RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s one of the most important decisions parents make for their children – who will care for them when mom and dad are at work? But some people don’t realize the state doesn’t regulate all child care centers the same way.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services regulates child care centers. All centers are required to meet physical safety standards. Employees must complete background checks, first aid, and safe sleep courses, and at most centers employees must take classes related to child development.
They are “courses about really what’s appropriate for a 2-year-old versus a 4-year-old because we want to make sure what they’re doing with children is really what’s appropriate,” explained Anna Carter, the director of DHHS’s Division of Child Development and Early Education.
If a daycare is licensed, it will receive a star rating. Higher ratings go to centers with a more educated staff and lower student-teacher ratios, among other criteria.
Robin Fuller-Jones is the educational director of The Goddard School on Creedmoor Road in Raleigh, which prides itself on a five-star rating, the highest given.
“Your rooms are set up in a way that helps for better learning,” she explained. “Our teachers lesson plan in a way that is so specialized to the needs of our children – individualized to each child’s need – that I need them to have that level of education behind them, the early childhood education.”
Not all centers are required to have a license, though.
Religious-sponsored childcare centers are exempt from some of the rules. While they have the same safety requirements, teachers at religious-based centers don’t have to take child development classes. They are also exempt from activity requirements, noted Carter.
“At a licensed center, they have to have the area set up with specific materials for the children’s experiences during the day. Religious programs are not monitored for that,” Carter said.
“Who we hire, the requirements of our staff, that is all under the authority of the church,” said Maria Miller, the director of Trinity Baptist Weekday Preschool in Raleigh.
Like many church-based daycare centers, Trinity operates with a certificate of compliance from the state rather than a star-rated license.
We asked if she thinks the children who attend get any less of an education because teachers do not have to be trained in early childhood development.
“No,” Miller replied, adding, “I think you actually get more because we’re able to provide a loving, nurturing environment. We also get to put that little piece of faith in.”
Ashley Mills said she’s very happy she chose Trinity. She said her son, Noah, gets a good educational foundation as well as learning about his faith.
“His teachers are phenomenal. His friends are phenomenal, he learns a lot,” she said.
North Carolina state senator Floyd McKissick says he’d like to see all childcare centers follow the same rules.
“The important part is making sure there are uniform standards that are applied across the board and teachers that are adequately trained to provide what we need in terms of a stimulating learning environment for kids,” he said.
For now though, DHHS urges parents to be aware of the system of licenses and regulations so they can make the best choice for their family.
If you want to search child care centers to see what kind of license or certificate they have or if you want to find out more about the licensing system, click this link here.