Cache Valley celebrates childcare center accredidations

Aggie Care, a USU program with a mission to support USU faculty, staff and students with work and family issues, celebrated the national accreditation of 11 of its affiliated childcare providers with a banquet on Monday. Five years ago, Provost Raymond Coward and Ann Austin, the director of the Center for Women and Gender, founded Aggie Care. “Aggie Care was the Provost’s idea,” Austin said. “He wanted to build something for the faculty and for the community. It was funded by the Provost to raise the quality of care for students and faculty.” “Provost Coward said that when 10 providers became accredited, we could have a party,” Austin said. “The whole celebration was his brainchild.” Coward invited the families of those who provide childcare and the families who utilize the childcare services to attend the banquet in the TSC Skyroom. “Accreditation is another indicator of quality; it’s above licensing,” said Cara Allen, the director of Aggie Care. “The National Association of Family Child Care has a list of standards that must be met and observed in order for a provider to be accredited.” According to the NAFCC website, “The mission of the National Association for Family Child Care is to promote quality child care by strengthening the profession of family child care.” Allen said the community needs to understand the importance of childcare accreditation and why to look for it. According to the NAFCC website, accreditation is “an indicator that family child care offers safe, inviting spaces and warm, nurturing care, complete with educational activities designed to meet the needs and interests of all children, while promoting individual development.” There are about 2,100 accredited childcare providers nationwide. In Utah, there are 13 accredited providers, and 11 of them are in Cache Valley. There are five more providers in the valley slated for accreditation. “They go through self-study, then a visit from someone from the accreditation,” Allen said. “Then, they are checked every year and renewed every three years. They have to have about 90 hours of training over three years.” There are 289 different standards that must be met in order to receive accreditation, Austin said. These standards are separated into five categories: relationships with children, professional and business practices, environment, developmental learning activities, and safety and health. Ellen Barrett has been a childcare provider in Cache Valley for almost 21 years. First accredited in 2003, Barrett was recognized during the banquet as the sixth person to be accredited in the state, as well as the longest accredited provider in Utah. “I wanted to be the best at what I do,” Barrett said. “It’s a three year process to be accredited, and every year I have to be working on something new.” Barrett said she operates her childcare services from her home. She is licensed to care for 16 children but currently has 10 enrolled. Barrett said she is also a Head Start provider, which makes her standards higher. “Every year, providers have to submit paperwork and be working on their accreditation. We have to have training hours to show that we are constantly improving ourselves and our environment,” Barrett said. Diane Wilkinson, another provider recognized at the banquet, has been providing childcare for nearly 30 years. “Aggie Care has supported us and made us better,” Wilkinson said. “Cara has pushed us and kept us at a high level, because it has to be done every year. It’s expensive, hard and a lot of paperwork, but Cara kept us motivated and supported us. This wouldn’t have worked without Cara and the Provost.”

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