why quality matters

As parents, you are in control of your child care options
Finding a great child care provider can feel like an impossible task, but it doesn’t have to be.

Quality pre-K and child care programs offer engaging, appropriate activities in settings that facilitate healthy growth and development, and prepare children for success in school.

What Makes Quality?

The time from birth until kindergarten can set the course for your child’s whole life. Nearly 85% of your child’s brain is formed by the time they turn three and those first few years are the most important to their brain development and long-term success.

Children who attend quality child care and pre-K programs are more likely to graduate from high school, have steady jobs, and even own a home one day.

We know safety is your highest priority, help keep your child safe by choosing quality child care.

85% of a child’s brain is formed by age three.

A toddler’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s.

Keystone Stars Child Care Rating System

Keystone STARS rates the quality of early childhood learning programs and provides a guide for choosing good child care.

Ask about Keystone STARS while visiting and remember, a STAR 4 rating is best.

Keystone STARS is an optional statewide quality rating system for early childhood education (ECE) programs.

Programs that choose to enroll in STARS show that they have a commitment to providing quality ECE. Programs that are a part of STARS are constantly working to improve or maintain the quality of their program, curriculum, learning environments, and teachers. There are also other indicators of top quality such as the national NAEYC accreditation and pre-K programs run by the School District of Philadelphia.

How does it work?

Programs progress through the STARS ratings from STAR 1 at first, then STAR 2, STAR 3, or STAR 4. A STAR 3 or STAR 4 program means it has met all the state’s necessary standards to be considered top quality. Research shows that quality programs are more likely to prepare children for school and life. A STAR 1 or STAR 2 rating means that the program is working toward becoming higher quality.

When looking for a quality ECE program, visiting is essential. Ask about Keystone STARS while visiting and remember, the STAR 4 rating is best.

How can I access it:

Where Can I learn more?

  • Visit PA Keys here
  • Learn more on their parent page here
  • Find FAQs re Keystone Stars here
  • Search for a STARS center here
  • Read the Standards Guide here

What to Ask

Parents know best. As a parent, you have a lot of difficult decisions you have to make when it comes to what’s best for your child. Make sure your child care or pre-K provider is the best possible option. Ask the right questions and get the answers.

Q: How do I know my child will be safe here?

A: You know best, but the answer should include: “Our program meets regulations. Staff are trained in CPR, first aid, and in preventing, recognizing, and reporting child abuse. We follow regulations on handwashing, diapering, and preparing food and have locked away any hazardous materials. We also have a posted emergency plan.”

Q. Are you part of a keystone stars quality rating system?

A: “Yes!”

  • STARS 3 and 4 level programs are the most highly rated
  • If a program is not part of Keystone STARS, ask why
  • If a program is a STAR 2, ask to what their plans are to increase to a STAR3 level over the next 18-24 months

Q: What will my child learn this year?

A: This answer will change but should include: “It depends on their age! We have a curriculum based on Pennsylvania’s quality early learning standards.” Click here for detailed information on what to expect your child should be learning at each age or watch this video on what to expect of a quality child care or pre-K program.

Q. What training does your staff have?

A: “All of our teachers have at least an Associate degree in Early Childhood Education or a related field.” A four-year degree is even more training.

Q: What kind of parent involvement do you have?

A: “We check-in with parents regularly and support them in participating in their child’s education.”

Q. When can I check in on my child?

A: “You can visit your child anytime you’d like.”

  • You should be able to visit your child any time
  • Every parent wants to know that their child is safe and being well-taken care of!

Eligibility Calculator
Use the Eligibility Calculator to find out if you qualify for child care and pre-K funding.
Call Center
For help locating and applying for pre-K and other quality child care programs, call 844-PHL-PREK (844-745-7735).