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 Business Practice, FCCAM

What is an “Everything Notebook”?

The Professional Learning Committee (PLC) is happy to be able to provide providers who are Class A members a new benefit: the “Everything Notebook”. While many of FCCAM’s resources are available to all providers, this tool is only available to providers who are current Class A members.

FCCAM’s Mission is to unify, promote and strengthen quality professional family child care in Maine.  As fellow family child care providers, the PLC understands the work and time involved to operate a small business that provides the service of caring for children. The PLC has pulled together the “Everything Notebook” in support of sustaining our businesses and providing the best care for children and their families. 

The idea of this “Everything Notebook” started from discussions around compliance for the current Licensing Rule, while reflecting on the ongoing issue of time management. The PLC sees the “Everything Notebook” as a tool that can help FCC providers manage the paperwork that goes along with operating a family child care. Recognizing that each family child care business is unique, this tool is not a one size fits all, but rather built so providers can pull from it to meets their individual needs. It is a tool providers will be able to adapt when future changes come to the Licensing Rule, QRIS, subsidy, etc.

The “Everything Notebook” will be available to providers who are Class A members in 2 formats: digital format and hardcopy, as a 3-ring binder with clear sleeves and printed checklist. Class A members have all been sent an email with links for both formats. Both formats will also be added to the members’ only section of the website.

The digital format is built in google drive as sheets to be able to download, add a shortcut or copy directly to a gmail account. The 3-ring binder and contents will be mail to members that request them.

The PLC see future checklists being built for addition to the “Everything Notebook” as the need arises. Providers can also add checklists they have developed.

Current “Everything Notebook” Contents

Licensing Items

Individual items specific to maintaining your license. 

Licensing Records

As a small business, FCC Providers are required to manage their records so they are easy to access and read. Required records cover children, volunteers and any staff. Records also cover certain business practices, such as fire drills. Records on children are to be maintained for 3 years following termination of care. It is best practice to maintain these records until children reach age 18. Other records have specific requirements on retention.

Policies for Parent Handbook

The Licensing Rule requires a number of policies to be shared in your Parent Handbook. Providers may choose the order they present the policies in, the manner in which policies are written and any additional policies they create. Policies are to be clear about expectations, responsibility and procedure. 

Policies for Staff Handbook

The Licensing Rule requires a number of policies specific to staff expectations and responsibilities. These make up the Staff Handbook. This handbook does not need to be shared with parents. Sole Providers can approach this requirement in 2 ways: you can write a staff handbook or you can state you are a sole provider and close when you cannot provide care. You also then need to include all the policy areas within your Parent Handbook.

Contractual Packet

This section includes anything the Licensing Rule requires you to have parental signatures for. Many of these items are part of a Child’s Record. 

Emergency Preparedness Plan

This can be self designed or be built from the YIKES plan shared by Licensing Specialists. 

Food Program

The food program (CACFP) is a voluntary program that many providers in Maine participate in.

Posted in FCCAM

FCCAM’s Story

Outreach Committee ~~

Providers have asked about the value of being a member of FCCAM, so we thought it might be good to share the Family Child Care Association of Maine’s story………. 

On November 2, 2016, ten family child care providers interested in the possibility of a statewide professional association that focused on family child care met by conference call to discuss the possibility. The big question was what was the vision for this association? There was some strong discussion about the dream association, the reality of providers supporting an association like that, discussing cost to organize, cost of membership and reality of effort needed by a small group to organize within a year.  This group of providers were ready to volunteer time and talent in this effort to support their profession and their peers.

This early working group had to: 

  • Select a name that reflected the organization and was also available 
  • Organize the governing body for the association
  • Write mission/vision, goals, bylaws, policies
  • Proceed with state filing – Articles of Incorporation
  • Begin process for federal filing non-profit status
  • Work towards state affiliation with the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)

FCCAM has been able to meet a number of the dream points discussed on that first meeting. That dream option for health insurance is still being worked on.

On Nov. 28, 2016,  FCCAM’s first Board was elected:

  • Chair /Tammy Dwyer
  • Vice-Chair /Chrissie Davis
  • Treasurer /Becki Yahm
  • Secretary /Debbie Arcaro
  • Director-At-Large /Sasha Shunk
  • Director-At-Large /Jessica Irving
  • Director-At-Large /Sara Peavey
  • Director-At-Large /Brandy Townsend
  • County Rep /Jennifer Doanne – Cumberland 
  • County Rep /Claire Beaulieu – Androscoggin

With this elected Board in place, we could proceed with the state filing of Articles of Incorporation. The next step was to begin recruiting members. We all knew how hard it was going to be to convince fcc providers to join. The first step was to show providers who we were. That meant developing a social media footprint, and setting up a website. 

December found FCCAM with a logo and beginning the work for federal non-profit 501c3 status.

The Outreach Committee sent out the first blast email to 1000+ fcc providers to introduce this new statewide association whose focus was support of family child care providers. 

Jan. 2017 found FCCAM’s Professional Learning Committee beginning collaboration work with MaineAEYC on their Spring conference to be held that year at Thomas College, in Waterville. This meant a discounted training opportunity for members. 

During this work, MaineAEYC’s Board voted to support FCCAM with monies to cover our 501c3 filing, and D&O ins. Our collaboration with MaineAEYC supports members of both associations and continues to be strong.

March 2017 finds FCCAM being contacted on collaboration opportunities by a number of groups:

  • Connecting Kids Coverage  – FCCAM was asked to support this statewide work by sending materials to providers and posting on our social media and website.
  •  iLookOut for Child Abuse connected with FCCAM to help get word out informing providers throughout the process of beginning this program in Maine.
  • NAFCC survey to gather information nationally on ece issues.
  • MaineAEYC 4/8 conference FCCAM members will receive reduced registration.
  • College and CTE campus presentations by the Outreach Committee to students in the field to introduce what family child care is and opportunities to be found there. 
  • Erikson research initiative on home-based child care support. 
  • Child Development Services on sharing materials to providers as part of CDS effort on community outreach to build understanding of CDS.

The Professional Learning Committee is building resources on the website that will be openly available for all providers. Following through on an early goal of FCCAM to establish a positive connection with Licensing, the PLC had their first conference call with Licensing Supervisors in July 2017. 

The Public Policy Committee was also providing testimonies on multiple bills that would impact FCC, especially the proposed Family Child Care Licensing Rule. Further collaboration with MaineAEYC on Fall 2017 public policy forum brought a representative from NAFCC to Maine.

The founding members of FCCAM understood that if we could find a way to provide health insurance through our association that would be a huge support to fcc providers. We met in Sept. 2017 with Community Health Options from Maine and other entities to explore that possibility. We have continued to explore options for Health Care Insurance for providers understanding first hand the financial burden this is for many of us. 

Our collaboration opportunities continue to grow: 

  • Maine Shared Services 
  • Signed as an Endorsing Member of Right from the Start 
  • Group Discussion with elected officials on importance of Policy in the professional field of Early Care and Education, CMCC

We are now a year in and time to reflect on what we have accomplished and direction moving forward.

  • How is FCCAM supporting our profession within the state?
  • Why are we doing what we are in collaboration and as a separate association?
  • Where do we focus our energies?
    • Mentoring program, policy resources, educate legislature on early ed issues
    • Collect data on town codes for opening fcc
    • Quarterly newsletter email to all fcc providers information 

Working with other organizations has proven of value as we have been able to educate/inform them about what family child care looks like and it’s value to the total child care system in Maine. We have been able to share what fcc providers need as early childhood educators. There will be a long road ahead in this, but it’s beginning.

Nov. 2017, the PLC was having discussions on the possibility of having a statewide family child care providers CoP using conference calling technology. MRTQ PDN was able to bring this idea to reality in 2018. The statewide FCC CoP has been an active CoP since then and FCCAM has been present on it since the first meeting.

Public Policy began its work with MaineAEYC to bring senators /representatives into family child care programs around the state. Education of elected officials is very important for the development and passage of bills that provide support to child care providers in Maine.

Membership was growing, but providers were proving to be a hard group to convince that it’s important to join our voices so we are truly heard.

As we entered our second year (2018), we hoped to work more with CTE and higher education programs so that their instructional courses would include information about family child care.

Our Facebook page was growing to serve as that informational page so providers were aware of what was happening in the field on the local, state and national level. 

The Professional Learning Committee continued to expand the website resources, developing the Business Toolkit. Work began on a new conference to be held in Oct., at York Community College Campus, while still engaged in others around the state. There is also a new CoP on First Steps to Family Child Care CoP being developed by MRTQ and FCCAM had been asked for a Board member to be present.

The Public Policy Committee reached out to Licensing to see if it would be possible to work on community forums to raise interest in becoming a fcc provider as well as for providers for open discussions.

FCCAM Board members are part of Maine’s Team for Strengthening FCC Quality Peer Learning  national pilot. 

Outreach sent out a Membership Relationship survey asking about how we can better support providers through making information more accessible, online training, advocacy, etc.

Nov. 2018 finds FCCAM adding PayPal invoices for membership payments and getting a Zoom account. Small changes, but provides more options for supporting providers. With Zoom available the PLC begins exploring how they can provide webinar training. A big part of this is the idea of forming Book Discussion Clubs around children’s picture books and professional books.

2019, finds FCCAM continuing to receive requests from other organizations to collaborate and to sign-on to letters. One of these was in support of Maine’s application to the Pritzker Children’s Initiative Prenatal-to-Age-Three State Grant. 

Public Policy continues their independent and collaborative work reviewing and providing testimony on bills that impact ece directly, as well as child and families. FCCAM Vice Chair attended the DC Public Policy Forum as part of a Maine Team.

The PLC Book Discussion Clubs begin. FCCAM and MaineAEYC members receive free training certificates as part of our ongoing collaboration. We received our first grant from MRTQ PDN to support our work around building training for providers. 

Outreach continues their work with CTE (Tech high schools) and higher ed. 

NPR reached out for a conference call as part of their “Deep Dive” into child care in Maine in May, 2019. This call was to be on the decline in fcc providers. A second reporter reached out about licensing changes. 

Maine’s B-5 Summit research group met in Brewer in April. This large stakeholders group, provided FCCAM the opportunity to speak up on the impact for family child care – raising awareness of the reality of how fcc can and will fit into this work.

The Board held its first annual membership meeting using zoom. 

The new Early Advisory Council of the Children’s Cabinet is required to have 2 seats for family child care providers. It is also directed that nominations come from a state association that represents fcc providers. FCCAM nominated a provider from Skowhegan and a provider from Portland for these seats. These providers are members of FCCAM, but do not represent FCCAM holding these seats. They do however bring the voice of fcc to this advisory council. These seats are available because FCCAM pushed for this representation.

FCCAM starts an Instagram acct and Pinterest Boards.

As we entered 2020, as a growing association, we reflected on our structure, changing needs, and the tools available to support our work. Communication within a statewide organization remains an ongoing concern to be as efficient as possible. 

COVID-19 impacted the face to face work of FCCAM committees, but like so many others we adapted. The Professional Learning Committee offered trainings around books sent out as part of membership through zoom during afternoon traditional rest time to make it easier for providers to attend. Additional trainings were added to our 24/7 archived trainings.

The PLC began work on an early goal of developmenting a peer to peer coaching/mentoring program.

Members of FCCAM were interviewed for multiple media pieces on the impact of COVID-19 on family child care providers. It’s good to see family child care being recognized as an important part of Maine’s child care system. 

Sadly, 2021 finds COVID-19 still having a strong impact on child care providers across Maine. 

The Professional Learning Committee continues developing training. This year all training was opened for free viewing for all providers. Training certificates are still free for FCCAM and MaineAEYC members. The cost is still minimal for non-members.

The majority of the PLC work has been divided between the conferences coming to Maine this summer and fall and developing support materials around the new FCC Licensing Rule which went into effect May 27, 2021. 

This 130th legislature has been busy, making up for the stoppage of 2020. The Public Policy Committee continues to provide testimony so legislators understand the impact of fcc providers. Our RFTS coalition work paid off when on July 12th Governor Mills signing LD 1712 into law. The work continues on other bills which are being held over.

It’s up to the family child care providers of Maine to see how this story continues…..

FCCAM’s Board is thankful for both our new members and those who show their continued support of this active association that focuses on family child care by renewing their memberships.

Interested in joining FCCAM and adding to the story? Click HERE!