By William Croyle
Of the 383 child-care centers in Kentucky, only six received the highest quality rating possible in data released by the state last week.
Two of those, both geared toward serving teen mothers, are in Northern Kentucky.
Chapman Child Development Center in Covington and Kenton Central Child Development Center in Park Hills earned four-star ratings from Kids Now a state organization formed three years ago as part of Gov. Paul Patton's Early Childhood Development Initiative.
Forty-two centers in Northern Kentucky participated in the voluntary rating program this past year.
Each center was visited by a Kids Now representative and received a star rating between one and four, based on factors such as student/teacher ratio, curriculum and the education level of the staff.
Kids Now Executive Director Kim Townley said a rating of any kind shows that a child-care program is committed to quality.
"Getting a four-star rating indicates a very high quality, and we're working hard with the others to get to that level," Townley said. "Every one of these stars shows how much each center is above and beyond the standard licensing."
Kids Now was created by House Bill 706 in 2000 and is funded by 25 percent of the state's Phase I tobacco settlement money.
The goal of Patton's initiative is to see that "all young children in Kentucky (by 2020) are healthy and safe, possess the foundation that will enable school and personal success, and live in strong families that are supported and strengthened within their communities."
Chapman Childhood Development Center, located at Holmes High School, is in its ninth year. The center has 45 children between 4 weeks and 5 years of age. Twenty of them are children of teen mothers who attend the high school. The rest are children of employees of the Covington Independents Schools district.
The staff includes nine classroom teachers, a cook, a family support coordinator, a director, assistant director, and three part-time staff.
Chapman received a three-star rating last year, the first year for the Kids Now rating system.
"I'd like to say I was surprised, but I have high standards for our staff and was quite confident that we were at that quality level," said Chapman Director Peggy Browning. "This rating is a sense of pride and accomplishment, and a staff morale builder. We have a commitment to young children to do our very best."
Erin Riley, 17, takes her daughter, Tyra, to the center each day before going to class.
"The staff communicates with me well about Tyra's progress and listens to my suggestions," said Riley. "I can also visit her during the day when I'm out of class. She loves being here and can't wait to get here every morning."
Kenton Central Child Development Center is at Kenton Central High School, where it enrolls 13 children, 11 of them children of teen mothers at the school.
The center was founded in 1997 as a cooperative effort between the Kenton County Board of Education and Children Inc., a nonprofit United Way agency with nine childcare centers in Northern Kentucky.
This was Kenton Central's first four-star rating after finishing as a three-star facility last year.
"To be top-ranked in the state is wonderful," said the center's director, Tina Gier.
Gier said the Kenton Central High School curriculum requires each teen parent to spend at least an hour a day at the center, helping the teachers and learning about parenting.
"The parents spend a lot of time with us every day, so this rating also reflects on the parents and how good they are."
With Kenton Central High School closing at the end of this year and the students reassigned to other county schools, the child care center will be moving to Simon Kenton High School for the 2003-2004 school year.
The Chapman and Kenton centers will also receive monetary awards of about $5,000 each from Kids Now, which they will use for teacher salaries and supplies.
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