FRANKFORT, Ky. (May 5, 2005) – Aaron and Anderson Vitatoe love their day-care center, Faith Lutheran Child Care.
“The minute they get there, they jump into one of their teachers’ laps,” said their mother, Whitney Vitatoe. “The teachers are excited to see them and always seem interested in them with questions like ‘did you sleep in your own bed all night?’
“Some days the boys, especially Anderson, don’t want to leave. They want to stay and hang out.”
But the 3-year-olds do more than just hang out all day at the Lexington center.
“They have a curriculum and a lesson plan every day,” Vitatoe said. “There is a different theme every week, and Wednesdays are ‘share days,’ when every child brings an item related to the theme.
“It’s more like a learning center than a baby center, which is exactly what we were looking for,” she said. “We love it, too.”
Fathers and mothers like Vitatoe have their chance to officially say “thank you” to child-care providers this week. Governor Ernie Fletcher has proclaimed Friday, May 6, Provider Appreciation Day in Kentucky.
The proclamation reads in part that “parents and caregivers are urged to thank their child-care providers for their daily commitment to nurturing the state’s youngest citizens.”
The state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the agency that licenses and regulates child-care providers, recognizes their dedication.
“It takes a special person to work in this field,” said Eugene Foster, Ed.D., the cabinet’s undersecretary for Children and Family Services. “And these individuals are often unrecognized and underappreciated. Friday is a time parents can demonstrate the gratitude they feel every day they drop off and pick up their children from reliable care.”
The cabinet’s Division of Child Care in the Department for Community Based Services administers the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to help Kentucky’s low-income families find and afford quality child care and promotes training opportunities to child-care staff.
Division Director Betsy Farley said child-care centers contribute to a healthy economic environment which helps to support Kentucky’s growing economy.
“Moms and dads have the freedom to work when their children are safe with an experienced and caring provider,” Farley said. “We want a good, stable work force, and child care helps Kentucky to be more productive.”
State-licensed centers and family child care homes are approved to care for approximately 162,000 children.
Also within the cabinet, the Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) Division of Regulated Child Care is responsible for licensing and investigating complaints against child-care programs, residential child-caring facilities and child-placing agencies. The division also administers the Quality Rating System, also known as STARS.
Division Director Robert Hester said OIG’s annual, unannounced inspections and immediate reaction to alleged problems in child-care centers can assure parents that the state is doing its part to protect children when they cannot be with family.
“Our staff knows when parents drop off their children at day care, it can be an emotional time,” he said. “Our shared, primary concern is for them to be safe.”
Hester said his highly experienced staff has an extensive background in child development and is offered continuous training on every aspect of an investigation, down to taking complaints by phone.
Farley said good child care is important on many levels.
“Without it, low-income families would have a very, very difficult time, and children could be at risk,” she said. “When kids are in a better place, they thrive, and their parents are more likely to succeed. They’re both happier and healthier, and all aspects of their family lives go better.”
Foster said the best providers will offer more than safety and regular, healthy meals.
“Day care can be the foundation of a lifetime of learning for children,” he said. “Good providers are child-focused and will offer new experiences, age-appropriate cognitive stimulation and social development. It’s a heavy responsibility, and that’s why child-care providers deserve our appreciation.”
Vitatoe said Faith Lutheran keeps her boys active both physically and mentally.
“Each day there is a challenge for them, and they are at the age when they need to be challenged,” she said. “The center keeps their minds busy.”
Vitatoe said Faith Lutheran’s preschool curriculum is the same type of learning she would offer at home if she couldn’t find the right day care and chose to stay home with the boys rather than continue working at AAA Bluegrass.
“The separation is easier knowing that they are happy and learning,” she said. “I feel better about my decision to keep working. I couldn’t keep working if I knew they hated it.”
The Vitatoes did their homework in looking for a quality day care, and Whitney Vitatoe recommends other parents do the same. The Child Care Resource and Referral Agency in your area is a good place to start. Vitatoe used the Child Care Council in Lexington to get background information on the agencies she considered.
Daily lessons better prepare Aaron and Anderson for school, she said.
“The things my kids know blow my mind -- things they haven’t learned from me that I know they were taught at school. At 2 and 3, they have gotten accustomed to the learning period and lesson plans they will be getting in kindergarten.”
Vitatoe said she and her husband, Sean, tell the Faith Lutheran staff how pleased they are with the center.
“We praise them all the time,” she said. “We know the child-care workers can be underpaid. To have parents know and appreciate what they do is nice.”
A wide variety of child-care programs is available in Kentucky, although demand for quality care continues to exceed the need statewide. Programs are operated by faith-based organizations, school districts, civic/social organizations, licensed day-care or family child-care providers and other community groups.
Learn more about the Division of Child Care at http://chfs.ky.gov/dcbs/dcc/, and the OIG at http://chfs.ky.gov/oig/drcc.htm.
Tips for choosing quality child care
Parents are urged to always ask if a program or center is licensed or certified by the state or local government.
Parents should also keep these things in mind when selecting a child-care program:
Facilities - Does the program provide a safe, clean environment? Is there enough space for activities and quiet time? Are the restrooms adequate? Is the space cheerful and appealing to children?
Staff - Does the staff consist of responsible and caring adults who like children and can provide support and guidance? Are staff first-aid certified? Is supervision adequate?
Activities - Are there good resources, such as books, craft supplies and sports equipment? Do the activities look exciting and challenging? Are they age-appropriate? Are the participants having fun as well as learning? Are the activities offered ones that your children like to do or want to learn? Are nutritional snacks or meals provided?
Development - Does the program coordinate group and individual learning to be sure that participants benefit as much as possible?
You can measure quality child care by what you see and hear. Be sure to visit a program before and after your child is enrolled. And ask lots of questions -– no good caregiver will mind.
• To learn about child-care options from your local Child Care Resource and Referral Agency (CCRRA), call the Division of Child Care at (800) 421-1903, or the Kentucky Child Care Network at (877) 723-5002 for a list of service areas and CCRRA phone numbers.
• To report a concern or ask about safety or regulatory issues at your child’s day care -- call the OIG’s Division of Regulated Child Care at (502) 564-2800.
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