What to Look For
Why Quality IS Important
A child’s brain grows fastest during the first three to five years of life. Interactions with adults, including child care providers, during these crucial, early years greatly impact children’s future and lifelong success. Recent research shows that the quality of child care has a lasting impact on children’s well-being and ability to learn. Children in poor quality child care lag behind their peers in language and reading skills and display more aggression toward other children and adults.
Plan to spend enough time visiting potential child care providers to assess the programs. Choosing child care matters because a strong early childhood education lasts a lifetime.
Types of Child Care
There are several types of care available to meet the needs of families.
Tips for Finding Quality Child Care
- Take your time in choosing a child care provider.
- Compare your options, and ask plenty of questions. Here is a checklist to help you know what to look for and what to ask.
- Check the provider’s licensing history.
- For information on the provider’s registration/license status, as well licensing inspection reports, visit the Montana Public Provider Portal.
We can help you interpret any unfamiliar terms. It’s very useful information for parents, but written more for licensors and child care facility owners.
- Best Beginnings STARS to Quality
- Over 230 child care programs are participating in Montana’s Best Beginnings STARS to Quality program; a voluntary Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS). Participating facilities receive support and financial incentives for meeting specific quality indicators in a five-level system. View a list of facilities in the STARS to Quality Program.
- Is the provider nationally accredited?
- Nationally accredited homes and centers voluntarily meet standards of quality that are much higher than Montana’s licensing regulations. Accredited programs have developmentally appropriate environmental considerations, quality factors, better child-staff ratios and stricter staff training qualifications. STAR 5 programs are nationally accredited.
Search to see if the child care you are considering or using is accredited. For group and family homes, check with the National Association of Family Child Care.
To see if a child care center is accredited, visit the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Common Child Care Business Practices
Child care businesses are typically independent businesses. Some are part of larger organizations. Child cares are licensed by the State of Montana. Licensing establishes and enforces health and safety standards.
Child care programs have contracts which explain their businesses practices, including your responsibilities and the rates and fees. Read the contract carefully and ask questions if you are confused.
Some of the common business practices are summarized here to help you prepare for your search.
Most child care businesses have a contract which includes fees. When parents sign a contract, they have agreed to the conditions outlined, including their rates. Some child care programs have application fees and activity fees. Many have fees for picking a child up late or paying later than agreed upon
The Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship payments are set at the 75th percentile of the market rate, to allow parents using the scholarship program to access most programs. Families must make a co-payment monthly to be eligible for the scholarship. Required co-payments are made directly to the child care provider. Child care businesses can set their rate below, at, or above the state reimbursement rate. They may have other fees not covered by the scholarship program.
Learn more about Best Beginnings Scholarship eligibility.
To learn more about the market rate for Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship.