A Wausau campus early childhood education graduate recently earned Wisconsin’s highest rating for quality in-home child care—and she’s the only child care provider in Sauk County to receive the rating.
Sheri Weldy, who received the 5-star rating, has owned and managed Loving Care Day Care and Preschool for 10 years and is licensed to care for up to eight children.
Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families created the YoungStar program in early 2010 to provide the best child care for children living in the state. The program rates the quality of care of given to children by care providers, helps parents choose the best child care for their children, supports providers with tools and training and sets a consistent standard for child care, according to the department website.
As soon as Weldy heard about the program, she knew she wanted to become a part of it—and earn the highest rating possible. But that meant she had to go to school for early childhood education to earn the 5-star rating, as an associate degree in ECE was required to be eligible for consideration.
“Sheri was absolutely determined to get a 5-star rating,” said Joyce Monfort, Wisconsin School of Education state program coordinator. “She got a straight 4.0 [grade point average] with the college—that was very important to her. She worked very hard, and if she didn’t do something right she would redo it. It’s how she approached everything … she did what she needed to do to be the best at it and it showed and paid off.”
Throughout her journey to earning her degree at Rasmussen College’s Wausau campus she made many changes to her child care services, including performing quality observation and using those observations to better personalize the curriculum for the children in her care. She also made changes to the play areas in and around her house to make motor and climbing skills more available to the children.
Weldy began working with a YoungStar advisor halfway through her associate degree. Her first formal rating was four stars. Her next formal rating was just before graduation in June and she qualified for the 5-star rating.
“I worked really hard to get [the 5-star rating],” Weldy said. “I made a lot of changes … some came naturally as I learned more. I was doing more and more observations and tailoring for the children.”
Currently, there are 64 child care providers in Sauk County, and only 37 of them are a part of the YoungStar program. Weldy is the only one of the 37 child care providers to have the 5-star rating.
“[The rating] is a sense of pride for me,” Weldy said. “Knowing I was the first one to receive the 5-star rating in my county is something I’ll always have.”
Monfort believes Weldy earned the 5-star rating because she’s applied what she’s learned in class into her child care environment and program. The more strategies she learns, the more positive changes take effect.
Weldy will stay connected to the Wausau campus to share ideas and strategies within her portfolio with new students and child care providers. Even if they don’t follow her system for child care, it could spark some ideas.
Monfort is most impressed with how Weldy has gone above and beyond with the services she provides families. She offers updates through a private website to the families at her child care, and has a camera film during the day so she is able to send videos out to the families on a daily basis.
“She does all these extra things to build community within the group of families she cares for,” Monfort said.
YoungStar advisors will come back on yearly basis to perform the rating. Child care providers know the month in which the advisor will come, but not the day. The advisors spend at least three hours on the evaluation.
Weldy will be offering a training titled "Dots to Compliance: Putting together a Child Portfolio to Align with WMELS and Meet YoungStar Standards" at the Wausau campus on Saturday, Nov. 1 from 10 a.m. until noon.