Introducing the YoungStar Micro-Grant Program & the Latest News in Micro-Grants

micro-grant-program-staff
There are some new names and faces behind the YoungStar Micro-Grant team as Supporting Families Together Association (SFTA) takes on the management of YoungStar micro-grants. Micro-Grant funding is available to programs that are participating in the YoungStar program and who have requested and are receiving technical assistance. These funds can be spent on materials, resources, and professional development opportunities that directly relate to a child care program’s Quality Improvement Plan (QIP). All purchase requests for micro-grants are processed and coordinated by the Micro-Grant Department: (*Reference the YoungStar regional map).

For general information questions about orders, timelines, or changes to a purchase plan:

For questions about returns or reimbursements:

Sarah Ross Berry, Micro-Grant Financial Specialist (sarah@supportingfamiliestogether.org).

For questions about policies and administration of the YoungStar Micro-Grant Program:

Sherri Underwood, Micro-Grant Manager (sherri@supportingfamiliestogether.org).

Assigning a specific Micro-Grant staff member to each YoungStar region for providers to contact has already noticeably decreased e-mails sent to the general micro-grant e-mail, showing providers are engaging more directly with the individuals serving their regions to obtain the information they need. This is not the only update the Micro-Grant Program has seen. Changes are being made to the YoungStar micro-grant process that you may have noticed if you are a provider receiving a micro-grant:

  • Reimbursements have gone out weekly to providers since SFTA took over the Micro-Grant Program in July of 2016. This allows providers to receive their money more quickly.
  • Programs will soon also be receiving their micro-grant materials faster, thanks to extra staff support that is being added to the micro-grant purchasing process (Chanel Ly).
  • The Micro-Grant Program is continuing to work to ensure that there is equal access to micro-grant materials and resources by working to translate materials into Spanish, and ensuring that Gloria is available to provide Spanish language support and Chanel is available to provide Hmong language support, as needed.
  • A focused effort is being made by the entire Micro-Grant Program to increase communications with Technical Consultants (TCs) regarding micro-grants. This means sharing micro-grant information on regular TC calls, including TCs on micro-grant e-mails to the providers they serve, weekly e-blasts to TCs and Micro-Grant staff taking more detailed notes regarding micro-grant interactions with providers that TCs can review. This gives providers the option to talk to their TC, who they know and trust, about their micro-grant.
  • Providers can access current micro-grant handbooks through their local YoungStar office by request (See the YoungStar Regional Map).
  • The Micro-Grant Program recently added a new vendor that providers can order discounted materials from, “S&S Worldwide,” to better meet the needs of school-age programs.

It is the Micro-Grant Program’s goal to make navigating the Micro-Grant Program simpler and more straight-forward for providers, and recent changes are a step in that direction. What all of this translates to out in the field is that child care programs are getting high quality materials and supports more quickly and efficiently to further their QIPs, which builds more developmentally supportive child care environments for children and their families. The Micro-Grant Program Staff are a crucial link in ensuring providers can use their micro-grants in a timely manner to support the quality of their programs and the children they serve.

Check out SFTA’s newest website addition, the Micro-Grant Program page for more information and resources on micro-grants.

This article was originally published in the SFTA Q4 2016 newsletter. Subscribe to our newsletters and other e-publications here.

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Family Style Dining Guide

Check out this great mealtime resource for early care and education programs from the Ohio Child Care Resource & Referral Association and partners. This guide offers a family style dining approach that “early care and education programs [can] implement to address childhood obesity prevention and support children in developmentally appropriate mealtime experiences. All foods that meet the meal pattern requirement are placed on the table where children and adults sit together to share the meal. Children are encouraged to serve themselves independently or with adults’ help.”

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Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) & Child Care

One of the 2016 YoungStar Evaluation Criteria changes now being implemented in child care programs statewide is the recently added optional point for Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) (Learning Environment and Curriculum, B.1.3), which replaced the Additional Work on a Quality Improvement Plan. YoungStar Technical Consultants (TCs) are working with providers to incorporate this point into their daily practice, or identify what they already have in their program that meets the requirements. The point requirements read as follows, and all 5 must be met to earn the point:

  1. Written program philosophy includes a statement regarding how the program believes children learn AND how teachers teach, reflecting developmentally appropriate practice. The program philosophy is available to families and staff in the parent handbook and employee handbook.
  2. Staff provides care that is engaging, comforting, culturally sensitive and compassionate. Interactions must be positive or neutral at best. Teachers use language that the children understand and help children communicate appropriately. Teachers foster relationship building between, teachers and children, and peer to peer.
  3. Exploration and play for children is supported by the environment. Learning occurs best when opportunities are created in natural and authentic contexts.
  4. Children have routines and consistent schedules. Teachers adapt schedules and experiences to individual children’s needs within the group setting.
  5. Reciprocal relationships with families exist between program and families. Programs must make an effort to get to know children’s families.

(*Taken from DCF site, PowerPoint Overview of 2016 Evaluation Criteria)

Mary Sue Voights, a trainer & YoungStar TC with Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc., has already worked with both group and family child care programs on earning the DAP point.

“It’s interesting because I find that family programs have less difficulty with this one,” said Mary Sue, referencing her own experience with DAP thus far. “Family providers work with mixed age groups so they are already used to making the materials and activities available to varying ages and abilities.”

Mary Sue has found ways to make this point more accessible to both group and family programs. She tailored a DAP training to be a one-on-one consultation tool to support individual programs in meeting the specifics of the point, has compiled handouts on DAP and what she calls “DIP” (Developmentally Inappropriate Practices), and uses a video clip about DAP from NAEYC to show providers how they can effectively implement DAP.

An example of this is supporting group centers in incorporating enough free play. Mary Sue reviews the schedule with them and shows them where they might eliminate some of the whole group play activities, instead, “setting up experiences and materials in the centers and then just going through them with the children, playing with them to support their development.”

“Everybody really wants to do the right thing [by incorporating DAP],” noted Mary Sue, “but we have lost sight of what DAP are for children, which is putting play back in and being there, guiding that play with them.”

In working with infants and toddlers, said Mary Sue, this means bringing content back to what is DAP for an age range where children, especially toddlers, appear to be more capable than they actually are emotionally. Understanding DAP means providers know what to expect for typical behavior from the children in their care, and use that to better support each child’s needs.

Carrie J. Steinke, Quality Improvement Specialist at Childcaring, Inc., said that TCs at her agency are also in full swing to support programs in earning the DAP point.

“We are talking about both the DAP and the Family Engagement (FE) points early and often in our work with programs,” said Carrie. “We are encouraging providers and programs to engage with those points by the second TC visit, if at all possible, if they are planning to earn them, because we really need to have a good amount of time to cover all of the details of those points—both in consultation and at rating time.”

Carrie said they are asking programs to look carefully at their current practices to see where changes to policies or procedures could be made to meet the requirements of the point, while still meeting the philosophy of the program and the needs of the children.

“These points; [DAP and FE], are both a nice opportunity to talk with programs about best practice in a new way,” added Carrie.

For more resources on DAP

SFTA:
Developmentally Appropriate Practice Pinterest Board
NAEYC:
Recommended Professional Development Library for DAP
Q&A with the editors of Developmentally Appropriate Practice
DAP Frequently Asked Questions
10 Effective DAP Teaching Strategies
The Activity Idea Place:
Developmentally Appropriate Practices with Young Children

(*This article was originally published in SFTA’s Q1 2016 newsletter. View the full publication here. Sign up to receive our quarterly newsletter here).

 

WI Child Care Providers: Fingerprinting Requirement

finger printDear Child Care Professionals:

Child care providers receiving Wisconsin Shares child care subsidy (also known as county subsidy) and/or participating in YoungStar are required to obtain a one-time only fingerprint check on all caregiver employees no later than December 31, 2015. Licensed child care centers must apply for an authorization from the Department of Justice Crime Information Bureau to receive the fingerprint check results before submitting the fingerprint background check request.

Prior to conducting fingerprint-based background checks on employees, please complete this form on the DOJ website and submit it to the Crime Information Bureau. Providers can submit completed forms via:

Email: CIBRecordCheck@doj.state.wi.us
FAX: 608.267.4558
U.S. Mail:

WI Department of Justice
Record Check Unit
PO BOX 2688
Madison, WI  53701-2688

For information on Caregiver Background Checks, visit the website: http://dcf.wisconsin.gov/childcare/licensed/CBC.htm

Family Engagement Criteria in Action: WI Child Care Providers

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When a family is actively engaged in their child’s early learning, in child care and at home, it not only positions them to better understand their child’s growth and needs, it strengthens supports for that child’s development and school readiness (NAEYC). The importance of this connection is why the 2016 YoungStar Draft Evaluation Criteria states that starting in 2017 child care programs participating in YoungStar will be required to earn points for family engagement practices; one point to earn a 3 Star, and two points to earn a 4 or 5 Star.

The family engagement criteria consist of five categories. Beyond these categories, depending on the star level your program is striving to achieve or maintain, there are tiered requirements that demonstrate the depth of the activities you implement, a set amount of categories that have to be covered, and a certain number of family engagement activities that programs must achieve. For a more in depth idea of what that entails, you can take a look at the Family and Group Family Engagement Criteria, or ask about additional technical consultation and free or low-cost training surrounding the family engagement point(s) at your local YoungStar office. For now, we are going to take a look at what family engagement might look like in each tier (A and B), of the five family engagement criteria categories, to get you thinking about how you can incorporate more family engagement into your program to meet these requirements.

  1. Transition: An ongoing process to ensure children and families are informed and supported through changes in a child’s placement within, or in relation to, their child care program. Examples:file000264362061
    Tier A) There is a policy in place that outlines a plan to ease transition for children moving to a new classroom.
    Tier B) Implement a “buddy system” for transitioning children to a new classroom, where two children get transitioned together so they know someone in their new room. Let them pick a favorite toy or stuffed animal from their old room to take with them to the new room.
  2. Family Involvement (Engagement): Family involvement is participation of families in events and activities the program plans for families. Family engagement is the ongoing, shared responsibility by programs and families to support children’s learning and development, where families work with programs to plan events, activities, and program changes.
    Involvement = for families, engagement = with families.file0001201671580 Examples:
    Tier A) Program offers at least 3 opportunities throughout the year for families to participate in the child care program, such as coming along on a class field trip or coming to eat lunch with their child on a special occasion (Family Involvement).
    Tier B) Create a committee with parents and staff to plan program events and activities together (Family Engagement).
  3. Family Communications Strategies: If programs know how to most effectively communicate with the families in their care, they can build meaningful relationships. Examples:Comment box Tier A) Have a question on the intake form about the family’s preferred method of communication; e.g. call, e-mail, text, etc.
    Tier B) Have a suggestion box for parents to give feedback and/or make recommendations for the program. The program can use suggestions from parents/families to make positive changes, showing parents that their input matters.
  4. Family Support Strategies: When programs have the tools and strategies in place to support families in areas of need, especially during stressful times, it enhances positive interactions between the program and the family, as well as the family and their child.Clothes
    Examples:
    Tier A) Program has a written policy outlining how they will gather information from families about their culture and values, and acknowledging a family’s right to make decisions for their child.
    Tier B) Have an exchange table at the program where families can donate items that their child has grown out of so other families who need those items can take them.
  5. Family/Community Connection Strategies: By building and maintaining strong relationships throughout their community, with family support organizations, businesses, etc., early education programs can more readily connect families with extra supports when needed.Examples:Garden
    Tier A) Demonstrate the program is sponsoring or participating in local community events at least twice throughout the year, by having a sign-up sheet for the event, pictures, or fliers.
    Tier B) Involve children and families in community service projects through their child care program, such as participating in a local food drive, or working in a community garden.

Barriers to family engagement:

Sometimes engaging and involving families in your child care program takes some extra time and effort. It means building solid relationships with your families and working from that foundation to create a stronger sense of engagement and shared commitment to the program and the children it serves. Don’t let one setback discourage you. As the provider it is up to you to continually try to engage families in their children’s experience at your program. Here are a few barriers to family engagement you might consider:

  • Time of day that the event is being held. Maybe you can have the event at two separate times to allow people options to choose from (morning and evening), or survey families to see what works best for the majority. Drop off and pick up times may work well since families already plan on being there.
  • Length of event. Is your event a realistic amount of time for families with young children to stay? Are families expected to stay for the entire event? An “open house” approach where families can come and go within the allotted time for the event may work better for some families.
  • Interrupted meal times or hunger. Provide food of some kind at the event for parents and family members who may have just come from work or need a little extra incentive to get there.
  • Age-appropriate activities. Are there activities for all family members who are expected to attend? Consider older/younger siblings.
  • Transportation. Do all of your families have ready access to a car or other transportation? Partner with a bus service, community car resource or have volunteer drivers to make sure all families can get to any events. Families might be willing to carpool if you work with them to create a car pool calling tree or social media event ahead of time.

…and remember, any event or effort where you have families help plan will drastically increase their interest in participating.

The family engagement examples offered here are only a few ideas out of a million that are out there. Start this process by sitting down on your own or with staff to brainstorm what you are already doing in your program to engage families. As you move forward to implement new ideas, make sure your staff is on board– classroom teachers are the most immediate connection from your program to your parents and they can play a big part in whether families choose to engage. Finally, don’t forget that you can always contact your local YoungStar office for assistance in receiving additional technical assistance for family engagement, and to access family engagement trainings in your area.

Take the supports you need, and have fun with this process! In the end, engaging your families in your program will not only make it a more positive, fruitful learning experience for the children, it will prove a valuable partnership for you and your program.

*Most definitions, examples and possible barriers were pulled from the Family (p.52-66) or Group (p.72-86) 2016 YoungStar Draft Evaluation Criteria, and related documents. If you are a school-age provider, or a licensed day camp, explore your family engagement criteria in the school-age provider 2016 criteria (p.60-73) or the licensed day camp 2016 criteria (p.60-73). Many of the examples given can be used across program types, whether family, group, school-age, or day camp.

Arts for Kids: Child Care Parent Appreciation Story

Congratulations to the group child care program Arts for Kids in North Fond Du Lac, WI for winning our parent story drawing. Both the family who submitted the story and the program will receive 2 sets of I Spy board books, and have their story featured below, to promote quality in early education. Parent stories we received that did not win our drawing will still be used to honor programs across Wisconsin succeeding in quality through YoungStar and to promote quality early care and education in Wisconsin.

A HUGE thanks to Arts for Kids for the quality early education program they provide, and to the parents who took the time to express their gratitude: (Please click the image to enlarge).

Parent Story Winner visual

WI CHILD CARE PROVIDERS: REMINDER REGARDING FINGERPRINT-BASED BACKGROUND CHECKS

finger printIn 2013, Wisconsin Act 20 was signed into law. This Act requires all regulated child care providers who accept Wisconsin Shares reimbursement to complete a one-time fingerprint-based criminal background check. This requirement applies to all licensees, certified providers, adults that reside at the child care address, and all employees who care for children. The Department requires full compliance no later than January 1, 2016. If an individual had a fingerprint check conducted due to residing out of state, they will not be required to submit fingerprints again to meet this new requirement.

The fingerprint requirement may be completed through Fieldprint®. Individuals may schedule an appointment online using the Fieldprint® website. http://fieldprintwisconsin.com/. If you have questions regarding the requirement, contact the Background Unit at 608-266-8001. Certified providers must contact their certification agency if they have questions about fingerprint requirements. If your child care program has already met this requirement you may disregard this reminder.

(*Please note that SFTA is sharing this as a reminder to providers. We are not involved in the fingerprinting process or coordination. If you are having an issue with the Fieldprint online fingerprinting appointment set-up call (877) 614-4364 or email CustomerService@fieldprint.com).