The Children’s Center at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has scored top marks on a report card that rates the quality of child care facilities across the Cornhusker State.
In the recently completed Step Up to Quality Review conducted by the Nebraska Department of Education, the university child care center was rated at Step Five — the highest score available, signifying that its programs far exceed quality standards. It is only the third Nebraska-based child care center to receive the highest score and the first to earn the honor on its inaugural Step Up review.
“For us, this is a stamp of affirmation that we offer the highest levels of care here at the Children’s Center,” said Callie Wilhite, director of the facility. “It’s the ranking we expected as our staff is constantly striving to raise the bar in terms of the services we offer to our families.”
For many families who use the campus program, the state ranking was not a surprise.
“The quality of care that our children receive at the Children’s Center and the level of dedication shown by its staff are simply amazing,” said Amber Williams, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management. “To me, this is just like winning an Oscar. It acknowledges all the great work happening in the center every day.”
Located on the corner of 22nd and W streets, the Children’s Center opened in 2009 and was part of a $24 million renovation of the Whittier Building, now called the Prem S. Paul Research Center at Whittier School. The center offers care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years, and employs 25 trained, full-time staff. Additional support is provided by 125 Nebraska students preparing for careers in fields related to education and child care. The center’s services are open to the children of faculty, staff and students.
“It’s a comfort knowing that when I leave my children at the center, they are in good hands. That is a feeling that allows me to be more productive for the university.”
— Amber Williams, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management
As part of the state assessment, the Children’s Center was evaluated in seven key areas: curriculum, learning environments, teacher-child interactions, child outcomes, professional development and training, family engagement and partnerships, and program administration.
Along with examining documentation of training, facility procedures and curricula, the intensive review included on-site assessments in eight of the center’s 11 classrooms. Each assessment lasted for three hours.
The goal of the Step Up program, which is modeled after initiatives in other states, is to identify centers that offer top-quality early child care and education programming while providing that information to parents. The program is based on research that has established a correlation between quality of child care before age 5 and future successes in reading/math skills, graduating high school and attending college, getting a job, and earning higher wages.
Williams, who has two children enrolled at the center, said she has been particularly impressed with the quality of the programming offered.
“My four-year-old is always talking about the field trips they take to places across the city. They also have specialized teachers who coming in to lead instruction on things like music and Spanish,” Williams said. “The curriculum is so diverse and opens the doors to many opportunities for my kids.”
The center also offers a proactive team-based approach to education that encourages input from parents, said Mandy Haase-Thomas, chief communications officer for the University of Nebraska State Museum.
“Our daughter’s educators track her milestones and make recommendations on what’s best for her,” Haase-Thomas said. “Situations are not cookie cutter but planned according to the best needs of each individual child and the class as a whole.”
For many families who use the center, the state ranking is a point of pride that reinforces child care provider choices.
“As a parent, the top rating further instills confidence that the Children’s Center provides quality educational care helping to prepare our daughter and her peers for the future,” Haase-Thomas said. “And, that the full-time staff and student workers provide a safe, caring and educational environment for the children to learn and grow.”
Both Haase-Thomas and Williams praised the university for offering on-campus child care to the university community.
“This is a service that shows the university is committed to helping serve the needs of its faculty, staff and students who have children,” Williams said. “It’s a comfort knowing that when I leave my children at the center, they are in good hands. That is a feeling that allows me to be more productive for the university.”
Learn more about the Children’s Center.