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November 1, 2011

DANVILLE and PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, VA - Nine local childcare programs have enrolled in the Virginia Star Quality Initiative sponsored by Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania.  The VA Star Quality Initiative also known as "VSQI" is Virginia's effort to follow other states that "rate" the quality of child care centers.  The star rating informs working parents about the quality of childcare they can expect to receive. 

In Virginia, participation is voluntary.  In other states, such as North Carolina, childcare centers must be rated 3 stars or higher to receive child care subsidies.  "The first group of pilot participants is leading the way towards high quality childcare for all children.  We are impressed by their enthusiasm and commitment," said Ann Vandervliet Stratton, executive director, Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania.

Pilot participants include Pittsylvania County Head Start, Little Blessings Childcare, Small World Childcare Center, Children First Learning Center, Danville Regional Medical Center Child Care Center, Tot Spot (Clarkson St.), Danville City Head Start, Play-N-Pretend Child Care Center and Faith Christian Academy Early Childhood Development Center.

 "The purpose of the Virginia Star Quality Initiative is to assess the way child care centers and their staff care for and relate to young children.  After a center is rated, the center receives 18 months of individual coaching from a professional mentor," explains Angela Wells, quality care and education coordinator, Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania. 

The one to five star rating is based on four standards including staff education, qualifications and training; interactions between teacher and child; staff to child ratios, classroom size, and environment and instructional practices.  "We agreed to participate because it will help us provide the best care for our children possible," explains Paul McKenna, co-owner of Children First.    

Smart Beginnings will award up to $1,000 to pilot participants to make improvements based on the recommendations found in the quality improvement plan.  Over the next four years, Smart Beginnings will attempt to rate and mentor at least twenty of thirty licensed child care centers in Danville and Pittsylvania County.

"There are only a handful of communities in Virginia who have the funds to implement a VSQI pilot.  We are grateful to the Danville Regional Foundation, the VA Early Childhood Foundation and the Tobacco Commission for their vision and commitment to school readiness," said Stratton.

Smart Beginnings was founded in 2005 to encourage communities across Virginia to form coalitions of professionals and citizens willing to support the system of individuals and organizations supporting children ages birth to five.   Smart Beginnings Danville Pittsylvania is one of twenty eight coalitions in VA.  For more information on either the VSQI or Smart Beginnings, call 797-8887 or email info@SmartBeginningsDP.org.