All caregivers who are a part of
a child's life impact his or her brain development.

The Delaware Stars program provides standards that must be met to be a Delaware Stars provider. Programs are rated from 1 star to 5 stars, which is the highest level. These ratings help parents and families find the best quality care close to where they live or work. Find the program that is right for your and family.

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Choosing an early childhood program is one of the most important steps parents take to give their child the best future.

Delaware Stars is your guide to the best early learning programs in our state.

Tools & Tips for Finding the Best Program for your Child

Step 1: Check Out Your Options
Step 2: Call and Visit
Step 3: Check References
Step 4: Make a Decision
Step 5: Making it Work

Step 1: Check Out Your Options

No matter what type of program you decide is best for your child, you can find a Delaware Stars program near you!

Center and School-Based Programs

This type of early education and care is delivered in a community or school-based setting.

Types of Center and School-Based Programs

Center or School-based early education and care programs can serve children of infant, toddler or preschool age, and include Head Start programs.

The definitions of the age groups are:

Infants: birth up to 15 months
Toddler: at least 15 months but younger than two years and nine months
PreSchool: at least two years and nine months up to Kindergarten

Family-based Programs:

Family-based programs are provided in an in-home setting and serve anywhere from 1 to 12 children.

Enter an address to find Delaware Stars programs near where you want your child to be!

Step 2: Call and Visit

You can make calls to the programs first, to narrow your options list, then make personal visits to the programs that interest you most.

Questions to ask when you call: You can learn a lot by having a phone conversation with an early childhood professional.

Introduce yourself.

"Hi, my name is _________ and I am looking for the best program for my _____ (month/year- old) child.

Is your program in Delaware Stars? If yes, at what Star level? (programs rated a Star 3, 4 or 5 are at the top of the Stars program)

Ask if there is an opening for your child.

"I would like to start my child in your program on ______(date). Do you have an opening?"

Discuss schedule.

"For our family schedule, I am looking for a program for my child for _____(days/hours). Can your program offer that?

"What about the summer months? Is your program open year around?"

Talk about money.

"How much does your program cost? Are there extra charges for registration, deposit, food, supplies, etc.?"

If your family receives Purchase of Care, "Will you accept Purchase of Care payments?"

Ask about the program.

For family-based programs: "How many children are in your program? What are their ages?"

For center-based programs: "How many children will be in my child's class? How many teachers are in this room?"

What are the activities during a typical day for a child the age of your child?

Learn about staff qualifications

For family-based programs: "How long has your program been in place? "

For center-based programs: "Do your teachers have degrees in early childhood education? How long has the teacher for this group been with the program?, with this class?"

Ask about other issues that are important to you.

These may include pets, daily schedule and activities, transportation, meals and snacks, etc.

Schedule a visit.

If you like the answers to your questions make an appointment to visit the program when children will be present and awake.

Things to look for during your visit to a program:
• Do the teachers actively and frequently talk with children and listen to the children's responses?
• Do children seem engaged in activities?
• Are there learning centers that focus on math, science, dramatic play?
• Places for children to explore and learn quietly and on their own? Do the teachers read often to the children?
• Are children encouraged to play well together?
• How are parents and families involved?
• Are there parent-teacher conferences?
• How do teachers get information to parents and families about the child's activities during the day?
• Are there field trips that parents and families are invited to join?
• Is there a parent/family advisory council for the program?
• Are parents invited to stop the program at any time?

Ideas to help you decide what program is best for your child:
• Delaware Stars can be your guide. Stars programs are committed to providing a high-quality early learning program for your child.
• Visit two or three different programs so you can learn more about the programs and compare program quality and fit for your child.
• You may want to schedule a second visit at a different time of day so you can see a variety of activities.
• Make time to speak directly with the early childhood professionals who will most often be with your child.
• Depending on the age of your child and your child's comfort, it can be helpful to take your child to visit the program so you can watch the how your child and the early childhood professionals get along. Does the interaction seem comfortable?

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Step 3: Check References

You may want to talk with families of children who are in the program now.

If you speak with families with young children in the program now:

Start the conversation by introducing yourself:

"My name is _____. I am considering _____(program name) for my child. The program gave me your name as a reference. Would you have a few minutes to answer some questions?"

Suggestions for Questions:
• What do you like best about the program?
• What is your child learning in this program?
• What does your child like about going to this program?
• What concerns, if any, do you have about the program?
• How do you get information about your child's progress?
• As a parent, do you feel included and supported by the program
• Have there been any unexpected policy changes (fees, hours, etc.)?
• Do you feel this program is reliable?
• Would you recommend this program to a friend? Why?

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Step 4: Make a Decision on the Best Program for Your Child

Finding the best early childhood program for your child is a very important decision for your family.

Final Things to Think About

Does the program have:
• high quality , planned activities that meet all parts of your child's early learning and developmental needs?
• a wide variety of experiences for your child?
• a setting that encourages your child to explore and be creative?
• opportunities to run and be active?

Do the early childhood professionals or teachers:
• have college degrees in early education?
• spend a lot of time talking and listening to each child?
• read to the children often?
• have a way to let you know about the child's activities and what the child is learning about?

Will your child:
• get individualized attention?
• be introduced to new ideas and experiences?
• be a good fit with the program's other children?
• respond well to the setting and routine; will they match what your child likes and needs?

Do you:
• feel welcome and respected by the program and staff?
• agree with the program's discipline or guidance approach?
• feel you can easily communicate with the program about your child and any concerns?
• have opportunities to participate in activities such as field trips, parent-teacher conferences, family activities?

Once you make your decision about the best program for your child:
• Contact the program you have chosen to enroll your child.
• Deliver the deposit (if needed), and sign a contract to be sure the spot is yours. (See Step 5: Enrolling your Child in the Program)
• If you get Purchase of Care, let your caseworker at the Division of Social Services know about your choice of program for your child.

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Step 5: Enrolling your Child in the Program

Sign a Contract
If the program has a written contract , make sure to read it carefully before signing the contract and ask for a signed copy to keep.

The program should provide to you in writing:
• deposit or registration fees
• cost of care and payment due date
• other fees (late fees, field trips, supplies)
• days/hours your child will be enrolled
• planned dates the program will be closed (for instance, holidays)
• information on transportation, meals, discipline practices, emergencies, and sick child rules
• how to end the contract (by either you or the program)
• program phone numbers and address and emergency contact information
• program federal tax identification number for filing tax returns or for your flexible benefits plan

Important Steps to Take Before Starting Your Child Begins Attending the Program

Give information to the program about you and your child, such as
• your contact information (your phone number and address for home and work or school)
• emergency contact information
• contact information for your child's dentist and doctor
• medical information about any allergies your child may have or medications your child takes
• a current immunization record

Find out if the program requires you to send supplies for your child, such as
• diapers, wipes, formula, food as required by the program
• a change of clothes
• a small toy, blanket, or picture: something that is comforting to your child (check with the program first)

Help Your Child Feel Comfortable
With a little planning, the transition to the new early childhood program can be made easier for your child. Here are a few ideas to help you prepare. Talk with your early childhood professional for additional tips, too.
• Show that you feel comfortable with your choice. Even young children can sense when a parent is anxious. Be positive and confident about the new program.
• Spend time with your child at the program before your child starts full time. If possible, plan several short visits in advance of your child's official first day.
• On the first day allow extra time to get your child settled and comfortable.
• Make drop off and pick up a happy time. If you build a familiar routine, your child knows what to expect when you leave and return. Allow enough time in the morning to reduce feeling rushed. A special good-bye routine can be reassuring to both of you.

As you and your family partner with the program, look for opportunities to participate!
Ways to get involved:
• Make visits during program hours.
• Plan to stay a little longer when you drop off or pick up your child to you can talk with the teacher.
• Volunteer to help with special events or go on field trips with your child's class.
• If your program has special activities for families (like movie nights or family nights), try to attend with your child.
• Arrange a conference with your child's teacher to talk about your child's development. Ask what the program is doing to help your child reach important developmental milestones.
• Get involved in the parent or family advisory council for your child's program.

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Office of Early Learning
Delaware Department of Education
401 Federal Street
Dover, DE 19901
(302) 735-4295