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In-home child-care provider achieves a 5-star rating
By Alicia Barnes
MSU School of Human Sciences
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Nine years after starting her own child-care business, Dana Smith is living her dream.
As a former kindergarten teacher and librarian in Tennessee, Smith combined her love of education with her business goals and began a small child care program in her home. After relocating to Olive Branch, she furthered her goals by opening Busy Bundles of Joy Learning Center, an in-home family child-care program that was recently certified as one of the finest in the state.
“I strive to provide the best professional care to my parents and children,” she said. “This certification challenged me to go higher not only with the requirements of the five-star, but also furthering my education in child care.”
Smith earned the five-star rating through the new in-home Quality Rating and Improvement System program administered by the Nurturing Homes Initiative of the Mississippi State University Extension Service. The Mississippi Department of Human Service’s Division of Early Childhood Care and Development funds the program to assess and improve the quality of child-care programs.
To achieve the rating, Smith worked for months to improve every aspect of her program to reach the nationally set standards on health, safety, nutrition, business practices, parental involvement, learning activities and the learning environment.
Through the Nurturing Homes Initiative and the Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network, Smith received the support, training and materials she needed to meet the strict requirements.
“The Nurturing Homes Initiative provided excellent training, classes and child care-related information to me. The material provided has helped me tremendously to teach my students and build their developmental skills,” Smith said.
To meet her goals, Smith became a frequent visitor to her local Mississippi Child Care Resource and Referral Network’s lending library to check out children’s books and toys. She also enrolled in the Mississippi Director’s Credentialing program offered through the network’s professional development program.
By seeking out educational opportunities, Smith keeps her practices current so she can best serve all of her clients, especially those with special needs.
“It is important for me to provide care for children with different needs,” Smith said. “By providing them with quality care, it gives parents comfort that their child is in a safe and healthy learning environment.”
Parents like Kerri Reyes are glad to have found Smith.
“I met Mrs. Smith at a garage sale, and she was just what I was looking for,” Reyes said. “After being home with my daughter, Kayla, for a year, I wasn’t ready to take her to a big daycare.”
Smith’s small program size and activities attracted Reyes.
“She has a schedule of activities throughout the day,” Reyes said. “They learn art and math skills, reading words and Spanish. I am so thankful for Mrs. Smith and the care that she provides for my children. I am glad that she is being recognized for her hard work.”
Nurturing Homes Initiative project manager Tonya Pickens said Smith was an ideal candidate for the in-home Quality Rating and Improvement System program.
“Mrs. Smith is very dedicated to providing quality care in her child-care setting,” Pickens said. “She strives to engage in additional learning opportunities to enhance her program by attending workshops, trainings and other educational programs. Mrs. Smith is very eager to have the children excel.”
Quality Rating and Improvement System programs are available to all child-care facilities in Mississippi, including day cares, preschools, in-home programs, after-school programs, and church- or school district-affiliated programs.
Currently less than 1.5 percent of all child care programs in the state are rated as five-star centers. As a participant in the in-home Quality Rating and Improvement System pilot, Smith is the first in-home family provider to achieve five-star status.
For Smith, it all comes back to offering the best care she can.
“The five-star rating challenges me to learn more and bring new ideas into my child-care business,” Smith said. “Every year, I like to change or add something new to the business. This also challenges me to stay on my toes and stay professional. I would recommend any provider to go through the process. It is so worth it.”