Is the Oklahoma stars program right for me?
In 1998, the state implemented the Oklahoma Stars Program for rating quality in child care. One-star was for providers who meet minimum license requirements, one-star plus was working toward a higher quality level, two-star was better quality, and three-star was the best. As a new childcare provider, I thought this was a GREAT idea and was on board immediately to get the highest rating. Did this quality rating really mean quality?
Reaching for the stars, Oklahoma, is it for me?
In order to reach the two-star level, you have to have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential or a Certificate of Mastery in early childhood education, as well as numerous other qualifications. To reach the three-star level you have to have all of the two-star requirements plus be nationally accredited.
All of the requirements are great. They include goal setting, parent conferences and meetings, parent involvement activities, additional hours of yearly training required, and things of that nature. I feel like all of those things make me a better provider.
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I learned so much through the process of getting my CDA and I know it made me a much better provider and mother. I would recommend every provider do it. It was hard to work 55-60 hour weeks and still go to class for 10 hours a week and then have projects and homework after that. At times I thought it would kill me.
My husband continually complained about the extra work, so I quit several times. It took me two years to finish the year-long program because I didn’t stick with it. When I was taking my last two classes, he started complaining and I said, this is why I never finish this, now I’m almost done, be quiet!
What’s crazy about that is he is my biggest supporter in everything and he is always on board with whatever I come up with as a goal or dream. We got through it and I felt like it was such an accomplishment.
Oklahoma daycare star rating
Next, I set out to get nationally accredited. Oklahoma had a mentoring program and someone came out once a month and watched me with the kids, taking notes. I was given advice, books to read, and support on whatever areas I would need to improve.
After a year of observations, I applied for a grant to get supplies I needed to meet the requirements. I was awarded money for impact material for outside and edging to hold it in, and multicultural dolls and supplies. (Believe it or not, there are strict requirements on what can be accepted as multicultural and the only dolls available that meet it are super expensive). After I dotted all my I’s and crossed all my t’s I was awarded national accreditation. I was so excited.
After 10 years of being three-star and accredited, I was beginning to tire of all of the paperwork involved. In Oklahoma, there is a massive amount of paperwork involved in just being a licensed provider. Every year the state adds more requirements and more paperwork to the load and continually more and more providers quit (or more likely provide care illegally instead). As the load increased, I began to get disheartened with the process.
For the first nine years I was accredited, the fee was $495 every three years. That is A LOT of money for a childcare provider whose profit margin is laughable. I got a scholarship one year, did a fundraiser one year, and one year paid for it by saving up for two years before it was due.
Then I got a notice from the accrediting agency. The price would increase to $600 every three years PLUS a yearly renewal fee of $150 on year two and year three. The fees went from $495 to $900!
A provider who wants to get accredited must have FBI fingerprinting done for a federal background check in addition to our state background checks already required. Guess when you can get those? Monday through Friday 8-4. A provider must also have a TB skin test. Guess when you can get those? Monday through Friday 9-4. I work Monday through Friday 7:15-5:30 so I have to take days off to get those things.
Guess what happens when I take days off? I don’t get paid. A provider must also PAY for all of those things. Fingerprints are $53, TB skin tests are $27, copies of your last three years of training cost money, postage to mail a box full of paperwork costs money, fees, fees, fees.
Time off and time stressing out about mountains of paperwork and requirements I could be spending to just BE with my kids. Laughing with them, talking to them, and loving them. Spending my evenings getting rejuvenated so I can run and dance and play with them in the days. I felt the process had become more about money than quality. Anyone can put on a show while they are being observed, even if the observation date is a surprise. For help to avoid burnout, click here.
Is the Oklahoma stars program right for me?
I felt like the state had taken us on a journey to the wilderness and then left us out there. When the stars program was being promoted to us, we were told it would be advertised, and the whole state would be informed about what it was. That never happened. We reached for the stars and when we got them, we were left hanging from them. Most parents have never heard of the stars program or have no idea what they mean.
Over the year the grant program was shut down, scholarships discontinued, and raises for DHS subsidy for starred providers did not reflect the amount of work and expense they required. One year the three-star raise was 75 cents per day.
For paying $500 to get certified, I was receiving 50 cents more per day than a two-star provider. That spoke volumes to me about how the state felt about quality. They eventually fixed that a couple of years later, but it was such a slap in the face at the time.
I had a long talk with myself and then with my husband. I wanted to spend my time being fun instead of grouchy and drowning in paperwork. It was really tough for me to give up my rating because I thought the program was such a great idea, but I knew I would be the same me without the stars behind my name. So I decided after 12 years of being three-star, to let my stars go and quit the program. I would celebrate my gifts and not worry about what the state ratings said about me.
Reaching for the stars for childcare programs
Sometimes the popular decision or what looks right to everyone else is not what’s right for you. I’m finding that in several areas of my personal life right now, but I can see God makes everything work together for the good of those who love Him! That scripture is very real in my life right now as God is working on me in another area. I never tire of trusting Him, HE’s a great and amazing God!
I have not regretted for one minute letting my three-star go. For me, it has been the best choice. In childcare word of mouth is your best tool for success, and I do my best to meet the needs of my families, so they naturally talk to their friends about it.
What steps can you take today to simplify your life? Less is more, you won’t regret it. Have a super day!
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