Throughout my childhood, I attended child care while my parents worked. As if by destiny, my teacher would joke and say that she should put me on the payroll because I was her little helper! Fast forward to adulthood, and I became the director of a child care program that not only fulfilled my passion for the work, but also allowed me to keep my own daughter by my side.
Motherhood changed my life.
All I could think about was how to keep this perfect little human right by my side to watch her grow, while also investing in other little lives. My passion has only grown over the years, and particularly as I’ve taken my most recent role as Director of Child Care Services for Oklahoma Human Services (OKDHS).
Child care is an imperative part of our state’s economy, as it allows parents to attain their educational and career goals! Choosing quality child care is one of the most important decisions we make as parents. Knowing our children are safe and engaged in a quality early childhood learning environment while we work provides both reassurance for today and hope for the future.
Quality child care means enriching environments! Early learning opportunities set our children up for success to last their lifetimes. We know that the first five years of life are critical for learning and development – and are times when our kids’ brains are soaking up everything like sponges.
As part of OKDHS’ Child Care Services, my role includes talking about our agency’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) and how it offers “Quality for Every Child.”
For us at OKDHS, “Quality for Every Child” isn’t just a slogan – it’s our life! My team is committed to ensuring that all children and families who need it have access to licensed, quality child care. Our agency is enhancing QRIS to improve the quality of care in our state, including a dedicated focus on learning and development, family partnerships, program evaluation, professional development, administrative practices and health and safety.
What is QRIS exactly?
This vital program helps OKDHS assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality and positive practices in early childhood programs. QRIS criteria is developed from current research and what is universally considered as quality child care. Through this voluntary program, child care professionals have access to tools and supports to continually improve the care and education they provide for children. Child care staff also have opportunities for professional development and the families they serve can get involved to learn about the quality practices that benefit their children!
When you look at our Child Care Locator, whether to search for a new child care program or to see how your current child care program is doing, you’ll notice each program has a star quality rating. The star levels have a defined set of program standards and, as programs go up in levels, the amount of incentives and quality standards increase.
With the latest updates to QRIS, child care programs can achieve up to a five star quality rating (an increase over the previously available three stars) and have access to alternate pathways to national accreditation! In addition, participating providers have support with curriculum and lesson planning, learning manipulatives from Lakeshore Learning Company and access to quality coaches, among other major upgrades. These not only benefit the programs, but most importantly, the children. There are also amazing financial incentives for participating child care professionals, so they won’t want to miss out!
Talk to your child care provider about QRIS and how this program can benefit the children they serve, as well as their program and staff. Child care providers have been receiving information about this program, which launched in June, and we’re looking forward to an increase in participation across the state! For more information, visit our OKDHS QRIS website.
We hope you’ll take some time in the coming weeks to acknowledge the important work of child care professionals and look for ways you can offer support to them. If you have a heart for serving children in your community, please consider a career in child care! There is a major shortage of child care professionals in Oklahoma and an even bigger opportunity to make a positive impact on the next generation. Visit CareforkidsOK.com to learn more about a career in child care!
Brittany Lee currently serves as the Director of Child Care Services at Oklahoma Human Services. Lee’s background includes nearly twenty years of professional experience in the early childhood sector. Her expertise ranges from teaching in the classroom, directing a child care center, supervising operations for multiple ECE programs, facilitating professional development and mentoring young educators. Lee has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Education and a master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum. Brittany is passionate and committed to enriching the lives of children and those child care professionals who work with them!