TransitSheltersEngGirlKids who attend quality early learning programs do better in life. That’s the message of a new campaign we’re co-sponsoring to educate parents about the importance of selecting quality child care for their children.

The campaign, called Quality Matters, also publicly launches Contra Costa County’s new system to rate and improve the level of quality licensed child care programs provide to young children. First 5 Contra Costa, the Contra Costa County Office of Education, and the Contra Costa Child Care Council are sponsoring the campaign.

“The important message to families is that quality matters when they choose a child care setting for their child. Research shows that children in quality child care are more successful academically and in life,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Quality Matters is improving the quality of child care in our county and will provide parents with tools they need to identify quality programs.”

To date, 104 licensed child care programs in Contra Costa County are voluntarily participating in Quality Matters. Providers receive training, coaching, support and incentives to meet or exceed quality standards. Most Quality Matters sites are located in low-income communities or serve children with high needs – the children least likely to receive quality child care. Sixteen counties in California are piloting child care rating and improvement systems using common criteria and standards.

ShoppingCarts-03wThe new campaign features ads in English and Spanish on buses, transit shelters, supermarket carts and online, and promotes the website which includes tips for locating and paying for quality child care and ratings for participating programs. So far, 83% of sites have either met or exceeded quality standards in areas proven to have the greatest impact on children’s learning and development. These include staff education and training, child-teacher interactions, and providing safe and enriching environments and age-appropriate instruction.

“With the majority of a child’s brain developing during the first five years of life, the quality of care a child receives during this time is critical,” said Ruth Fernández, program coordinator of the county’s Local Planning and Advisory Council for Early Care and Education, which is housed at the Contra County Office of Education. “Quality Matters provides a set of standards to define quality for parents and for providers. Over time, and with adequate state funding, it will help guide parents in choosing the best care they can for their children.”

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