement.
YoungStar uses a five-star system to rate in-home and center-based
child care facilities. Nearly 1,700 providers have been rated since
January, and more are added each week, according to DCF.
YoungStar was proposed in the aftermath of the Journal Sentinel's investigation of fraud among Wisconsin Shares-authorized child care providers. That series—Cashing in on Kids—won the JS a Pulitzer Prize.
The state planned to spend $1.5 million to create YoungStar, according to a January 2010 story in The Journal Times. The system wouldn't just rate providers, but would give them access to training and technical assistance. It would also tie the amount of money a provider received from Wisconsin Shares to its star rating.
But one of the biggest changes YoungStar promised was for parents, who would be able to easily and quickly see how good the state said one of its licensed child care facilities was. That's the part that has now been rolled out and is in place. Providers can choose not to participate, and not every provider is in the system yet.
The YoungStar site is a powerful tool. Parents can search by community, or within a mile radius from their home or office address. They can look up providers by name, and limit the searches by rating. Violations found at a child care center are clearly listed, and in some cases, scans of plans to address the issues are also available. To search, visit http://dcf.wi.gov/youngstar/.
There are 12 child care centers in Greenfield participating in YoungStar, and , 8650 W. Forest Home Ave., received the loan 5-star rating. Four other centers/providers received two stars and the remaining seven have not yet been rated.
KinderCare's center director Debbie Halbman said YoungStar gives child care providers a bar to reach for. As a child care provider accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, Halbman’s center already met YoungStar’s five-star criteria.
“It’s a very good thing for us,” Halbman said of KinderCare’s ranking. “It’s important to me because we strive to provide the best care possible.”
Halbman also said a ranking system such as YoungStar's is long overdue.
“I think it’s vital,” she said. “That’s one of the things that had been lacking in Wisconsin. We have a lot of quality early childhood education facilities, but no one knows who they are. Without (a ranking system), you just had people saying, ‘Oh, I’m the best.’ … Now parents can make good judgements and decision and know the facts.”