Los Angeles County’s new child care rating system continues to grow, in part, to a new grant that will allow for dozens of additional child care centers to be inspected and graded.
The $351,650 contract from the First 5 Los Angeles Commission will allow for reviews of approximately 200 child development centers and family child care homes participating in the Steps to Excellence Project (STEP). The information collected during the review process will be analyzed and used to assign quality ratings to STEP participants.
The STEP program, launched by Supervisor Knabe in July 2007, is the first program of its kind in California. In much the same way as the County’s successful restaurant grading system has empowered consumers with information, the goal of rating child care centers is to educate parents and improve the quality and services of the centers. The program is starting as a pilot in nine communities across the County, including Long Beach. It is supported with funds from the County of Los Angeles, the California Department of Education and the First 5 LA Commission.
"What is unique about the STEP program is that we are evaluating the overall quality of these child care programs," said Supervisor Knabe. "We aren’t just assessing whether or not the carpet is clean and the walls are painted, we are looking at the ‘learning environment’ as well. To me, that is the most important consideration for any parent in deciding where to place their children."
In Los Angeles County, it is estimated that more than $1.4 billion is spent on child care services annually and the demand for services and facilities continues to grow every year. But, with this increasing demand for services comes an increasing need for oversight and access to information for parents about the quality of care their children are receiving. The STEP program will assess six key areas that all parents would want to know about a child care setting, including safety, program quality, teacher qualifications, and whether or not they can accommodate kids with special needs.
People interested in learning more about STEP should contact Helen Chavez in the County Office of Child Care at (213) 893-0505 or visit www.childcare.lacounty.gov