Berks County IU 14: Setting high standards in the search for child care

 When parents need child care, the questions can seem daunting. Is it affordable? Is the provider trustworthy? Is the facility safe? Will my child be learning?

Pennsylvania’s statewide Child Care Information Services, or CCIS, helps parents answer those questions. In Berks County, CCIS grantee Berks County Intermediate Unit 14 is recognized by the state for its excellence, offering local guidance and in-depth knowledge that guide parents through the child care process. The benefits extend across sectors – parents are comfortable that they made the right choice, children can be in developmentally appropriate care, and employers know that working parents are successfully juggling home and work responsibilities.

IU 14 utilizes a comprehensive database with locations, hours, quality ratings, and other information about local participating providers. All must meet health and safety guidelines. Any parent, regardless of income, can get help searching for a suitable provider, and the CCIS fielded 12,588 resource and referral requests in 2013.

Income-eligible parents who are working or in job training or school can get financial assistance, on a sliding-scale basis, to help pay for the costs of child care. That part of CCIS served 5,742 children in 2013.

Parents choose the provider that best suits their needs, an important aspect of the program because “every family’s needs are different,” says Program Administrator Barb Starkey. “We provide information so parents can make a good choice.”

CCIS staffers, including bilingual staffers to help the county’s Latino families, are trained in the full range of family services – not just child care -- so they can direct parents toward other available assistance.
In state performance evaluations, IU 14’s CCIS receives the highest commendations for its efficiency and effectiveness.

“Families need to have their children in a safe place in order to go to work with the peace of mind that their child’s being taken care of,” says Starkey. “If they don’t have child care, they can’t go to work, they can’t attend training, and they can’t move towards self-sufficiency. That really is the goal. We want families to increase their income to the point where they don’t need us anymore.”

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