Enhancing Quality of Child Care is Job One for Niagara QIP

August 30, 2013  |  by Michael Freedman

  • QIP

    Heather Andrzejewski of Wee Care Day Care points out some of the improvements to her preschool classroom to Lynnette Haley O’Stewart, director of the Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project.

  • QIP

    Dr. Debra Colley, dean of NU's College Education, discusses the Niagara QIP with Don Matteson, chief program officer at The Tower Foundation, and Ken Franasiak, CEO of Calamar Enterprises.

  • QIP

    Erica Harris is very pleased with the QIP-led enhancements to her preschool classroom at Wee Care Day Care.

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    Lynnette Haley O’Stewart, Niagara QIP director, chats with participants during Wednesday's event.

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  • QIP

    Virginia Wolbert, director of Mount St. Mary's Child Development Center, speaks with Carol Beebe, project director in NU's College of Education.

The overarching goals of the Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project are to enhance the quality of care delivered by child care centers and to improve the readiness skills of children entering preschool and kindergarten.

In less than three years, the grant-funded program has done just that in 30 Niagara County centers, training 350-plus child care providers in 44 preschool age classrooms.

The impact on the more than 715 preschool age children that have benefited from the program so far cannot be understated.

“The directors and staff of these centers are the gatekeepers to quality care,” said Lynnette Haley O’Stewart, Niagara QIP director. “Over the past three years, we have collaboratively changed the landscape of child care in Niagara County.”

On Wednesday evening, a third cohort of 10 child care centers became Niagara QIP ambassador centers by completing a year of “active engagement.”

  • Catholic Academy of Niagara Fall Preschool (1055 North Military Rd., Niagara Falls)
  • The Children’s House (100 Church St., Youngstown)
  • Collin’s Child Care Center (716 Center St., Lewiston)
  • Kids Connect Preschool (3287 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda)
  • Little Wonders ECDC (4661 Porter Rd., Niagara Falls)
  • Mount. St. Mary’s Child Care Center (5310 Military Rd., Lewiston)
  • NCCC Child Development Center (3111 Saunders Settlement Rd., Sanborn)
  • Sweet Angels Child Care Center (1307 Erie Rd., North Tonawanda)
  • Wee Care Day Care Center (4011 Creek Rd., Youngstown)
  • YWCA of Niagara Preschool (32 Cottage St., Lockport)

The group joins an established professional learning community of 20 child care centers that previously participated in the Niagara QIP’s first and second cohorts, both of which are now in the sustainability phase of the program.

“The opportunity to be a part of the Niagara QIP was wonderful in re-energizing all of us,” said Shannon Bland, director of Small World Too on Williams Rd. in Niagara Falls, a second cohort participant. “We already had high expectations at our centers and, through this program we were able to raise the bar. We found that we had higher expectations of ourselves.

“Because of the Niagara QIP, all of us who participated are now connected to a larger child care community. We have the unique opportunity to stay connected through short courses and directors’ forums. We have learned from and supported each other. Through this networking, we now have a directory with information for all of the local child care center directors. Brainstorming between centers can only make us all better early child care providers.”

The Niagara QIP was established in fall 2010 as a collaborative initiative of Niagara University, the United Way of Greater Niagara, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Niagara Area Foundation and local business leaders. Funding for the three-year, $625,000 program is provided by the Grigg-Lewis Foundation and The Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation.

In the past two-plus years, the Niagara QIP has profoundly changed the landscape for child care in Niagara County. Program highlights include:

  • Fifty child care providers (directors and teachers) representing the first and second cohorts have completed a 45-hour professional development certificate course in early childhood education. The third cohort will add 36 certificate recipients.
  • More than 350 child care providers have participated in short-course professional development activities.
  • A team of 18 graduate students in Niagara University’s school psychology program conducted pre- and post-school readiness assessments.
  • Child care centers are now a placement for students participating in Niagara University’s Learn and Serve and field placement programs.
  • An external review of Cohort 1 and Cohort 2 found statistically significant improvements in all participating sites in both the ECERS (learning environment and teachers’ behavior assessments) and ESI (school readiness assessments).
  • A director’s forum has been established, allowing child care professionals to meet with colleagues quarterly.

Moving forward, the Niagara QIP plans to continue to cultivate high quality early child care and education by extending the project to the infant and toddler classrooms.

In keeping with its commitment to early childhood and the critical nature of early development and cognition, Niagara University’s College of Education offers a master’s degree program in early childhood and special education (birth – grade 2) to support the project and has included candidates in the school psychology program in the assessment components of the QIP.

For more information on the Niagara County Early Child Care Quality Improvement Project, please contact Haley O’Stewart at 716.286.8567 or ude.aragainnull@yelahl.

To learn more about NU’s College of Education, please visit www.niagara.edu/education.