OWATONNA, Minn., December 11, 2015 - Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF) received a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation to help more children become better prepared for kindergarten. After successfully launching its Quality Child Care Program (QCCP) in 2013, this grant will help SMIF expand the program to Winona and Olmsted Counties, although providers from other counties are welcome and encouraged to attend.
SMIF's goal is to continue to expand and increase the number of Parent Aware-rated child care providers, ensuring more children are ready for kindergarten. The program gives providers opportunities close to home: group trainings, one-on-one mentoring, business training, and curriculum to support improved quality ratings. Through funds made possible by this, these opportunities are available at no-cost to providers.
The state average for child care providers who participate in Parent Aware is 10 percent, while nearly 30 percent of providers who participated in QCCP in the four counties where SMIF held trainings last year are participating in Parent Aware.
Studies show that by 2018, at least 70 percent of all jobs in Minnesota will require some training beyond high school, which is 2.1 million Minnesota jobs that will require skilled workers. The foundation for those skills is laid in early childhood.
Parent Aware is run by the state, and it identifies and rates child care programs that go beyond state licensing requirements. The more stars a provider has, the more equipped they are to create a successful early learning environment. Independent analysis has found that Parent Aware-rated programs effectively prepare children to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
Other funders of QCCP include the Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® of Minnesota Foundation, Mardag Foundation, and Medica Foundation, helping SMIF offer the program in 14 counties thus far, including six new counties added this year, including Winona and Olmsted. SMIF will continue to work with Child Care Aware Southern at Families First of Minnesota, First Children's Finance, and other local early childhood partners to implement the program.
“After a great first couple of years, we’ve established QCCP as a key component in helping southern Minnesota child care providers engage with Parent Aware,” said Rae Jean Hansen, Vice President of Early Childhood at SMIF. “With over 2,000 licensed child care providers in our region, there continues to be a need to expand QCCP. Ultimately, we strongly believe QCCP is helping to make more children better equipped to enter kindergarten.”