Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS

Providers a New Year Long Program from DHHS/OCFS

A memo was sent out 4/24/2023 from OCFS that provides information about a new optional program: Early Care & Education (ECE) Program Enrollment Data Collection Project. Providers are encouraged to participate.

The data collection program will open on May 1, 2023, and close on April 30, 2024.

Here’s what we’ve pulled from the memo:

Through this project providers will enter information about their enrollment monthly through a new Enrollment Data Collection section found in the Early Childhood Educator Salary Supplement Program portal.

An additional $50 per month stipend will be provided to the licensed family child care or facility for each month the required data is provided. The $50 stipend will be included in the provider’s regular monthly Salary Supplement check from OCFS.

Required monthly data: (*FCCAM Note: enrollment is not daily attendance, or necessarily licensed capacity. It is how many children you have under contract for your services.)

  • Current Infant (6 weeks thru 12 months) Enrollment Number
  • Current Toddler (13 months thru 36 months) Enrollment Number
  • Current Preschool (3 years thru 5 years) Enrollment Number
  • Current School Age Enrollment Number
  • County

Prior to May 1, 2023, please review the guidance and detailed instructions for how to complete the Enrollment Data Collection form found in this Enrollment Data Project Webinar and ECE Enrollment Data Collection Slide Deck.pdf carefully .

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Child and Family Services
(OCFS) hope to gain more knowledge of Maine’s supply and demand as it applies to the Child Care Supply/Demand Analysis. Ultimately this data will be used to inform ongoing work on the Child Care Plan for
with the goal of ensuring that all families in our state have access to affordable, reliable,
and quality care for their children.

For questions or more information, please contact

Please note, Enrollment Data is not to be confused with conveying a program’s child care
openings displayed to the public on

Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS, QRIS

March 27th ~ Rising Stars is a GO!

From Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) ~

The transition to Rising Stars for ME will occur automatically on the evening of March 26, 2023. The Child Care Choices website will be updated accordingly. Programs will automatically be categorized into the Star Rating system as follows:

  • Current Quality for ME Step 1 programs will become a 2 Star program in Rising Stars for ME
  • Current Quality for ME Step 2 programs will become a 3 Star program in Rising Stars for ME
  • Current Quality for ME Step 3 programs will become a 4 Star program in Rising Stars for ME
  • Current Quality for ME Step 4 programs will become a 5 Star program in Rising Stars for ME

All programs will have a minimum of six months to meet all Standards to maintain their Star rating.

The new Rising Stars for ME certificates will reflect updated certificate expiration dates as follows:

  • If the current Quality for ME certificate expires between 3/27/23 and 9/29/2023, the new Rising Stars expiration date will be 9/29/2023.
  • If the current Quality for ME certificate expires after 9/29/2023, the new Rising Stars expiration date will align with the program’s license expiration date
  • At the time of the initial Rising Stars Certificate expiration date, programs that do not meet the standards to maintain the Star rating will be moved to the Star rating that reflects the standards that the program has met. 

Additional information and resources can be found on OCFS’s Rising Stars for ME webpage.

If you have any questions, please contact Amber Taurasi, Early Childcare and Education Quality Specialist, at (207) 626-8684 or

Rising Stars for ME Website (Available Monday, March 27th)

Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS, ECE Information

ARPA is ending. Wage Supplements Remain!

UPDATE/CORRECTION 3/8/23 ~ This is why it’s good to have partnerships with other organizations that support children and families. FCCAM received clarification around the wage program becoming Law under LD 1995, not LD 1652. Also credentials and articulation agreements language not included in the budget language. We have corrected information in this post.

With the ending of the ARPA Grant payments (includes transition payments) providers have raised questions about the $200 payment continuing and the need to be registered. Through this post FCCAM is hoping to provide some information that will provide some answers. FCCAM is not rendering legal or tax advice, just general information. If you require more specific assistance, please consult a legal or tax preparation professional.

Let’s start with the letter some providers received telling them they have to sign up for the program. Just as providers had the option with the ARPA Grant funds, we do not know if you “have to take” the money. We do know that to receive the wage supplement you do need to register. Information on that follows later in the post.

This is a state program and not tied to federal funds. It is now part of the annual budgeting, so this wage supplement should be ongoing. The $200 amount may change when the tiers are established. The tiers are required to consider experience, and education.

Providers have again expressed concerns about the tax impact if they take the wage supplement. Tom Copeland advocated to take funding like this using an example something like: If someone offered you $100 if you would give $30 to someone else would you take it pocketing $70? The supplement is money coming to you that you would not normally have. At 30% for taxes you pocket around $140. $140 per month for a year is $1680. That’s money you can put away for your children in something like the Maine’s NextGen 529 accounts, or for your retirement (Simple IRA plans), spend on special projects for your business, pay off personal credit cards/loans or just have fun with. Unlike the ARPA the wage supplement has no strings attached about how the money is used and accounted for.

While you might not want to think about retirement that is a great business practice for self-employed small business owners. It’s important to also understand how your retirement is impacted by the Social Security taxes you pay figured off your net earnings from self-employment. Many providers are expecting it to be figured off their total income before business deductions. FCCAM posted previously on how Social Security works: Your Social Security Benefit: How It’s Figured.

A basic review of how federal tax brackets work. Tax brackets divide your income into levels that are taxed at different rates. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updates federal tax rates, allowances, and thresholds every year. There are seven federal tax brackets for tax year 2022: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%. The rates stayed the same, but the income thresholds for all tax brackets increased in 2022 to reflect the rise in inflation. These rates apply to taxable income, which is your gross income after you’ve subtracted the standard deduction or allowable itemized deductions.

Being in one tax bracket doesn’t mean all of your income is taxed at that rate, every bracket is taxed at its own rate. Your standard deduction is determined by your filing status and stays the same regardless of your income. Example: Married, filing jointly with a gross income of $80,000 in 2022. Subtracting the standard deduction of $25,900. Taxable income for 2022 would be $54,100. That puts you in the 12% tax bracket. To calculate your tax bill you’ll pay 10% on the first $20,500 of your income and 12% on the remaining.

Wage Supplement Program

In April 2022, Governor Mills signed the supplemental budget (LD 1995) which included more than $12 million in ongoing state General Fund dollars to increase pay for early childhood educators who are providing direct care. Now Maine has The Maine Early Childhood Workforce Salary Supplement Program“. The program is open to all child care providers and early childhood educators who provide direct services to children in licensed child care facilities or licensed family child care.

The budget also included $200,000 to support CTE early childhood education program.

Background ~ LD 1652 was important in building support for strengthening the child care workforce in Maine and providing quality programs for families to access. While LD 1652 received strong support through the legislative process, with the Governor writing the wage stipend program into the budget LD 1652 just went away. Language from LD 1652 around credentials and articulation agreements were not included in the budget language.

§3737-A. Early childhood educator workforce salary supplements

“The department shall develop and implement a system to provide salary supplements to child care providers and early childhood educators who provide direct services to children in a child care facility licensed under section 8301‑A, subsection 2 or who are family child care providers licensed under section 8301‑A, subsection 3. Any salary supplement funding provided by the department under this section to a child care facility or family child care provider must be paid by that child care facility or family child care provider in order to increase wages for any child care provider or early childhood educator who provides direct services to children.   [PL 2021, c. 635, Pt. RR, §1 (NEW).]”

To be clear family child care providers qualify for this wage supplement and need to count themselves when registering.

The monthly supplement will eventually be based on each individual provider’s level of education and experience. The agreed to language asked for the structure to be tiered. Currently anyone registered with the program who is providing direct care to children is receiving $200 per month.

“Until June 30, 2023, a child care facility or family child care provider shall distribute salary supplements received under this section in the same amount to any child care provider or early childhood educator who provides direct services to children employed by the facility or provider. Beginning July 1, 2023, the department shall establish by rule and shall implement a tiered system for salary supplements under this section. The rules must provide, at a minimum, 3 tiers based on the education and experience levels of child care providers and early childhood educators. The 2nd tier must provide a salary supplement that is at least 50% greater than the first tier and the 3rd tier must provide a salary supplement that is at least 50% greater than the 2nd tier. Rules adopted under this section are routine technical rules pursuant to Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2‑A.   [PL 2021, c. 635, Pt. RR, §1 (NEW).]”

The Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplement Program is administered by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) through the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS). The Wage Supplement Program began paying registered providers for direct care provided in September 2022.

  • Providers who have previously received ARPA Child Care Stabilization grant payments received an email with a link and an access code to their personal registration form.
  • Providers who did NOT receive ARPA Child Care Stabilization grant payments need to register for the wage supplement program.
  • Providers must have a valid Vendor Code with OCFS to register.
    • For information on Vendor Codes contact Vickie Bussey at (207) 624-7909 or
  • Providers will need to fill out the information for their program using this registration link: Upon submitting the program information, providers will receive an access code via email that will allow them to gain entrance to the Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplement Program.
  • Once providers are registered with the program, following their first payment, the monthly payments become automatic.

The following link is to a webinar containing guidance and detailed instructions for how to complete the registration:

For questions or more information about the Wage Supplement Program, please contact

Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplement Program Contacts:

Diane Nicholson, Early Care & Education Specialist
Tel: (207) 624-7996

Crystal Arbour, Child Care Program Manager
Tel: (207) 626-8683

Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS, FCCAM, MRTQ-PDN, Professional Development

Rising Star for ME (QRIS) Transition Plan

February 09, 2023 ~ Memo from Office of Child and Family Services 

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) announces the adoption of the Quality Rating and Improvement Rules: Rising Stars for ME.

Maine has operated a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for child care providers and other early care and education programs since 2008. Two studies conducted by independent consultant groups (in 2014 and another in 2016) recommended many of the changes in the revised QRIS. In the summer of 2020, a pilot project was launched with 41 participants across program types that included licensed child care facilities, family child care and licensed facilities serving only school-aged children. During the Rising Stars for ME Pilot, programs received the revised standards. The program owner, director, or designated staff person provided feedback to guide additional revisions to the system.  OCFS appreciates the pilot participants for their work and input in support of this effort.  OCFS also thanks the public for providing comments during the public comment period and public hearing to further guide changes to the rule. 

OCFS would like to notify Maine’s Early Care and Education and School Age programs of the transition plan OCFS and our partners at Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network (MRTQ PDN) have in place with the promulgation of the rules.

The transition from Quality for ME into Rising Stars for ME will occur automatically on the evening of March 26, 2023. The Child Care Choices website will be updated accordingly. Rising Stars for ME certificates will be sent to each program via regular mail on March 27, 2023.

Programs will automatically be categorized into the Star Rating equivalent to current Step Level:

  • Step 1 programs will become a 2 Star program
  • Step 2 programs will become a 3 Star program
  • Step 3 programs will become a 4 Star program
  • Step 4 programs will become a 5 Star program

All programs will have six months to meet all new standards to maintain their new Star Rating. The new Rising Stars for ME certificates will reflect necessary updated certificate expiration dates.  Programs that do not meet the new standards after the six-month timeline will be moved to the Star Rating that reflects the standards that the program has met.

OCFS and MRTQ PDN will be providing outreach, support, and technical assistance to all programs prior to the transition into the new Rising Stars for ME system. Programs may also contact OCFS or MRTQ PDN for individual support as needed.

The rules and additional information and resources can be found on Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) | Department of Health and Human Services (

If you have any questions, please contact Amber Taurasi, Early Childcare and Education Quality Specialist, at (207) 626-8684 or

Rising Stars is still considered a voluntary program outside the Licensing requirement that all programs have to be at minimum apply to the program. If you are in compliance with Licensing at this time you should already have applied for Quality for ME. That application will automatically switch over to Rising Stars.

Star 1 is set for licensed exempt provider programs

Star 2 is set for all programs in compliance with current Licensing Rule

Star 5 is set for all nationally accredited programs

Star 3 & 4 are voluntary levels.

Programs can chose to show they meet additional quality improvement requirements to be recognized at any Stars after Star 2. Programs may be eligible for monetary incentives when moving up to these Stars.

If programs placed on Stars above 2 do not complete the requirements before the 6 months period is up they will go back to the lowest Star they have completed all requirements for which is Star 2 if in licensing compliance. Programs are able to update or reapply anytime they have completed the requirements for any Star level.

DHHS, not licensing, will make decision around Star level upon reviewing submitted documentation. Licensing only confirms licensing status. MRTQ is involved through providing trainings and TA support.

FCCAM Professional Learning Committee has been prepping resources to support family child care providers when the new Rising Stars for ME was adopted. MRTQ PDN also has resources in place. The Continuous Quality Improvement CoP for family child care providers will meet the 3rd Thurs. of each month from 6-7:30pm (starting Jan. ’23) by zoom. We will begin sharing resources on Rising Stars at the Feb 16th Continuous Quality Improvement CoP for FCC. This CoP is co-facilitated by MRTQ PDN and FCCAM PLC.

Register Here

Come learn more about the Rising Star for ME requirements for family child care programs. There will be opportunities to reflect on what you are doing well and where your program policies and practices can improve. We will review resources already in place to help/support programs with assessment and planning goals to meet QRIS requirements. 

A reminder email will be sent to all who have registered with information about the topic and meeting agenda.  Another reminder will be sent on the day of the CoP with the meeting link. Remember professional growth hours are awarded for your participation in this CoP and can be used to meet your yearly licensing requirements for training. Please email with any questions. 

FCCAM will also be making a special Rising Stars google folder available as a benefit for Class A members. Members will be able to download or print off the resource checklist docs provided in the folder. These checklists are built to complement the Everything Notebook set-up.

Posted in DHHS / OCFS, ECE Information

Help Me Grow Maine

Help Me Grow (HMG Maine) is a new program in Maine under DHHS that is available at no cost to all Maine children birth to eight and their families/caregivers.

HMG Maine requires no formal referral from a professional, no diagnostic criteria, and no paperwork to complete to begin the process.

HMG Maine is now available statewide!

Support can be accessed by both families and providers by:

The purpose of Maine adopting the HMG program is to build a better central access point that connects Maine families with children prenatal to eight to reliable information, community resources, existing serves about child development and provides follow-up.

HGM Maine works in partnership with 2-1-1 and is an affiliate of the National Help Me Grow Network

In Maine communities, there are quality early learning opportunities, health care services, agencies that supply parent support, and other types of resources that help children thrive. HMG Maine will be working to set up partnerships that work across sectors to best serve children and families within the state of Maine.

HMG Maine will maintain a current directory of available services and will connect service providers to each other to create an interconnected system.

From HGM informational releases:

Reasons to reach out to HMG Maine include:

  • You are working with a family that needs additional supports, but you are unsure what they are eligible for/where to refer them.
  • A family needs support in navigating the system of services to connect with a program or resource (CDS, Targeted Case Management, Early Care and Education settings, etc.).
  • You would like to speak as a professional with a resource specialist about what resources are available for a family you are working with, or about resources in your area in general.
  • You would like a child to receive a developmental and/or social-emotional screening through Ages and Stages Questionnaires®.
Posted in DHHS / OCFS, ECE Information, Professional Development

Writing Teams and Targeted Reviewers needed for update of the Maine Early Learning and Development Standards

The Maine Early Learning and Development Standards (MELDS) are the state’s learning standards for children ages three-five. Building from the Infant Toddler MELDS (IT MELDS) and bridging developmental expectations to the Maine Learning Results (MLRs), the MELDS inform all early childhood professionals about the typically developing expectations of young children as well as curriculum and assessment practices.

The MELDS Steering Committee is now accepting applications from individuals interested in being part of the review process to serve as participants on one of the writing teams, or as a targeted reviewer.  The Steering Committee is seeking professionals in the field of Early Care and Education that work or have worked with or on behalf of children

Prospective participants must apply by clicking HERE no later than February 21, 2023.

FAQ sheet to understand the details of participation:

Q: What are the Maine Early Learning Development Standards (MELDS)?

A: Early Learning and Development Standards describe the concepts and skills children develop and learn along the developmental continuum from birth to kindergarten entry. Their purpose is to support the development and well-being of young children and to foster their learning. 

The standards promote the understanding of early learning and development, provide a comprehensive and coherent set of early childhood educational expectations for children’s development and learning, and guide the design and implementation of curriculum, assessment, and instructional practices with young children. 

Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards (MELDS) serve as a guide for state and local early childhood educators’ efforts to improve practice and programs for young children during their preschool years.  The Infant/Toddler MELDS is a companion tool for ages birth-36 months. 

Q: Who should consider participating? 

A: In order to develop an evidence-based set of standards, we are seeking a diverse population of professionals from the Early Care and Education (ECE) field:

  • Child Care and School Administrators 
  • Child Care Health Consultants
  • Child Care Providers and staff of all licensed programs (family, small facility, facility, nursery school, out of school time programs)
  • Child Care Providers and staff from licensed exempt programs
  • Early educators within the school setting (Pre-K through 3rd grade)
  • Ed Techs
  • English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Professionals
  • Head Start staff
  • Higher education professionals and their students within or specializing in the ECE/ECS field
  • Individuals that provide professional development to the Early Care and Education field 
  • Parents, Guardians, Caregivers, or Family Members
  • Special Education Teachers / Specialists
  • Student and School Support Specialists: Speech, Occupational and Physical Therapists, School Counselors, School Social Workers, Interventionists, Title I staff
  • Other professionals serving families of young children  

Q: What are writing teams and what is the time commitment? 

A: Each of the domains of development will need a team of professionals to review content for relevance and alignment to current research in order for the MELDS to provide early childhood educators with guidance as they design inclusive environments, shape curriculum, lead professional development initiatives, build intentionality into teaching practice, engage families, and support children’s learning at home.  The domains include:  

  • Social and Emotional Development
    • Goal Areas: Trust and emotional security, self-regulation; sense of self, self-awareness, and self-concept, relationships with adults, relationships with children
  • Approaches to Learning
    • Goal Areas: Engagement and persistence, initiative and curiosity, creativity
  • Early Language and Literacy
    • Goal Areas: Language comprehension (receptive language), language expression (Expressive/productive communication), emergent literacy
  • Physical Development and Health
    • Goal Areas: Perceptual development, gross motor (large muscle), fine motor (small muscle), self-help and adaptive skills
  • Cognitive Development
    • Goal Areas: exploration and inquiry, concept development and working memory, reflection and problem solving, mathematical thinking, scientific reasoning, social studies learning

In addition to the domains of development, there are additional sections of the document that will need review.  Those sections include:  

  • Introduction, History, Key Components of an Early Learning Standards, 
  • Purpose Statement and Potential Users, Guiding Principles and Universal Design for Learning
  • Introduction to the Stages of Development Ages 3-5

Time Commitment: The facilitator(s) for each writing team will determine the time necessary for both whole group and individual review. Participants should expect this to be no more than two hours per week. Writing teams will convene in March and work through June.

Q: What are targeted reviewers and what is the time commitment?

A:  Targeted reviewers will review the updated sections provided to them and offer structured feedback. Targeted reviewers will begin review once the initial updates have been made to provide feedback to the Steering Committee.   

The time commitment will be less for targeted reviewers than writing team participants, however the  window for review and feedback will be shorter and more time sensitive (approximate document turnaround time of two weeks).

Q: What will I earn in exchange for my time and expertise?

A: Not only will individuals be afforded an opportunity to participate in furthering the field of Early Care and Education, but each participant will also be awarded contact hours at the completion of the writing team cycle based on attendance and at the discretion of the team leader.

Contact hours may be used for furthering education, documentation of professional development experiences, or for continuing education credits (CEUs) and/or training hour conversion. 

Q: Why is periodic updating of learning and development standards important?

A: Research in the field of early care and education is constantly evolving.  A regular process of updating early learning and development standards helps to ensure their validity and alignment with other sets of standards across the birth to grade 12 spans.  The updated MELDS will result in a child-centered tool that will inform program development, instruction, assessment, policy decisions, and professional learning for early care and education efforts across Maine. 

Q: What is the overall timeline for the MELDS revision?

A: MELDS revision began in the Fall of 2022 with the creation of the Steering Committee. This group has been meeting regularly to discuss the current format of Maine’s MELDS as well as to review feedback from the field, other states’ Early Learning and Development Standards and national research trends/findings. The remaining work is set to unfold on the following timeline:

January-February 2023: Recruit writing team members and targeted reviewers

February 2023: Assign Steering Committee members and teams to review the current standards

March-June 2023: Teams will work to review terminology, assure alignment to Maine’s Infant/Toddler MELDS and to the Maine Learning Results, and review for readability, diversity, inclusion and ease of use

July-August 2023: A final version will be translated and introduced to the field for further use

If you have any questions, please contact the Department of Education’s Early Childhood Specialist, or the Office of Child and Family Services First4ME Program Manager,

Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS, MRTQ-PDN, Professional Development, QRIS

Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI)…..?

As family child care providers, we are all small business owners who provide education and care for young children. In creating and operating our unique small businesses, we each strive to provide the best program we can. A part of that effort is continuously reflecting and assessing our own program and practices. Over time that reflection and assessment process becomes a ritual and a continuous learning process.

Continuous Quality Improvement is just that, continually doing our best to grow in our knowledge, so we can offer the best program for the children in our care. 

In Maine, providers are lucky to have a variety of agencies and organizations that are present to support our CQI efforts. Some of these are Let’s Go 5-2-1-0, ECCP, MRTQ PDN (technical assistance, training, community of practices, cohorts) and FCCAM (resources, informational posts, training). 

There is also DHHS Licensing, their job is to be sure a program’s environment is safe and policies are in place to be sure minimum appropriate practices around health and safety are being upheld or followed. They do not tell programs what best practice is, they are focused on  the foundational health and safety pieces.

Maine also has a 4 Step Quality Rating Improvement System – Quality for ME. Referred to often as just QRIS. Quality for ME was a voluntary program from its inception, until the current Licensing Rules (Family Child Care and Facilities) took effect in 2021. Now all licensed programs in Maine are required to complete the Quality for ME application.

For many providers this has become an area of confusion, concern, stress or frustration.

First, MRTQ PDN Registry and Quality for ME (QRIS) are different. Quality for ME is about the program, while MRTQ registry is about the individual, the provider.

Then you add in the confusion about “Rising Stars”. What are the changes from Quality for ME? When is it going to be required? What happens to a program’s current Quality for ME Step level? Why Stars?

In addition to the Rising Stars Pilot report we know that Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Office of Child and Family Services, (OCFS) held a public hearing via zoom on 10/5/22 to gather feedback and comments from the field on the proposed QRIS change to Rising Stars. Department responses have not yet been released regarding the comments made on 10/5. Their responses to the comments should be the next step in the proposed change whether it moves forward or not. In addition, there is an even broader national discussion about why the “R”? Why not just “QIS”- Quality Improvement System. Continual support for program quality……

Concerns heard from providers and the national discussion added to the discussion of FCCAM’s Professional Learning Committee (PLC) while they built the “Everything Notebook”. In addition, there was also discussion at MRTQ PDN with the outcome of 2 statewide communities of practices that will support practitioners in learning more about the QRIS system in Maine and offer support(s) that will aid programs in their improvement efforts. 

MRTQ PDN and FCCAM PLC are co-facilitating the Community of Practice just for family child care providers. Together we are examining what Maine’s current QRIS expects of providers, sharing experiences, styles of documentation, and resources. This work will not only help us meet the current system requirements but it will help us prepare should Rising Stars be released.  The community of practice is titled: Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) because that is the underlying goal, to build understanding and confidence in approaching self-assessment and reflection of your practices and the continual learning that addresses program quality and individual professionalism.

Following the spreadsheet and table ideas the Professional Learning Committee used to build the “Everything Notebook” and looking at the checklists around Licensing Rule requirements on the FCCAM website, work was done to build such tools for the current Quality for ME Steps and what the pilot report informed us about the direction for Rising Stars.

The tables comparing Steps to Stars were shared by FCCAM PLC on the first CQI CoP. These tables list all requirements for each Step. They are broken out by Standards. If there is a corresponding Standard and requirements suggested in the Pilot Report for Stars that is included. Any new Standards for Stars recommended in the report are also included. Anything highlighted in Blue is currently a requirement in the Licensing Rule.

*Again what is shared about Rising Stars is our best guess from what information has been shared following the pilot. If changes are made to the Rising Stars information or requirements, if and when it is released, the CQI CoP will shift their information and resources to meet any new requirements.   

So providers can see what they have already in place and what more is expected for each Step Level we divided QRIS up into its Standards. We looked at a Standard and listed requirements for each Step. If providers and thus their programs are in compliance with the current Licensing Rule then they are eligible to be placed on Step 1, but may find they have many requirements for other Step Levels also done.

FCCAM PLC built the Standards Sheets in both spreadsheet and table formats. They can be used digitally or printed off.

To move up Steps: you need to assess and compare what you are currently doing within your program and practice to what the systems require, identify the gaps and address them. The CQI CoP is committed to helping providers look at requirements and figure out what they need to adjust and fill the gaps to meet requirements. Again we want to be clear with providers that Quality for ME is still a voluntary program in regards to moving up Steps. Programs are just required to complete the application, and stay enrolled by reapplying every three years, nothing more.

There are currently MRTQ PDN Quality Improvement Award incentives around moving up steps, subsidy reimbursement increases and even tax incentives for families to claim at different Step Levels.

In addition to CQI CoP, MRTQ PDN also offers free technical assistance/ consultation to programs looking to move up the steps of QRIS. You can learn more about that opportunity through MRTQ PDN Consultation

Also be aware that for any provider who wants to reach Step 4 you will need to be NAFCC Accredited. MRTQ PDN is there to help you with that process. They offer a variety of support for that.

MRTQ PDN will soon be offering an informational meeting on 3/9/23 from 6-7:30pm via zoom on NAFCC Accreditation and the support(s) offered through MRTQ PDN. If interested in learning more about NAFCC Accreditation you can register HERE

Parents and potential clients can see a program’s Step rating on Not having a clear understanding that QRIS is a voluntary program they may not understand what the rating represents. An individual provider is free to share their MRTQ PDN Professional Development Profile to show and highlight all their training and professional development they have done. This sharing can help inform both current and future clients of the work you put in professionally to provide a quality program. 

What is a QRIS?

The National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance (NCECQA), funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, defines “The Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is a systemic approach to assess, improve, and communicate the level of quality in early and school-age care and education programs.

  • Increase quality of early care programs
  • Increase parents’ understanding of higher quality early care and education
  • Increase professional development opportunities
  • Create a cross-sector framework 

Through the current self-assessment, Quality for ME can help programs identify their needs for additional resources and supports to increase their level of quality.

In Maine, DHHS administers both Child Care Licensing and Quality for ME, but each is managed within a different division. Licenses are issued and monitored by the Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, Child Care Licensing Unit. Quality for ME is administered by the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS), Early Intervention and Prevention Division. The divisions share information regarding a program’s current licensing status and compliance history, but Child Care Licensing staff do not make decisions about the Step at which a program is rated. OCFS makes the final determination on a program’s Step rating and issues the appropriate certificate based on the provider’s answers to the questions on the application. 

Step ratings are valid for a three-year period, unless a program no longer meets the standards for their assigned Step. A program can and should reapply anytime there is relevant information that needs updating.

A provider/owner/director applies for Quality for ME at, by entering the program’s license number. The application system will access administrative data about the program, including: 

  • Licensing status and if relevant, any current violation information. 
  • Staff members on the MRTQ Registry, including Level(s) on the Career Lattice and whether or not staff have completed specific training 
  • Program accreditation status 

Completing the application means you are answering questions/self-assessing your program. Be sure to click through to the final screen and click “Submit” to ensure that your application is submitted. Remember, a program can and should reapply anytime there is relevant information that needs updating.  

Upon completion of the online application, the program will be given a Step rating, along with information about what standards need to be met in order to reach the next Step. A staff member at OCFS will review the application and the program will be formally notified by mail with a certificate indicating the Step rating with Quality for ME. 

A paper application link.

While the application is a self-assessment, programs need to have supporting documentation for their answers that standards at each level have been met. The documentation can be gathered into a digital portfolio on your computer or a physical notebook kept on your premises. If you are chosen for an on-site portfolio review it has to be available.

An on-site portfolio review? …….

The purpose of this announced and mutually agreed upon visit by OCFS is to review supporting documentation to validate the program’s self assessment in the online application process. Programs are selected from a random list of programs with Step 2, 3, or 4 ratings based on geographic regions. Remember if you are in compliance with the current Licensing Rule you meet Step 1 requirements, that documentation is already reviewed by Licensing Specialists.

Posted in DHHS / OCFS, ECE Information

Bipartisan Policy Center Reports Child Care Improvements in Maine

Maine Office of Child and Family Services release ~

January 27, 2023

Child care access and integration with early childhood education increased significantly in Maine between 2019 and 2022, according to a new analysis and report by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC).

In October 2020, BPC released a report, Child Care in 25 States: What We Know and Don’t Know, that included interactive maps quantifying the supply of, and need for, child care. Maine was among the first of the participating states to provide updated data, with the new analysis showing the overall gap between capacity and demand in Maine has decreased from 4,921 slots to 3,079 slots since 2020, a 34 percent improvement.

While this reduction is a significant improvement and represents one of the smallest gaps in the states that BPC has reviewed, the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) remains committed to closing the child care gap in Maine. It also recognizes that some of the narrowing of this gap results from fewer families seeking child care, U.S. census data. OCFS, along with the Children’s Cabinet, continues its aggressive policy work to expand capacity and support child care workers so all parents who need it can access quality child care.

BPC also this month released a report showing Maine has improved from 16th to 10th in state rankings on integration of early care and education. The improvement is primarily attributed to the change made in 2019 to move child care licensing under the purview of OCFS. Creating an Integrated Efficient Early Care and Education System to Support Children and Families: A State-by-State Analysis offers a window into the opportunities — and challenges — in administering comprehensive Early Care and Education (ECE) systems.

This progress reflects significant and ongoing work consistent with the Child Care Plan for Maine, including:

  • Distributing over $72 million in stabilization grants to help providers recover from the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Distributing an additional $13.6 million in transition grants to aid providers as the stabilization grants concluded
  • Establishing Child Care Infrastructure Grants, which are forecasted to add thousands of new licensed child care slots throughout the state
  • Distributing salary supplement payments to over 1,500 child care facilities and family child care providers to support their workforce
  • Assisting low-income families by waiving Child Care Subsidy Program (CCSP) parent fees for families at or below 60 percent of the State Median Income
Posted in Business Practice, DHHS / OCFS

Update: Provider Transition Grants & Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplements

Information received from the Office of Child and Family Services
Date: January 19, 2023

As previously announced, the Provider Transition Grants will continue for the months of January, February, march and April 2023 and programs will be eligible to receive $25 per licensed capacity slot. Transition Grants will end after the April payment is issued in May. Please remember payments received are for the previous month.

The Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplements are ongoing using State General Fund dollars and will not end when the Provider Transition Grants end. To be eligible:

  • Providers must update the MRTQ registry AND the Early Childhood Educator Workforce Salary Supplement Portal with any staffing changes each month by the deadlines below.
  • February 6, 2023, for the month of January 2023.
  • March 6th for the month of February 2023.
  • April 6th for the month of March.
  • May 6th for the month of April.
  • If you forget your access code for the ECE Salary Supplement Wage Portal, there is a link
    to retrieve it on the log in page.
  • If there have been no changes to your programs’ staff, then you may disregard this
  • If you already registered, you do not need to register again you will continue receiving
  • ECE Salary Supplement Program Guidance and Training
Posted in DHHS / OCFS, ECE Information

Health Insurance Options through Maine Marketplace

Maine Office of Child and Family Services Jan. 5, 2023 memo ~

Attention Early Care and Education Providers,

Open Enrollment ends on January 15th!

The Department of Health and Human Services has recorded a webinar to assist Early Care and Education providers in navigating available health coverage options and tools to assist with selecting a health insurance plan.

You can now visit, Maine’s Health Insurance Marketplace, to shop for and select an affordable health insurance plan for 2023.

At, Mainers can compare private plans, apply for financial assistance, and enroll in a 2023 health plan. Health plans offered on provide quality, comprehensive insurance that covers preventative screenings and provides financial protection in case of accident or major illness.

Early care educators often face struggles with obtaining affordable health insurance. The 2023 Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment Period, which ends January 15th, provides an opportunity for these educators to obtain affordable health insurance coverage.

With the expanded subsidies available to individuals under the American Rescue Plan, uninsured early care educators may be able to obtain Marketplace coverage with premiums as low as a few dollars a month. Medicaid expansion in participating states, like Maine, offers another opportunity for some educators to obtain coverage. These programs provide important pathways to ensure financial stability and protect the health and wellbeing of those who educate and care for the Maine’s children.

We encourage you to explore for more information and thank you for your continued dedication to Maine’s children and families.