by Rachael McMillan
Whether you are a parent in need of excellent childcare or a person wishing to provide it, the University of Illinois Child Care Resource Service has the information you need. Its aims to match families with the best, most appropriate care settings as well as to raise the quality of area child care options.
CCRS Director of Operations Brenda Eastham breaks down the services it provides into these four areas:
- helping income-eligible families to receive assistance with their child care costs
- assisting families looking for child care – CCRS maintains a database of just under 1,000 providers covering six counties: Champaign, Douglas, Iroquois, Macon, Piatt, and Vermilion
- providing training and technical assistance to child care providers
- helping child care providers improve the quality of their programs through initiatives provided by a quality coordinator, an infant/toddler specialist, a nurse consultant, and a mental health consultant.
Parents who would like a list of child care providers can contact CCRS at 333-3252 or 1-800-325-5516 (fees depend upon income). A short phone intake session, which helps the service narrow down a list of providers to the most appropriate candidates (based on which type of setting the parents are looking for), is the first step in the process. The tailored lists CCRS mails to families include information about whether the providers are licensed, what certifications they hold, and—when applicable—their “star rating” based on additional criteria.
It should be stressed, however, that CCRS does NOT recommend caregivers. The lists it provides are more or less a “just the facts” kind of thing. Besides checking credentials, Eastham recommends that parents ask a potential care provider (the person or center) for personal references and recommendations, and follows these up with phone calls.
Child care providers, take note: according to Eastham, some of CCRS’s lesser-known services include financial assistance for training opportunities and awarding mini-grants to those looking to improve the quality of their programs.
Another unique CCRS service is the Quality Counts Van Program. This is a small mobile library which, in addition to lending books to child care centers, is driven by a specialist who leads reading activities with the children.
If none of the above applies to you, the CCRS can still be a good resource. Its website gives tips for determining whether or not your child is old/mature enough to be left alone safely and a host of general information about children’s health and safety, among other things.
Child Care Resource Service is located at 314 Bevier Hall, 905 S. Goodwin, Urbana. Its office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; phone hours are 8 :30 a.m. to 3 p.m.. On Tuesdays, office hours are 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with phone hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.