Provider Spotlight: Maryland EXCELS Provider Succeeds with Toolkit

Nancy Rife in the center of a photo, surrounded by eight children under her care.

Nancy Rife considers the children she cares for in her family child care home exactly that—family.

When Rife was ready to improve the quality of care she offered her families, as well as expand her own knowledge, she took advantage of the wealth of resources found in the Maryland EXCELS Toolkit.

In a few short months, Rife, who cares for eight children under age 4 in her Hagerstown home, quickly worked her way from a quality rating 1 to a quality rating 3 using the Build-A-Policy feature of the Toolkit.

Rife said she “stalled” at a quality rating 1 for a long time, and then explained how she learned about the new Toolkit from Quality Assurance Specialist Petrea Fletcher. Rife found the format and resources convenient and easy to use.

“I just threw myself into it,” Rife said. “It was an opportunity for me to learn—new tools, different things to do with the kids, different resources. It was also to show my kids—I have two kids of my own—that you can do whatever you want in life when you apply yourself.”

Rife set a goal for herself to achieve a quality rating 3 before she had to renew her quality rating a few months ago. Fletcher happily called to tell Rife she accomplished her goal with a few days to spare.

“With the Toolkit out there, and it having the examples and the explanations or other links that can give you direction, that makes it a lot easier and a lot faster” to reach goals as a provider, Rife said. “It’s definitely given me a better perspective, and it’s given me more tools to work with, more information, more ideas, more references that I can look at and read.”

The Maryland EXCELS Toolkit launched on July 26, 2017 as a new collection of resources to help child care professionals enhance the quality of their programs. The Toolkit also helps programs and providers navigate the Maryland EXCELS Standards and offers new ideas and activities for the children in their care.

Among the most helpful Toolkit features for programs and providers are the quality rating checklists. These lists help programs meet their goals and contain content that helps improve child care practices.

Programs can also reference step-by-step guides for outlines of the requirements for each standard. The checklists also include a Policy and Statement Builder tool to develop or revise policies, handbooks and documentation that may be required to achieve a higher quality rating.

Rife found the Policy and Statement Builder tool particularly helpful to work up to a quality rating 3 as quickly as she did. She also sees the benefit of having comprehensive policies and handbooks to share with families.

“I think it makes you more professional. I’m a home child care provider—everything I do and say reflects on me,” Rife said. “I show [families] the certificates and show them the work I’ve done because they’re interested in it. … They know that’s a good thing because you’re keeping your knowledge fresh about how to take care of the children.”

An additional benefit of reaching a quality rating 3 that Rife didn’t expect is the increased Maryland EXCELS payments she receives for accepting Child Care Subsidy.

“I didn’t know until a couple of months ago when Petrea told me,” she said. “That was pretty exciting, especially when she broke it down into dollar amounts… It was like a bonus.”

Rife feels so encouraged by the support of her Quality Assurance Specialist and her achievements that she plans to keep working toward higher quality ratings. In fact, she is already working on a quality rating 4.

“I love what I’m doing with my life right now and the effect I’m having on the children and their lives,” she said.