Frequently Asked Questions for Providers
To acquaint you with the Better Beginnings program requirements and how you can participate, we’ve included answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. If you still have questions after reading through this section we invite you to contact us.
Topics covered in this FAQ:
- General Questions
- Better Beginnings Application and Certification
- Better Beginnings Requirements
- Better Beginnings Incentive Grants
- The Program Administration Scale and Business Administration Scale
- Strengthening Families
- Administrator/Staff Qualifications and Professional Development
- Learning Environment
- Environmental Assessment
- Child Health and Development
What is Better Beginnings?
- Better Beginnings is the Arkansas Quality Rating and Improvement System for early education and care programs and youth development programs.
- Better Beginnings is a three-tiered building block system designed to assess the quality of early education and care programs and youth development programs by evaluating the following program components.
- Administrator/Staff Qualifications & Professional Development
- Learning Environment
- Environmental Assessment
- Child Health & Development
Who is eligible to participate in Better Beginnings?
- All facilities operating under a regular child care license, a new provisional license, or registration as issued by the DHS Division of Child Care and Early Education are eligible to apply for certification.
- All participating facilities must be in good standing with the Department of Human Services.
When did Better Beginnings become available?
- Better Beginnings became available on July 1, 2010 for participation by all facilities.
- Facilities that held Quality Approval accreditation on June 30, 2010 received information on transitioning into Better Beginnings. Contact the Licensing and Accreditation Unit at 1-501-682-8590 or 1-800-445-3316 for further clarification. Provider Letter
Is Better Beginnings mandatory?
- Although participation in Better Beginnings is voluntary, practitioners are encouraged to join the dedicated professionals who are committed to supporting meaningful, engaging learning opportunities for children.
I currently accept child care vouchers. Should I apply for Better Beginnings certification?
- Better Beginnings is completely voluntary, but we encourage all licensed and registered facilities to apply.
- The money for the Child Care Voucher System comes from the Federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). States receive this money only if they have, or propose to have, a quality rating and improvement system in place. Starting in 2009, states were required to include quality rating improvement systems in their state plans for CCDF funds. Better Beginnings is the quality rating and improvement system in Arkansas.
Can I continue to accept child care vouchers if I do not participate in Better Beginnings?
- Yes, at this time. If anything should change, facilities would have ample time to prepare. Here are examples of possible changes in the future:
- Vouchers are paid from federal funds. There is a possibility that the federal government might require higher quality for states to receive federal funds.
- Arkansas would like to use a higher voucher reimbursement rate for facilities that meet higher levels of quality. This might happen if new federal funds should become available.
Remember, if any changes occur, you will have time and support to get ready.
Is Better Beginnings optional for facilities receiving ABC funding?
- Arkansas Better Chance operates under Act 49 and rules and regulations that have been promulgated for ABC. Because Better Beginnings is the approved quality rating system for the state, ABC facilities will be required to be certified at Better Beginnings level 1 or higher or, at a minimum, meet Level 1 standards in the space being used for the ABC program, as well as meeting any other ABC quality standards.
How do I apply for Better Beginnings?
- Applications and supporting documents may be submitted electronically or mailed to
Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education
Attn: Better Beginnings
PO Box 1437, Slot S150
Little Rock, AR 72203-1437
- Information about the Better Beginnings application process is available at www.arbetterbeginnings.com/child-care-providers. An electronic check list to assist you in making your application is available.
Our agency has more than one site. Will we apply for each site separately?
- Yes, agencies will submit a Better Beginnings application for each license number.
How long after we apply will our facility be certified in Better Beginnings?
The answers to the following questions will affect the length of time required for receiving your Better Beginnings (BB) certification.
- Is your application complete? If your application and all required documentation are complete, your facility should be certified at BB level 1 within a few weeks.
- Does your certification require an environmental assessment and program review? If your facility qualifies for BB level 1, but does not appear to qualify for level 2 or level 3, your facility should be certified within a few weeks.
If it is determined that your facility may qualify for BB level 2 or level 3, an
environmental assessment (using an environment rating tool) and a program review
(using the PAS or BAS) will be required. In this case, it can take 90 to 120 days to
complete the assessment and review and determine your BB level.
- How many applications the Better Beginnings unit has received? If your application is submitted at a time when fewer applications have been received, the time frame will be shorter than at a time when many applications have been received.
Can I apply for a higher level before my current certification expires?
- Yes. Facilities may request to be reviewed for a higher level of certification six months after their last certification date. For example, if you are certified at level 2 in February 2011, you may request to be reviewed for level 3 in August 2011.
Will my Better Beginnings certification need to be renewed?
- Certification at a specific level is valid for 3 years. Information on recertification is available or you may contact the Licensing and Accreditation Unit, 1-501-682-8590 or 1-800-445-3316.
What can I do if I disagree with the Better Beginnings certification level assigned to my facility?
- There is an appeal procedure defined in the Better Beginnings rules and regulations.
How do I know which set of requirements to use?
- Better Beginnings has adapted standards for different program types.
- Centers – all licensed facilities serving infants, toddlers, and/or preschool children. These facilities may also provide care for school age children.
- Family child care- may be a licensed or registered home (level 1 and 2 only)
- School age — facilities serving only school age children. (Does not apply to programs that have four- or five-year olds attending school-based pre-k programs.)
Why were the rules for Better Beginnings promulgated?
- The rules were promulgated to provide a consistent and equitable system for participants. The quality accreditation is already a statute and requires promulgation of rules. Since Better Beginnings (QRIS) becomes the “replacement of Quality Approval,” then promulgation was necessary. Both Quality Approval (which was phased out on June 30, 2010) and the new Better Beginnings are voluntary/optional programs.
My program meets national accreditation, should I apply for Better Beginnings?
- It is voluntary and we hope you will apply, but if you do, there are some standards that have already been met through the national accreditation. So, your application would include The Better Beginnings application Form A along with a copy of the national certificate for verification. Forms F and G from the application packet are to be completed. Additional Better Beginnings requirements that must be met are the components in the “Child Health and Development “ Section. All requirements for levels 1-3 must be met.
- These requirements include:
- 1. E.1 Facility documents distribution of ARKids First information to families of uninsured children.
- 1. E.2. Facility shares with families information on child development and on child health.
- 1. E.3. Any medical and educational care plans involving a child are written and on file, and implementation is documented while maintaining confidentiality.
- 2. E.1 Facility shares with families information regarding medical homes for children.
- 2. E.2 Facility shares with families information regarding child development.
- 3. E.1 Facility shares with families information on nutrition and physical activity for children.
Upon verification that these requirements have been met, certification for Level 3 will be awarded. Certification is valid for 36 months. The facility shall submit annual verification that conformance requirements are maintained with national accreditation. Electronic submissions of application and documentation are acceptable and encouraged.
Does my facility meet the requirements for reciprocation?
- ABC Reciprocation
- Head Start Reciprocation
- School Based Reciprocation
- Better Beginnings National Accreditation
- Request for Reciprocation
Are grants available to assist my program in meeting the Better Beginnings certification?
- Yes, Better Beginnings Incentive Grants are available upon meeting certification standards at level 1, level 2, and level 3. The Incentive Grant is available at each of the three levels of certification. It is renewable at level 1 and level 2 for a maximum of 9 years (not to exceed 6 years at either level 1 or level 2). Once a facility is certified at level 3, the Incentive Grant is available annually, as long as the facility continues to meet the standards. Incentive grant amounts are based on a combination of licensed capacities, current Better Beginnings Level and the number of years spent at that level. Incentive Grant Amounts (PDF)
What can the Incentive Grant be used for?
- The Better Beginnings Incentive Grants are awarded to facilities after certification is confirmed. The application is sent to your facility with some general guidelines on use of the funds. The grants allow an administrator to make decisions and use the grant funds to support increasing and/or maintaining the quality components of the facility. The grant is to support your plan for improvement.
What are the areas of funding in the incentive grants?
- Grant expenditures may include any of the items listed below.
- Cost for staff/substitutes during training
- Management software
- Costs for employee benefits
- Career service/retention bonus
- CPR/First aid training
- Curriculum materials
- Indoor and outdoor supplies, materials, and equipment
- Family involvement activities
- Developmental screenings/assessment materials
Are there funds to support Child Development Associate (CDA), the School age Associate Credential and/or college course work for my staff?
- The Incentive Grant has a separate application that is dedicated to Child Development Associate Coursework, the School Age Child Care Credential, Professional Development Opportunities including use of substitutes allowing staff to participate and for College Course work. This scholarship is available annually at the time you receive your Better Beginnings Incentive Grant. Amounts are based on the licensed capacity of your program. CDA coursework may be for college credit or for non-credit courses.
What is the Program Administration Scale (PAS)? (Center-based and school age facilities only)
- The Program Administration Scale (PAS) is one of the tools used in the Better Beginnings system. The PAS is designed to assess administrative practices that support staff in working with children. Centers can use the PAS for self-assessment, to create program goals and improvement plans, and to review program policies and procedures.
What is the Business Administration Scale (BAS)? (Family child care facilities only)
- The Business Administration Scale (BAS) is one of the tools used in the Better Beginnings system to assess business practices in family child care programs. Family child care programs can use the BAS for self- assessment, to create program goals and improvement plans, and to review program policies and procedures
What is “PAS Basics” training and when will it be available?
(Center-based and school age facilities only)
- “PAS Basics” is a 4-hour training that will support administrators in understanding and using the Program Administration Scale. More information is available on the Training Opportunities page of the TAPP Registry Web site, http://professionalregistry.astate.edu.
What is “BAS Basics” training and when will it be available? (Family child care facilities only)
- “BAS Basics” supports family child care providers in understanding and using the Business Administration Scale. Check the Training Opportunities page of the TAPP Registry Web site, http://professionalregistry.astate.edu.
Will the requirements for the Program Administration Scale (PAS) change?
- At the current Better Beginnings levels, the PAS requirements will not be changed. We will always use the most current version of the tool.
- Items 5 and 6 of the PAS will be scored but not included in the facility’s averaged score.
- Items 22-25 will not be scored.
- For facilities using the school age requirements, PAS items 10 and 11 will not be scored.
Are salary scales mandated for inclusion in the employee handbook in PAS Item 4?
- No. The PAS offers handbooks as a possible location of salary scale documentation. The use of a salary scale and its availability to employees is an individual decision for facilities.
Is the Developmental Rating Scale considered a valid and reliable assessment checklist for item 11 in the Program Administration Scale (PAS)?
- Yes, the Developmental Rating Scale in the Arkansas Early Childhood Education Framework Handbook is aligned with the Work Sampling System and the Creative Curriculum Developmental Continuum, and is a valid and reliable assessment checklist.
What is the definition of a full-time employee in the Program Administration Scale (PAS)?
- The PAS defines full-time as 35+ hours per week of paid work and part-time as 20-34 hours per week. The definition in the PAS refers to staff benefits in item 5, which will be scored but not included in the facility’s averaged score.
Has the PAS been reviewed by DHS counsel for compliance or conflicts with AR law with emphasis on employee handbooks or personnel manuals?
- Yes. There are currently no perceivable or inherit conflicts with other AR law. PAS is a tool that outlines administrative best practices. The actual content of policies and procedures adopted by a facility is determined at the discretion of the program.
Will centers be notified when compliance with PAS items may create legal liability for them?
- The Better Beginnings Toolkit can note any items, such as employee handbooks, where guidance from legal counsel is advised.
- If at any time any standards in the PAS or any other administrative area is a concern for administrators, they are advised to seek legal counsel.
What is Strengthening Families?
- Strengthening Families is designed to assist facilities in developing policies and practices that support families in building long-lasting healthy relationships. Visit www.strengtheningfamilies.net/ for more information.
- Arkansas is using Strengthening Families as its child abuse/neglect prevention tool because it is a nationally used researched tool.
How can I enroll myself and/or staff in the TAPP Registry?
- Practitioners may apply online at http://professionalregistry.astate.edu
- ID cards are processed and mailed within 4-6 weeks. If you need your ID card immediately, follow the steps outlined below.
- Be sure to fill out the online application completely. Sections 1 and 2 must be answered even if N/A or zero is the response. The electronic signature must be complete.
- Once you have completed the online application, contact TAPP ID Rush at (870) 680-4808. If the application is complete, registry staff will contact the practitioner with his/her new TAPP Registry ID within three business days, and walk him/her through how to login to the system and print off the TAPP ID card.
What is the difference between Qualifications and Professional Development?
- Administrator and Staff Qualifications document all education and training over the course of the individual’s career.
- Professional Development has two components.
- Annual requirement, which is 20 clock hours at Level 2 and 25 clock hours at Level 3.
- Specific training that must be completed. This includes both specific topics and specific courses. For example, Level 2 includes “Framework Basics” (a specific course) and “nutrition for children” (a specific topic; any approved training on this topic is acceptable).
Must the required training hours be from the TAPP Registry?
- Qualifications: Qualification requirements document training over the course of an individual’s career. Better Beginnings allows administrators and teaching staff to document training hours outside the TAPP or ADE registries to meet qualifications.
- Professional Development: Better Beginnings requires administrators and teaching staff to maintain membership in the TAPP or ADE Registry. All annual professional development must be registered through TAPP or the ADE.
Where can I find information on required professional development?
- You can view and register for professional development at http://professionalregistry.astate.edu or at http://www.arkansas.gov/childcare/services/training.html.
Will the training required for Better Beginnings be available on a regular basis?
- Yes. All required trainings will be scheduled on a consistent basis throughout the state. Some may be offered online to ensure accessibility.
I am the site administrator and also have teaching responsibilities. Must I meet the qualifications and professional development requirements for both the administrator and staff?
- You will need to meet the requirements for the administrator. The site administrator requirements exceed teaching staff requirements.
Is the annual professional development requirement computed from the hire date or by the calendar year?
- The professional development requirement for Better Beginnings is tied to membership in the TAPP Professional Registry. Employees are required to obtain professional development hours annually based on membership in the registry.
Are the annual professional development requirements the same for full-time and part-time staff?
- Yes, full-time and part-time teaching staff meet the same annual professional development requirements. This is not a change from the Quality Accreditation requirements.
If I have already completed ERS or Framework training, will I need to do it again for Better Beginnings?
- No, if you have verification on specified training from previous years, you will not need to repeat the training.
Where is “Framework Basics” being offered?
- Information on scheduled sessions are available at http://professionalregistry.astate.edu or http://www.arbetterbeginnings.com
- Registered trainers may obtain a facilitator’s guide from the Arkansas Child Care Resource Center (501-683-0033 or 800-445-3316) or ASU Childhood Services (870-972-3055 or 888-429-1585).
What is “YPQA” Training?
- YPQA is Youth Program Quality Assessment, a validated instrument designed to evaluate the quality of child/youth program using an evidence-based approach. “An Introduction to YPQA” is a workshop that provides an overview of the Youth Program Quality Assessment, and provides information about the supports available in the state to help programs assess, plan for and improve their quality. Go to the training opportunities page of the TAPP Registry, http://professionalregistry.astate.edu, or www.arbetterbeginnings.com . For further information about the YPQA contact jennifer Harris at: email@example.com
What is “Developmental Assets Basics” training?
- The Developmental Assets are 40 common sense, positive experiences and qualities that help influence choices young people make and help them become caring, responsible adults. Developed by the Search Institute, the Developmental Assets framework has become one of the most widely used approach to positive youth development in the United States. “Developmental Assets in Your School Age Program” is a two-hour workshop that introduces participants to the Developmental Assets and explores strategies for using the assets in your school age curriculum. A similar training will be offered online. To access this training in the face-to-face format visit the training opportunities page of the TAPP Registry, http://professionalregistry.astate.edu, or www.arbetterbeginnings.com. The training is also available online as a module called “Building Assets in Youth” as a part of a series of free online modules offered by the Arkansas Youth Development institute. To register for “Building Assets in Youth: visit www.aosn.org and click on the Arkansas Youth Development tab.
Do I need to use a certain curriculum for Better Beginnings?
- Better Beginnings does not require a specific curriculum.
- Adventures in Learning is an Arkansas approved comprehensive early childhood curriculum that is available on the Division of Child Care’s website. It is designed to be used with children from three to five years of age. The benchmarks included in Adventures in Learning support the five developmental learning strands contained in the Arkansas Early Childhood Education Framework: social/emotional development, creative/aesthetic learning, cognitive/intellectual learning, physical development, and language. The Framework also contains a Developmental Rating Scale which includes the benchmarks.
Adventures for Toddlers is a companion piece to Adventures in Learning. It is a curriculum for children from eighteen to thirty-six months that includes experiences based on the Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care Developmental Strands and Benchmarks.
- Information on curriculum that is approved for use in ABC programs is available at www.arkansas.gov/childcare/abc/resources.html.
- Technical assistance request forms for curriculum are available in the Better Beginnings Toolkit. A School-Age and After School Care Toolkit is also available.
How many benchmarks must be included in my written daily plan?
- Better Beginnings requires that written daily plans include one or more learning goals from each developmental area every day.
How do I include the Developmental Assets concepts in my written daily plans?
- Sample planning tools are available in the Better Beginnings School Age Toolkit to assist school age programs in incorporating the Development Asset framework into their daily activities.
What are the ADE K-12 Frameworks?
- The Arkansas Department of Education K-12 Frameworks is a set of standards along with learning goals that define the content to be learned in terms of clear, definable standards of what a student should know and be able to do in various subject areas in each grade level (K-12). A link to the complete curriculum frameworks can be found at the Arkansas Department of Education website at http://www.arkansased.org/educators/curriculum/frameworks.html
- An easy-to-read complement to the complete curriculum framework, known as “Refrigerator Curriculums” can be found at http://www.arkansased.org/parents/refrigerator_curriculum.html . The “Refrigerator Curriculums” provide examples of simple, grade specific curriculum samples for parents to use when in supporting and helping their child or youth achieve success at school. The samples outlined can easily be considered for incorporation into a school age program. These “Refrigerator Curriculums” are available for grades K-8.
Why must stand-alone school age facilities link their daily plans to the ADE K-12 Frameworks?
- After school and summer programs can provide children and youth real life opportunities to experience what is taught during the school day hours. For school age programs to know what is relevant, purposeful, and meaningful for the children and youth that they serve, it is important to know what the children and youth are learning in the classroom. The ADE K-12 Frameworks clearly outline the standards being taught in the classroom at each grade level. The intention of linking daily plans to the ADE Frameworks is not for school age programs to replicate what is happening during the school day, but rather plan activities to complement what is being taught during the school day in order to successfully support the children and youth they serve during the out-of-school hours.
What tools can I use for self-assessment?
- Information on self-assessment is available in the Better Beginnings Guide, www.arbetterbeginnings.com/child-care-providers .
Are facilities serving school age children allowed to choose the type of environmental assessment they want to use?
- Yes. You may choose one from among the following assessments.
- School age Care Environmental Rating Scale (SACERS) – Designed to assess group-care programs for children of school age, 5 to 12 years old.
- Younger Youth Program Quality Assessment (YYPQA) – Designed to assess the quality of programs serving children in grades K-6.
- Youth Program Quality Assessment (YPQA) – Designed to assess the quality of programs serving children/youth in grades 4-12.
How do I decide which assessment tool to use in my school age facility?
- Review each tool and decide which tool’s content areas, indicators, format, etc. would be the most relevant and beneficial to your specific program. To learn more about the SACERS tool visit http://www.fpg.unc.edu/~ecers/ . To learn more about the YYPQA or YPQA visit http://www.cypq.org/
Where can I find information on developmentally appropriate physical activity and nutrition?
- The Division of Child Care and Early Education’s Special Nutrition Programs offers information and services for early child care facilities. Information is available at
- A list of resources is included in the Child Health and Development section of the Better Beginnings Guide.
Where can I find training on developmentally appropriate physical activity and nutrition?
- NAP SACC (Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care) and Arkansas Fit Kids training and information may be accessed through your local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies. Information on regional agencies is available at
- The National Child Care Information and Technical Assistance Center provides a resource list of curricula, lesson plans, activity ideas, healthy menus/recipes and more for facilities serving school age children. http://nccic.acf.hhs.gov/fitsource/fitsource.cfm?search=Age Groups&subSearch=School Age&ageId=3
- Arkansas Cooperative Extension Services provides training on nutrition and physical activity. For more information go to http://www.arfamilies.org/child_care/2010/default.htm .
- A series of on-line courses are available in the TAPP registry specific to school age and youth development programs. These nutrition and physical activity trainings are located at: www.californiaafterschool.org/onlinetraining.html.
- You can view the schedule of upcoming trainings at http://professionalregistry.astate.edu.
Where can I find information on medical homes?
- Information is available in the Better Beginnings Toolkit, www.arbetterbeginnings.com/child-care-providers.
Is there a specific way I must share information on child health and development with families?
- Better Beginnings does not require that information on child health and development be shared with families in a specific way. However, we do recommend that you share information on a regular basis in a variety of ways. You will document the information shared and the way in which it was shared.
What is the difference between requirements 1.E.2 and 2.E.2?
- At Level 1 (1.E.2), you will share information about child health and development with families. This information may be on any topic, but we encourage you to share information that is relevant to the child’s current development.
- At Level 2 (2.E.2), you will share information about stages of development. We want families to celebrate past milestones in development, to recognize the child’s current developmental characteristics, and to be aware of the next step in the child’s development.