Department of Public Welfare Improves Quality of Care for Pennsylvania's Children

HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 14, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary D. Alexander today announced the Rising STARS initiative that will strengthen and improve upon the existing Keystone STARS program.

Keystone STARS is a tiered, quality rating system for child care programs. Rising STARS was developed to promote greater access for at-risk children to higher quality child care and better prepare them to succeed in school.

"Research shows that the higher quality of the care, the better outcomes for at-risk children," Alexander said. "We need our at-risk children to have access to the highest quality child care possible so they can enter kindergarten ready to succeed."

The Rising STARS initiative emphasizes state support to STAR 3 and 4 child care providers that serve a higher percentage of at-risk children. Eligible child care providers in Pennsylvania serve these children through the Child Care Works subsidy program with additional resources through the Rising STARS initiative, including restructured grants and new tiered reimbursement rates.

"This initiative makes it more attractive and sustainable for child care providers to earn a high quality STAR 3 or 4 rating and serve a larger percentage of children receiving Child Care Works subsidy. It makes the costs of this high quality care more manageable for providers and opens up more opportunities for our children to access high quality care," Alexander said.

Reports show that children participating in Keystone STAR 3 and 4 programs are progressing throughout the program year and arrive at school ready to succeed. At the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, approximately one in three preschoolers in Keystone STAR 3 and 4 centers and group child care programs showed age-appropriate skills. By the end of the school year, more than two in three preschoolers showed age-appropriate language, math and social skills after attending Keystone STARS 3 and 4 programs in 2011-12.

Approximately half of children receiving Child Care Works are in unregulated care or in child care programs that do not participate in Keystone STARS.

"As we implement the Rising STARS initiative, families should see more quality child care choices available in their communities, with more programs earning STAR 2, 3, and 4 ratings," Alexander said.

Keystone STARS, launched in 2002 as a pilot program, has been instrumental in shaping early education and improving quality learning environments for approximately 177,000 children at more than 4,300 child care facilities statewide.

Participating child care and Head Start programs may earn a STAR 1 through STAR 4 rating by meeting performance standards for partnerships with the family and community, professional development, curriculum and learning environment, and business practices. STAR 4 is the highest rating.

Child Care Works provides financial assistance to help eligible families pay for child care. Families that earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level and meet certain work requirements are eligible to apply at their local Child Care Information Services agency or online.

For more information on Keystone STARS and Child Care Works, visit www.dpw.state.pa.us.

Media contact: Carey Miller and Anne Bale, 717-425-7606

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare



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