Quality Matters

When choosing child care and early education programs, cost and convenience are important considerations for you, the parent. However, the ultimate value a program can offer you and your child is the quality of the care and education it provides.

High-quality programs engage not only with the children but with families, who are their child’s first teachers. They use community resources to enrich the experiences and learning opportunities for children. Staff members in high-quality programs have the education and experience to understand child development and offer learning activities that are appropriate for the age and developmental stage of each child.

Maryland EXCELS helps families find child care and early learning programs that provide high quality environments that welcome children of all abilities and cultures and supports the development of each and every child. Maryland EXCELS was developed to bring nationally accepted indicators of quality into a system that builds on the strong foundation of the state’s licensing standards, and creates a framework for programs to improve their practices no matter where they are on the quality spectrum.

Maryland EXCELS also helps families look at the quality of programs when making decisions about child care and early education programs. Quality comes in many different varieties: in center-based programs, family child care homes, school-age before- and after-school programs, Head Start, non-public nursery schools, or public prekindergarten programs. What works for one family may not work for another, but one thing remains the same -- the need for high quality care and education that prepares children for success in school and life.

Five quality levels (1 to 5) define a pathway for program improvement and include standards for licensing compliance, staff qualifications, family engagement, positive guidance for children, curriculum, learning environment, and program accreditation.

Learn more about Maryland EXCELS here.

  • The look of high-quality

    What does high-quality child care and early education look like?

    • The program and educators are responsive to the needs of each individual child.
    • Families are engaged in their child’s program.
    • There are accessible, supportive, engaging experiences.
    • Interactions between staff and children are warm and positive.
    • Learning opportunities are developmentally appropriate, interactive, and plentiful.
    • Health, safety, positive relationships, and learning are priorities.
  • Regulated Child Care Basics

    Regulated child care means that the caregiver has been licensed by the Maryland State Department of Education’s Office of Child Care (OCC). In order to be licensed, child care providers must meet minimum health, safety and program requirements including the following:

    • The child care facility must pass an inspection to show that it is safe, clean and appropriate for child care.
    • There must be an adequate supply of safe and age-appropriate activity equipment and materials for children.
    • The caregiver and program staff must undergo criminal background checks, child abuse and neglect clearances, physical examinations and have substantial training in child care.
    • For added protection, the Office of Child Care checks the Sex Offender Registry to ensure that registered sex offenders are not working in a child care facility.

    Only regulated care guarantees that the minimum legal requirements are met. Ask to see a child care provider’s license or certificate of registration to show that they are regulated. Using unregulated care can be dangerous and put children at risk because the provider has not met the health, safety and professional standards required of regulated providers.