Parents Want More Accredited Childcare Centers

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COLUMBIA - Missouri is the only state in the U.S. with a state accrediting entity for early childcare education, childcare centers and before and after school programs. Missouri Accreditation's Executive Director Pamela Speer said it's important for parents to understand the difference between an accredited and licensed childcare center.

"We really need to see parents take an interest and understand what accreditation is and what their [child's] program is doing with their children during the day when they're gone," Speer said.

With a few exceptions, a license is required to legally operate a childcare center by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and federal law. Most centers voluntarily apply for and comply with accreditation standards, unless a state grant requires it.

Licensing standards vary from state to state. Missouri's standards can be found here. They're minimum standards set by Missouri government regulatory agencies determining the minimum standards can be provided to assure a safe and healthy environment for children. Accreditation means staff is college educated and they exceed state licensing standards. 

For a childcare center to receive the Missouri Accreditation stamp of approval centers must have degreed faculty, interactive learning, interactive teachers, educational play and more.

Columbia's Finest Child Development Center is one of the 11 childcare centers in the state accredited by Missouri Accreditation. The assistant director for Columbia's Finest, Courtney Burgess, said she's noticed many parents come through because they're an accredited center.

"They want to know their kids are being taught as well as spending their day playing because we do learn through play here," she said. "To prepare themselves for kindergarten and the years to come."

Lametria Pegg, a Columbia Public Schools teacher and mother of a 9-month-old, said she chose Columbia's Finest because being an accredited center was a selling point.

"I wanted to ensure that Autumn was in a safe environment, that they were following safety regulations, and it was nice for me to know they were state accredited," Pegg said. "I also wanted to make sure she had some one-on-one care that she would have at home as well as learning involved in her day."

Cale Leisner is another parent who chose Columbia's Finest to care for his two young children.

"We chose this place because we knew it would be safe and they would be taught the basic fundamentals," Leisner said.

Learning through play is one motto Columbia's Finest strives to live by.

"The kids create everything they do here. There are no color sheets or anything like that, not saying that's a bad thing, but everything here we do is more hands on," Burgess said. "They use their imaginations, and the teachers just jump in and play with them."

There are two different programs a childcare center can become accredited through - Missouri Accreditation or the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Missouri Accreditation covers the entire state while NAEYC accredits anyone in the United States. 

There are 120 accredited centers in Missouri accredited by NAEYC. Missouri Accreditation has accredited more than 300 childcare centers statewide.