YoungStar Micro-Grants at Work

MGpic8Kids at First Child Care Center in Rice Lake was excited to recently receive their second micro-grant as a YoungStar participating program. Karin Lindau, the Director, worked closely with the program’s Technical Consultant, Lisa Cottrell, on planning how to best use the micro-grant funds to add onto their outdoor play area.

“Planning how to use the micro-grant was a lot of fun,” said Karin. “Lisa was great about helping.”

Together, Karin, a co-worker and Lisa planned what activity areas to add to the outdoorMGpic13 area, and made a list of materials that could be purchased using the micro-grant funds to create those areas. From there, Karin and Lisa worked with Supporting Families Together Association Micro-Grant Program Specialists to purchase or receive reimbursement for the needed materials.

Karin emphasized that being able to buy locally and receive reimbursement, an option that the SFTA Micro-Grant Program has brought to the forefront in the last year, really allowed her to make the most of her funding.

“The grant made it possible to be able to do all of it in one swoop instead of just little chunks,” stated Karin. “It just feels like we are dreaming when we get $1,000 for a grant.”

MGpic9Using creativity, micro-grant funds and donated time from parishioners at the church where the program is housed, they bought lumber and built gardening beds for the kids to plant, harvest and sample seasonal vegetables. High school students volunteered to paint colorful murals on the back of the church shed that faces the playground and the micro-grant funds covered the paint.

Lisa and Karin worked together to build a water play area using a lattice and purchasedMGpic3 attachments so that kids could funnel, dump and play with water outdoors. A sound wall with various materials and instruments was built for kids to experiment with sound, and a large weaving loom was constructed and woven through with scarves and fabric for sensory and gross motor play. Finally, they added a shaded area for kids to go to read or have quiet time. All of the new outdoor activities were in place for several months before cold weather hit, allowing children and staff to put the areas to use this past summer and fall.

“The new activities just give the kids a lot more choices,” said Karin, “and it just seems like it’s less chaos.”

The Micro-Grant Program housed at Supporting Families Together Association grants funding to support the Quality Improvement Plans (QIPs) developed by child care providers in collaboration with their Technical Consultants, who guide providers in implementing their QIP as part of the YoungStar technical assistance process. Learn more on the Micro-Grant Program webpage.

(This article was originally published in Supporting Families Together Association’s Q4 2017 newsletter. View all of our past newsletters on our website, or sign up to receive quarterly newsletters).


Farm to Early Care and Education: The Parenting Place

In June of 2016 The Parenting Place, a Child Care Resource & Referral agency in La Crosse, WI, was awarded funding through the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to implement Farm to Early Care and Education (Farm to ECE) practices with local child care programs in La Crosse County. The Parenting Place is working collaboratively on implementation with Community GroundWorks and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families. Wisconsin is one of four states working with the Kellogg Foundation as part of a larger project on behalf of Farm to ECE aimed at children ages 0-5, to increase access to fresh and local food options for children in early care and education, and to build children and families’ knowledge about healthy eating in care and at home.

“Right now, our obesity rate is so high in children and they have lost the connection ofHGNS - Garden where their food comes from,” said Farm to Early Care & Education Program Coordinator Emily Doblar, adding that the accessibility and low cost of fast food means some children don’t even frequent grocery stores often. Farm to ECE is “really just giving them a sense of community and excitement about healthy food while educating and engaging families makes a huge impact.”

This project is intended to run for 2 years, and The Parenting Place has chosen five child care sites for initial implementation of this project through a detailed application process. Emily currently works with these five sites. In the second year of the project another five sites will be chosen through a similar application process.

Emily not only works closely with the five participating child care programs but with local farmers, Master Gardeners, greenhouses and trainers like Community Groundworks to build lasting connections for these programs to access fresh, local food and provide hands-on experiences for children in care, such as field trips to local farms or having a garden onsite.

“Relationships are an important part of this work in so many aspects,” explained Emily. “We learn from our grant partners, child care sites and from the local farmers and growers that are working together to make this program a success.”

Each child care program has completed a Farm to ECE self-assessment identifying potential for growth in areas including purchasing and serving fresh and local food, family engagement, onsite gardens, and hands-on learning. From these self-assessments, programs have worked with Emily to create a Farm to ECE Action Plan, identifying steps to take and materials they need to meet their Farm to ECE goals, including ways to sustain those changes after the project with The Parenting Place is completed. The concept for both the self-assessments and the Action Plans are loosely based on similar tools used in YoungStar, Wisconsin’s Child Care Quality Rating & Improvement System. The Parenting Place provides partial funding for programs to meet their goals in a sustainable manner, such as child-sized gardening implements, tools to prepare local produce, field trips to farms or farmer’s markets, resources to host family engagement events, or gardening workshops for child care providers.

cowsThe connections Emily is building between early educators and local farming/gardening experts, has helped to overcome some of the unique challenges that ECE programs face in building Farm to ECE into their daily routines. Unlike many WI K-12 schools, child care programs are far more varied in the number of children they have at one time, making it difficult to meet minimum ordering requirements for farms and other fresh food vendors. Some child care programs have very limited budgets to work with, are in areas where it may be unsafe to leave for field trips, or have very little green space or light exposure for a garden. Each program also has their own philosophy that guides the care of the children and may affect how they approach Farm to ECE implementation. Furthermore, there is the need to consider cultural diversity across programs and families and how the Farm to ECE approach might look a little different to meet the varied needs of family and program cultures. For instance, Emily is working with a Hmong preschool teacher familiar with Farm to ECE to engage with Hmong farmers and is working with Community Groundworks to revise the Farm to ECE materials and approach to be a better fit for this purpose. Emily has been able to work with each program from where they are starting and what they need, getting local farmers and other resources in place to support program efforts.

“A lot of [the farmers] are really excited,” said Emily, noting successes like one local beef farmer who is on the board of a Farmer’s Market and would like to offer a family night with a petting zoo. Other organic growers have offered to send e-mails every few weeks to program sites to let them know when food is available at a reduced cost. Several farmers are open to having programs out for field trips, and a few have even offered to bring learning opportunities from the farm onsite for programs that are unable to travel from their building. Participating providers are also enthusiastic and have started to meet and discuss ideas and resources amongst themselves, a collaboration they plan to continue.

The end goal of this 2-year project (which concludes in May of 2018) is to impact approximately 250 children through the selected 10 child care program sites, by creating lasting changes in how these children and child care programs approach and understand healthy, local eating. Programs will be working to have sustainability plans in place so that they can continue integrating Farm to ECE into their daily routine beyond this project. Lessons learned from this project and the methodology used can then serve as a model for other ECE sites nationally, and could be used to inform future regulations, quality rating criteria or accreditation standards.

This story was originally published in the SFTA Q2 2017 newsletter. Access the full newsletter here, or sign up to receive our quarterly newsletters.

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

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 (

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

Sherri Underwood, Micro-Grant Manager (

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.

Top 5 Reasons to Become a Regulated Child Care Provider in WI


(Review the two types of child care regulation in WI: Licensing and Certification)

  1. Child Care Subsidies: Only regulated child care providers participating in YoungStar are eligible to care for families participating in Wisconsin Shares, which helps families pay for child care. This opens your program to a broader population of potential families in need of care. Participating in YoungStar also provides you with added benefits, such as technical consultation and access to micro-grants to purchase materials for your program.
  2. Participation in the WI Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Regulated child care programs can join a CACFP food program and are reimbursed for the cost of serving nutritious meals and snacks to the children in their care.
  3. Child Care Referrals: WI Child Care Resource & Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) generate lists of child care options for parents looking for child care and can only include regulated child care programs in these referrals. Deciding to be regulated puts your program on these lists, which makes good marketing sense for promoting your child care business.
  4. Business Benefits & Supports: Regulated child care providers may be qualified to apply for grants or loans, seek small business assistance, and claim income tax deductions. There is more technical assistance and consultation available to regulated providers from their local CCR&R, meaning that being regulated increases your opportunity for professional growth.
  5. Build Trust with the Families You Serve: Being regulated demonstrates your commitment to being a quality child care professional and shows that your program meets statewide standards meant to ensure children’s safety and well-being. This offers parents and caregivers looking for care an added level of comfort and trust in your program.

For more information about becoming a regulated child care provider, visit the SFTA website or contact your local CCR&R agency at (888) 713. KIDS (5437). (Click on the image at the top right of this post for an interactive version of this list).

(This post was originally published in the Supporting Family Together Association’s quarterly e-newsletter. Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter here, or visit our publication archives to see past newsletters).

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.”


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

Developmentally Appropriate Practice Pinterest Board
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:

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: