Step Up To Quality Stories

Reflecting on 5 Years of Step Up to Quality

High quality child care is everyone’s issue.

Whether you have children or not, and whether you have children in child care or not, the state of child care resources in Nebraska should be an issue you feel strongly about:

  • It’s an economic issue. We’ve seen how quality child care can help boost a rural town’s development and pave the way for a thriving future.
  • It’s a human resource and job skills issue. Quality early child care centers can serve as a rewarding and meaningful career choice.
  • Most importantly to me, it’s a societal issue. Children who are given a supportive, educational, creative environment to learn and play in their first five years of life are more likely to be successful adults.

It sounds simple, but providing quality care to infants, toddlers and preschoolers is hard work. And there’s always room for improvement.

Quality Care in Nebraska

The great news is after spending five years directing Step Up to Quality, the State of Nebraska’s Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS), I can say without hesitation that we have very high quality child care homes and centers all throughout our state. At Step Up to Quality, we help great early childhood education programs become even better. Owners and directors go through a rigorous five-step process to improve their environment, curriculum, communication, teacher development and other areas to make the care they provide the best it can be.

It’s been a privilege to get to know these child care providers, and to recognize their incredible efforts to provide the very best atmosphere for the children in their care.

Unfortunately, you can find low quality care all over our state, too – which is why it’s important for parents to do their research and to trust their gut.

My own son and daughter-in-law had a couple of disappointing experiences in programs when their oldest was younger than two. They are now parents of two daughters and love the large facility that Mae and Lea attend.

My daughter and son-in-law prefer a smaller environment for Lilly, Penny and Charlotte. They drive across town every day to their family child care provider’s home. Cheryl is now a part of their extended family.

Every Child Deserves Quality Care

All parents should have access to quality child care for their children. I’m extremely proud of Step Up to Quality’s growth throughout the last five years, but also recognize we have a long way to go. Hundreds of child care providers in Nebraska have enrolled their programs in Step Up to Quality, but we have yet to reach hundreds more.

Even for those programs that have reached a Step 5, there are always improvements that can be made. The best programs continue to implement new strategies and follow current Early Childhood research.

The same goes for us at Step Up to Quality – our team is continuously learning and our program continues to evolve to improve the experience for everyone.

Celebrating 5 Years

Step Up to Quality is five years old in Nebraska, but I’ve been in the early childhood education field for nearly my entire work life. I began my career as a speech pathologist for Omaha Public Schools but soon realized educating young children is where my passion was. I’ve been an early childhood teacher, director, multi-unit manager, and coach before being lucky enough to join the Department of Education and become involved with Step Up to Quality as it was established in 2014.

Helping young children grow and thrive is what we strive for at Step Up to Quality – everyone on our team is just as passionate about the development of young children as I am.

Step Up to Quality is really a community, and it starts with our team in Lincoln. You’ll be seeing our faces more in the upcoming months as we continue our new video series. I’m so proud of this team – they work so hard for the kids in our state. I feel extremely fortunate to work alongside these ladies every day.

We hope to continue connecting the providers across Nebraska to each other – it doesn’t matter if they’re a family child care home, a Head Start or Early Head Start program, a public school preschool, or a large child care center – we’re all in this together.

Nothing is more important to us than providing a strong developmental foundation for our youngest Nebraskans so they get the very best start in life.