Early Childhood Accreditation
Accreditation is another way to judge the quality of a child care program. Early childhood programs can choose to obtain accreditation by a child care accrediting organization, but they have to meet higher standards than licensing regulations. The program must offer the kind of care, attention, and educational activities parents look for in high-quality child care programs. It must offer activities and experiences that will aid in a child's growth and development and that will help them prepare for school.
To become accredited, the program staff rates the program's strengths and weaknesses. Then, a professional child care expert observes the program, and finally, the program is reviewed. Input from parents is often included. Some of the items reviewed are: relationships between staff and parents, curriculum offered, staff training, health and safety standards followed, and the environment of the program. After review of these items, the child care program gets feedback on how they match up to the accrediting organization's expectations and standards.
A number of organizations have developed accreditation systems to recognize early care and education programs that generally meet higher standards than are required by state regulations. Following is a list of accreditation programs that are accepted by the Quality Rating System (QRS) for Star Levels 3 and 4.
National Association of the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for Centers
Founded in 1926, NAEYC is the world’s largest organization working on behalf of young children with more than 100,000 members and a national network of nearly 450 local, state, and regional NAEYC Affiliates. In 1985, NAEYC established a national, voluntary accreditation system to set professional standards for early childhood education programs and to help families identify high-quality programs. The accreditation system is administered by the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation. The NAEYC Accreditation Criteria address all aspects of an early childhood program, including interactions among teachers and children, curriculum, interactions among teachers and families, administration, staff qualifications and professional development, staffing patterns, physical environment, health and safety, nutrition and food service, and program evaluation. Significant growth in and demands on the accreditation system led the NAEYC Governing Board to establish a project to reinvent accreditation. This was done by developing new program standards, criteria, and assessment procedures and by taking immediate steps to improve the reliability and accountability of the system while better managing the demand for accreditation. Full implementation of the new accreditation system took place in 2006.
National Accreditation Comission (NAC) for Early Care and Education Programs
The Association for Early Learning Leaders, formerly known as the National Association of Child Care Professionals is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to excellence by promoting leadership development and enhancnig prorgram quaity through the National Accreditation Commissions's standards. The national Accreditation Commission provider a comprehansice ongoing quality improvement system that acknowledges the diversity of programs through the self-study and award process. Over 1,500 early learning programs in 38 states, DC and overseas particpate in the Accreditation process. The NAC standards, which cover children birth through school-age, include the following components: program philosophy and goals, health and safety, administration, parent communication, curriculum, and interaction between staff and children.
Council on Accreditation (COA) for School-Age Programs
COA is an international, independent, nonprofit, child and family service and behavioral healthcare accrediting organization. Founded in 1977 by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service America, COA partners with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards. COA’s accreditation process involves a detailed review and analysis of an organization’s administrative operations and service delivery against national standards. COA has a set of standards specifically for child care centers.
National Association of Family Child Care (NAFCC) for Family Child Care Homes
NAFCC is a national membership organization working with more than 400 State and local family child care provider associations across the United States. The mission of NAFCC is to support the profession of family child care and to encourage high-quality care for children. The focus of NAFCC is to provide technical assistance to family child care associations. This assistance is provided through developing leadership, addressing issues of diversity, and promoting quality and professionalism through NAFCC’s Family Child Care Accreditation. Accreditation was designed to promote and recognize high-quality, professional family child care. NAFCC Accreditation standards cover the following content areas: relationships, environment, activities, developmental learning goals, safety and health, and professional and business practices.