The ODJFS announces improvements to strengthen its quality childcare program – La Tribune

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COLUMBUS — Ohio Department of Employment and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder announced enhancements to Ohio’s Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) program.
SUTQ is Ohio’s Quality Assessment and Improvement System for Child Care.
By vetoing a temporary suspension of SUTQ in Sub Amended. House Bill 169 last month, Governor Mike DeWine ordered ODJFS to cut bureaucracy associated with the program.
“Step Up To Quality maintains clear standards and guidelines to ensure that all children, regardless of their circumstances, have access to quality early childhood and school-age care, as well as educational programs that exceed minimum health and safety regulations,” DeWine said. “These measures will help reduce bureaucracy and ensure that all working families have access to quality child care and, therefore, will help to help our children prepare for kindergarten.
Director Damschroder said the department is working on program improvements, including engaging with 30 child care and early childhood education service providers. Early work with this group helped ODJFS develop the following program adjustments:
Reduced Paperwork: The Ohio Department of Employment and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Education worked together to review all of the paperwork needed to earn an SUTQ score of one to five stars. They identified ways to eliminate redundancy and reduce the amount of paperwork, without diminishing program integrity.
Ongoing Evaluation: Currently, programs must reapply for evaluation each year. ODJFS will facilitate the annual renewal of a supplier’s star rating by allowing them to retain that rating unless it is determined that they no longer meet the qualifications or wish to request another rating.
Pre-Star: New providers who agree to serve children in publicly funded care will be paid the base rate for one year before they must be SUTQ rated.
“We know Ohio’s Step Up To Quality program is effective and positively impacts kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading fluency, both indicators of future success,” Damschroder said. “In addition to the changes announced today, we will continue to work with the Legislature to ensure the program achieves its goal of making quality child care available to all who need it.”
Quality child care plays a dual role as the foundation of Ohio’s economy. Working families can go to work knowing that their children are being cared for in a safe and nurturing environment. Quality child care also ensures that children receive the developmental and educational supports needed to grow into successful students who will become productive contributors to Ohio’s economy.
ODJFS will implement these changes in the coming months and will provide updates to SUTQ providers as the changes go into effect.
The Ohio Department of Employment and Family Services operates vital programs that strengthen Ohio families. These include job training and employment services, unemployment insurance, financial and food assistance, child care, child and adult protection services, adoption and child support services.

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