Six early childhood programs in Hutchinson received ratings from Parent Aware this summer.

Parent Aware rates early childhood programs based on their commitment to developing school readiness, the training and education of their staff, and how they build relationships with parents and children. Parent Aware’s website functions as a search engine for parents to find high-quality care programs near them.

Programs volunteer to be rated and work with a coach to enhance their services to meet targets over a six-month to one-year period. While Parent Aware is sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Human Services in partnership with the Minnesota Office of Early Learning, the program is not required by the state and goes above and beyond health and safety requirements. Parent Aware is coordinated locally through Child Care Aware, a program of Heartland Community Action Agency.

This was the first year private programs were eligible to be rated in McLeod County. Public school preschools and Head Start programs went through an accelerated, though no less rigorous, process earlier through the Minnesota Department of Education. Private programs began the process in June 2014 and received their ratings on June 30.

Three programs in McLeod County received a four-star rating out of the four possible stars from Parent Aware: King’s Kids Christian Preschool, D and S Daycare and Burks Family Childcare.

“It’s a pretty good deal for us,” said King’s Kids director Stacey Schumann. “We’ve worked really hard over the past year to earn the four stars.”

Obtaining a four-star rating requires extra time, money and training. Some centers opted to intentionally work toward a lower rating this year so they could space the process out over a few years. Three programs in Hutchinson received two-star ratings: Kidz Junction Inc., Candace’s Child Care and Little Hands Daycare. Other early childhood programs in Hutchinson have not yet been rated.

Three- and four-star rated programs receive higher rates from the Child Care Assistance Program, which can reduce the out-of-pocket costs to income eligible families. In addition, income eligible families attending a Parent Aware Rated program may apply for Minnesota Early Learning Scholarships.

For more information about Parent Aware and program ratings, visit www.parentaware.org. If you are an early childhood care provider and wish to seek a Parent Aware rating, contact Sue Thomes at 320-235-0850, extension 616, or suet@heartlandcaa.org. Thomes is the Child Care Aware coordinator for Region 6E, encompassing McLeod, Meeker, Renville and Kandiyohi counties. She is based out of Heartland Community Action Agency in Cosmos.