April 3, 2018
The Dorchester County Judy Center serves as a hub for the community, helping to nurture children and their families as they grow and prepare to enter school.
Part of the community focus is to help child care and early education programs and providers strengthen the foundation they are providing for infants to preschoolers and young school-age children.
In the past year, this Eastern Shore Judy Center helped programs and providers in Maryland EXCELS get the professional development needed to publish at a Quality Rating 3.
For area families looking for child care and early education, having more local programs and providers with a Quality Rating of 3 gives families greater options for high-quality care.
For the programs and providers, a Quality Rating of 3 also means increased financial benefits of higher Child Care Subsidy payments. Depending on the number of children enrolled with Subsidy vouchers, this can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in Maryland EXCELS payments to the program or provider.
“It all goes back to doing what’s best for the child so they’re benefitting in the end and giving providers the skills they need in order to be a quality provider,” said Chareka Harris, coordinator of the Dorchester County Judy Center in Cambridge.
The Dorchester County Judy Center is one of 51 Judy Centers throughout Maryland, which provide services to promote school readiness for children birth through age five. This center also serves as a community hub that supports families as a whole by partnering with other agencies to offer services ranging from adult education to health services.
“I think that the community recognizes that we’re here to work together for the good of all children,” Harris said. “But most importantly, in this county, [we’re working] to get children as ready as they can be as soon as they walk in to that schoolhouse door.”
Last year, the Dorchester County Judy Center aimed to help three more programs and providers achieve at least a Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating of 3. At the beginning of the year, two programs and providers were published at a Quality Rating of 3.
With lots of encouragement, the incentive of free registration to the 2017 Maryland State Family Child Care Conference, and the opportunity for Professional Development, the center exceeded its goal and helped seven programs and providers move to Quality Rating 3!
The Center offered professional development in areas such as licensing, assessments, and health and safety. Maryland EXCELS Quality Assurance Specialists, Mary Beth Johnson and Dianna Aguirre also conducted technical assistance training and helped providers with questions and documents. Each provider who published at Quality Rating of 3 was featured in a congratulatory post on the Judy Center’s Facebook page. Harris explained that the posts encourage providers and families in the close-knit community.
“This is to highlight the goodness and hard work they put in to get to that level,” Harris said. “It’s like a badge of honor. It also highlights their business and boosts self-esteem. It’s great to get that recognition.”
The Judy Center also helps families understand the importance of having programs and providers who work hard to achieve a higher Quality Rating in Maryland EXCELS and what the extra check marks mean for their children.
When parents are seeking child care, the Center points them to the Maryland EXCELS website and shows parents how to find quality child care through the website’s resources.
“We want to help make sure children have a good foundation so that teachers can go on and continue with the skills that were provided during their early years,” Harris said.