OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) - Quality and accountability are important factors when selecting the right child care center for your young children including early childhood education, advocates say.
"There's more to finding a good child care center than [asking], 'How much does it costs and do you have enough - do you have room?" said Joyce Kinney.
That's where Step Up to Quality steps in, she says, a coach for the program launched by the Nebraska State Dept. of Education in 2014.
It's optional, except for centers receiving more than $250,000 a year in subsidy money, and features a five tier rating with child care centers aiming as high as they want.
The program covers a wide range including curriculum and best practices.
Jen Nelson, a 30 year-plus industry veteran, received the highest rating at her Nurture and Nature Family Child Care.
Like others, she said she honestly believed she had a good program - and did.
But said, "There's always a way to improve."
Kinney coached Nelson through the process, providing feeback which prompted the child care center to remove battery-operated devices and implement hands-on work stations in and outside the center, operated in Nelson's home.
To maintain the rating, centers will have to be re-evaluated every few years, said program director Lauri Cimino.
When asked if the program creates more red tape - after Kinney acknowledges the industry typically sees high-turnover and little support - she said no.
Parents shouldn't have to wonder if their child's child care is rated or not, she said.
"They need to know what quality looks like," she said. "Then, they need to ask for it. They need to demand it from their programs."
To learn more about the program or find participating child care centers, click here .