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Accreditation a key to day care quality

One of the most important questions parents looking for a day-care facility can ask is one often overlooked. "A lot of parents have no idea what accreditation is," in-home day care provider Brenda Nelson said.

Lindsey VanHall

One of the most important questions parents looking for a day-care facility can ask is one often overlooked.

"A lot of parents have no idea what accreditation is," in-home day care provider Brenda Nelson said. "Accreditation is very important for me; it just shows I'm keeping up with all the standards."

Accreditation is so important for Nelson, she applied for this year's United Way of Cass Clay grant program that gives local child care centers money to help attain or renew their accreditation.

To be accredited, day cares are reviewed by national organizations to see if it follows hundreds of highly specific criteria - ranging from high-quality curriculum, training or the building itself.

Only eight child care centers of the 538 in Cass and Clay counties are accredited, United Way officials said at a Thursday press conference.


"Our overall goal is to increase the number of accredited businesses in Cass-Clay," said Dean Atchison, the chairman of the United Way community building committee.

Of about 20 applicants, Nelson was one of two in-home day care providers and five facility-based child care centers that received funds this year. United Way dedicated $140,000 to Fargo and Moorhead child-care centers and programs from a $400,000 fund for designated for early education initiatives.

The money helps the facilities with "exorbitant" fees to be nationally accredited - about $1,100 for Fargo in-home day care owner Michelle Roeszler, she said.

"For a home provider, that's a lot of money," said Roeszler as she handed out cheese crackers to her five preschool kids. "(But) in this shaky ground right now, it's just one more thing I can say I know I have a quality program."

Accreditation standards are higher than minimal licensing requirements - with some 400 requirements to meet, daycare providers said.

Accreditation - and the United Way grant money - helps ensure that these day-cares closely follow all standards.

"You need to go through the process to get it right," said Anita Brandenburg, the director of Cobber Kids Corner in Moorhead. "It just kind of keeps your teachers, your program on the ball. If you're not accredited, you can slack."

Brandenburg also applies for Minnesota state grants each year to help enhance the quality of her center, she said.


That's why, for day cares on the other side of the river, United Way's funds are especially useful. North Dakota doesn't provide direct funding to child care centers - something Gov. John Hoeven, state legislators and local child care advocates are looking to change this year.

They - and the public - have increased their attention of child care issues recently - following the abrupt closings of four Fargo child care centers in the last 17 months.

United Way President Judy Green said accreditation is just one more way parents can confirm the quality and stability of a child care center.

Who receives help

United Way's grants will support five facility-based, two

home-based local child care centers and two programs:

- Cobber Kids in Moorhead

- Our Redeemer Christian Children's Center in Moorhead


- NDSU Center for Child Development in Fargo

- YMCA at Calvary in Fargo

- YWCA of Cass and Clay Counties in Fargo

- Brenda Nelson's Daycare in Moorhead

- Michelle Roeszler's Little Explorers Family Daycare in Fargo

- Child Care Resource and Referral's Right from the Start Program

- Moorhead Community Education's Pre-School on Wheels

By the numbers:

- 43,340 North Dakotan children ages 0-5 needing child care

- 9,782 Cass County children ages 0-5 needing child care

- 337 licensed home- and facility-based child care centers in Cass County

- 13 percent of Fargo day cares are accredited

- 5 percent of North Dakota day cares are accredited

Source: North Dakota Child Care Resource and Referral

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

Lindsey VanHall

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