A state program has given two Bastrop child care centers a four star rating.
The Quality Start program is designed to recognize, support and increase the quality of child care throughout Louisiana.

The program is voluntary and centers must complete an application to participate. Both The Prep Center and Bastrop Child Care received a four star rating.

Quality Start rates child care centers on a scale from 1 to 5 stars:

1 star- The center has a license in good standing and no outstanding deficiencies.

2 stars- The center staff has received more specialized training and the the center has completed a self-assessment plan.

3-5 stars- The center provides quality child care based on staff qualifications and the Environment Rating Scales.

The Prep Center owner Lois Jordan said the system is measured on four components including administration of program, family and community development, program and staff qualifications. The program offers training and incentives to child care providers to help increase their rating.

“It's a lot of hard work. The dedication of the teachers has been a real part of it. We have had to lower the child/ staff ratio and get more education. It's been a big learning process for everybody,” Bastrop Child Care owner Deona Richards said.

The program also provides the center with a mental health consultant. The consultant helps assist caregivers in promoting healthy development, establishing links to other agencies as well as referral sources for children with special needs and providing proactive coaching on techniques designed to prevent the development of problematic behavior. One significant part of their job is to provide education and training of child care professionals in the knowledge and application of developmentally appropriate practices in classroom settings.

“Having access to a mental health consultant is one of my favorite advantages of the quality start program. It is a proven fact if a child's emotional/mental and physical needs are not met he or she can't perform at his or her best potential. This is an intricate part of quality,” Jordan said.

Another feature of the program is tax credits for staff and parents. For parents, the taxpayer must have a qualified dependent under the age of six who attended one of the centers. The tax credit is in addition to the regular child care expense credit and is 150 percent for a four star facility. Staff's tax credits are based on their educational level attained through Louisiana Pathways Child Care Career Development System. The credit is adjusted annually. Businesses can also receive a tax credit for donations made to Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies. The credit is equal to the amount donated but cannot exceed $5000 per tax year.

The refundable credit can be taken against individual income tax, corporate income tax or corporation franchise tax.

“School Readiness Tax Credits support in land tax credits for those who support a star rated quality child care center. I encourage individuals and businesses to consider if you owe money to the state. This is a way to designate your tax dollars to support quality child care,” Jordan said.

For more information on the program check http://www.qrslouisiana.org/child-care-providers or call 225.342.0694.