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State Begins Rating Day Care Centers With Stars

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RALEIGH — When people see "five-stars" in a restaurant, they can pretty much be assured the food and service will be excellent. Now, the state is implementing a similar five-star rating system for day care centers.

The state currently has a rating system for day care centers where "A" and "AA" are the only levels. Child advocates say that was confusing for parents. The new five-star system is expected to make things much clearer.

"It's not a punitive measure. It's an opportunity to educate parents and give clear information to parents," said Stephanie Fanjul, director of the Division of Development.

Five is the magic number. Beginning Thursday, state day care inspectors can give a center a rating up to five stars.

The centers are judged on things including the education level of the staff, history of compliance and the staff to child ratio. Proponents hope the new standards will create market pressure on centers to improve.

Raleigh Nursery School has been in the day care business for 50 years. The school's director supports the five-star system but says the system alone can not ensure quality.

"No test instrument can truly measure the love, caring, nurturing and personal qualities overall favorable for a child," said Brenda High-Sanders, day care director.

State child care experts say the system should be a tool parents use to spark conversation and ask lots of questions.

Parents, including Folanda Massenburg, believe the more information that's out there, the better.

"It's hard because there are some day cares you never know, so it's good to be safe," said Massenburg.

Although the new licensing can begin Thursday, it will not happen so soon.

First, state day care leaders will meet with providers and explain how it works. The state's 9,000 centers are expected to be under the new system within a year.

Day care facilities are easily split into two categories: family child care homes and registed child care centers.

The state says as of last May, there were 5,076 family homes providing child care. There were 3,722 registered centers.

Combined, both kinds of businesses take care of more than 209,000 children from Murphy to Manteo.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
John Clark, Web Editor

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