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 childcarechoices.me. 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 https://qualityforme.org, 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 Business Practice, MRTQ-PDN, Professional Development

Family Child Care Credential – New in 2023!

Maine Roads to Quality has a NEW credential that is specific for Family Child Care Providers. The credential has been designed to support fcc practitioners to deliver high-quality programming to children and families throughout Maine. Multiple pathways for earning this credential are available to support you whether this is your first credential or you have earned others. Decisions on awarding the Maine Family Child Care Credential will be made by the MRTQ PDN Credential Review Team, with initial credentials being awarded for three years.

Learn about MRTQ Credentials

Here’s the full FCC Credential Informational Packet. It’s a large packet, but you can take your time reading through it. In this post we’ll share some of the informational points from the packet you should be aware of early on.

The Maine Family Child Care Credential promotes early childhood workforce competence and focuses on the additional training and education practitioners need when caring for children of mixed ages.

To earn the Maine Family Child Care Credential, Applicants must:
a. Meet the formal education, experience, and training requirements.
b. Be a member of the Maine Roads to Quality Registry.
c. Submit a completed application and payment of $25 to MRTQ PDN.
d. Submit a Portfolio that demonstrates the required competencies specific to working with ages and development of children enrolled within your program.
e. Participate in a Maine Family Child Care Credential On-Site Observation.
f. Distribute, collect, and submit Maine Family Child Care Family Surveys.

Evaluation and credential decisions are based upon:
a. The applicant meeting all education, experience, and training requirements.
b. Successful completion of the Portfolio.
c. Satisfactory completion of the Maine Family Child Care Credential On-Site Observation.
d. A return rate of 75%, with an 80% positive rating on the Maine Family Child Care Credential Family Surveys (see Section 6).

MRTQ PDN has the following supports available for practitioners:
a. Cohorts will be available for practitioners to join to receive support from a facilitator and peers; cohorts generally involve participation in monthly meetings (either via conference call, video conference, or face-to-face) and individualized assistance from the facilitator on completing the Portfolio and preparing for the On-Site Observation.
b. On-site consultation is also available to practitioners pursuing the Maine Family Child Care Credential.

The Maine Family Child Care Credential requires a minimum of 120 hours of specific Maine Roads to Quality Training. There are 3 options or paths to earning the FCC Credential. The 120 hours can be earned over a 10 year period. You will see “five years” listed throughout the packet, but a decision was made to change this to 10 years because of the barrier 5 years was for working providers.

The 120 hours are composed of both FREE and paid courses. For those earning this credential upon completion there is currently the opportunity to receive a monetary award that will reimburse for the cost of courses and provide an additional monetary amount currently in the range of $500.

Option 1: For a practitioner working towards their FIRST MRTQ PDN
Credential
(including those who have an early childhood education or related degree):
A minimum of 120 hours of training within 10 years, comprised of the following:

  1. Getting Started in Family Child Care (6 hours) – FREE On Demand
  2. AND Your Professional Development Portfolio (9 hours) – FREE On Demand
  3. AND Foundations of Health, Wellness, and Safety (18 hours) – FREE On Demand
  4. AND Partners in Caring: Families and Caregivers (15 hours) – $20
  5. AND Environments in Early Care and Education (30 hours) – $30
  6. AND Strengthening Business Practice (18 hours) – varies
  7. AND CHOOSE ONE of the following Infants and Toddlers: Maine’s Early
    Learning and Development Standards OR Maine’s Early Learning Development
    Standards (30 hours) OR Links to Learning (45 hours) – varies

Option 2: For a practitioner who has attained a Maine Credential (Infant
Toddler, Youth Development, Director, or Inclusion
):
A minimum of 120 hours of training within the last ten years. Any trainings within the last 10 years that have already been used in the earning of a credential can not be use again for this FCC Credential.

  1. Strengthening Business Practice (18 hours)
  2. Getting Started in Family Child Care (6 Hours)
  3. Your Professional Development Portfolio (9 hours) – (**If the practitioner has completed this training within 10 years as a requirement for another Maine Credential a waiver can be issued. The 120 trainings hours of training are required regardless of the waiver.)
  4. Choose one or more from the following training. (The training chosen cannot have been used in a pathway with another Maine State Credential.):
    – Infants and Toddlers: Maine’s Early Learning and Development Standards (Bridge)
    – Maine’s Early Learning Development Standards (30 hours)
    – Links to Learning (45 hours)
  5. AND Choose from the list below to earn a total minimum of 120 required hours and meeting a minimum of 12 hours in at least five of the core competencies.
    • Creating Inclusive Youth Development Settings (30 hours)
    • Environments in Early Care and Education (30 hours)
    • Designing Early Learning: Curriculum and Assessment in Preschool (30 hours)
    • Inclusive Child Care (30 hours)
    • Working with School Aged Children and Youth (30 hours)
    • Create Equitable Early Learning Communities (20 hours)
    • Engaging in Professional Development with Adult Learners (18 hours)
    • Introduction to Infant Mental Health (18 hours)
    • Social and Emotional Learning Birth to Age 5 (18 hours)
    • Positive Supports and Challenging Behaviors (15 hours)
    • Foundations of Peer-to-Peer Networks (15 hours)
    • Collaborating with others to support Inclusion (12 hours)
    • Foundations of Universal Design and Individualizing (12 hours)
    • Stress Happens: Transforming Your Relationships to Stress (6 hours)

Option 3: A third pathway is available to those family child care professionals who have achieved two of the following Maine Credentials: Infant and Toddler, Youth Development, or the Inclusion Credential.
A minimum of 120 hours of documented family child care related education/training within ten years. The training must include at least 10 hours in each of the core competency areas for the family child care credential.
A. Child Development and Learning in Context
B. Family-Provider Partnerships and Community Connections
C. Child Observation, Documentation and Assessment
D. Developmentally, Culturally, and Linguistically Appropriate Teaching
Practices
E. Knowledge, Application, and Integration of Content in the Curriculum
F. Professionalism
G. Health, Safety, and Nutrition
H. Administration and Business Practices

Additional training requirements and considerations:

  • The 120 hours of training must be comprised of a minimum of 4.0 CEUs (40 clock hours) dated within ten years of application for the Maine Family Child Care Credential.
  • The remaining training hours can be attained in the following ways:
    • Training or workshops of two hours or less (a maximum of 30 hours can be used with this option).
    • Classes, training, or workshops facilitated by the candidate (up to 20 contact hours, limited to one time per training topic).
    • Training from a recognized agency or organization proficient in child care provider education. Recognized training sources include but are not limited to Maine Roads to Quality Professional Development Network opportunities, family child care associations, early childhood programs such as Head Start, school districts, U.S. military services, state government child care agencies, colleges, universities, vocational and technical schools.

In addition, a template for documentation of training meeting core competency areas is provided and required with application.


For providers that are interested in earning the Family Child Care Credential, start by checking to see if you have taken any of the required training in the last 10 years.

Then check the MRTQ PDN Training Calendar to see when the trainings that are not On Demand are being offered next. As these trainings are limited in offering you might want to see if any fit in your schedule and reach out to Pam Soucy to be added to a waitlist for those that have filled and/ or are not being offered at this time (pamela.soucy@maine.edu | 207-626-5258)

The On Demand classes can be fit into your schedule more easily. Remember you do not need to complete an On Demand training in one sitting. The training maintains your progress, as long as you complete it by Dec. 31st of the year of enrollment.


Any questions on the Family Child Care Credential reach out to Tammy Dwyer (tammy.dwyer@maine.edu| 207-956-2937) or email MRTQ Coordinator of Apprenticeship and Credential Programs (lori.m.moses@maine.edu | 207-780-4435)

Posted in MRTQ-PDN, Professional Development

Enrolling in MRTQ On Demand Trainings

The Professional Learning Committee of FCCAM has been hearing that providers are having difficulty accessing Maine Roads To Quality On Demand Training. We hope this post will provide a walk through that helps you in navigating On Demand Training enrollment.

It starts by accessing Maine Roads To Quality. There are multiple ways to get to the “Online Training” section you want.

  • If you are comfortable logging into your MRTQ Registry account start there.

You will click on the green button under “Online Training”.


OR

  • Start from the MRTQ home page. Hover over “Training” and a drop down menu list will appear.
  • You will find “On Demand Training” almost at the end of this drop down list.
  • Click “On Demand Training”.

Both of these options get you to a page that currently looks similar to this:

You can access all your registry information, account log off, Professional Development Profile, etc. from this page.

Notice the green “Access Online Training” button.

Clicking on this button gets you to any MRTQ Trainings you are currently enrolled in. (It also gets you to the Quality Improvement Toolkit if you have already enrolled in it for ongoing access.) The open page should looks similar to this:

If you are signing up for a NEW training you will skip over this “Access Online Training” button and begin to scroll down through the listing of available On Demand Training.

Once you find the training you are looking for or one of interest, stop and check out the button that follows the training description. That button will be either gray or green.

  • Gray means the training is NOT available for you to enroll in. You may have already taken it, or it may be a training you started and have not completed.
  • Green “Enroll” means the training is available to be enrolled in. Click the button and a new page will open where you can enroll and begin the training.

Once you enroll in a class further access is gained from that green “Access Online Training” button found at the top of the On Demand Training page.


Note: If you see this pinkish box it means you have a training in process that you have not completed. All annual uncompleted trainings are wiped clean at year’s end.


Example: I clicked the green enroll button under “Your Professional Development Portfolio” and my next page was:

I see this question about “If you need to register”, but I thought the enroll button registered me? Why didn’t it open right up to the training?

Skip the block of language and scroll down a bit. You will see “My courses” and all the trainings you are enrolled in will be listed.

I found my latest enrollment at the bottom of my courses.

Click on the training title and you will be at the training itself.


Signing up for On Demand Training can be a bit confusing the first time, but it was really only two clicks once I was on the Online Training page. I scrolled to the training, clicked enroll, scrolled to the course looking for, clicked on the title and was at the active training.

Remember next time you want to access any training you have not completed use the “Access Online Training” button.

Posted in Business Practice, ECE Information, MRTQ-PDN

What’s Important About “SHORTcuts”?

All child care providers, whether they are licensed-exempt, FCC providers, center directors or any child care staff are required under the active Licensing Rules for FCC and Facilities to join the state’s Registry that MRTQ PDN handles. Part of being on the registry means you will receive “SHORTScuts” a weekly e-newsletter. It usually hits inboxes on Wednesdays.

Why should you care if it’s in your spam box or not?

Most of us get too many emails to deal with as busy providers. With our limited time to do required and recommended record keeping, when checking emails it’s just so easy to trash ones we see as unimportant to our daily work. And the ones already in the spam box are really easy to ignore. You want to check out SHORTScuts before you trash it. Yes, it’s a longer email, but you can quickly scroll through it only stopping at items of interest.

The weekly SHORTScuts is the best place to see what is happening in the wider ece field for trainings. MRTQ PDN has the ability to gather resources on training opportunities that no other organization or agency in Maine does. With SHORTScuts they have pulled together news about local, state and national training opportunities. If you see a training opportunity of interest you can easily access more information from the link buttons included in the descriptions. They also share informational updates, usually at the beginning of the e-newsletter.


Still don’t think you’ll have time to deal with checking your email for this weekly e-newsletter? That’s ok. MRTQ PDN has the publications from March 2020 to the latest SHORTScut e-newsletter on their website. You can always just go there.


The weekly SHORTScuts e-newsletter comes from: jennifer.wiles@maine.edu. Be sure to adjust your email’s recognition of this, so the email doesn’t sit in your spam box.