August 29, 2017

More Children in Higher Quality Child Care: YoungStar Trends Over 2 Years

This analysis is looking at the trends in YoungStar over two years, from January 2015 to January 2017. Our primary focus includes two questions: (1) Are more subsidized children receiving higher quality child care over time? (2) Are more child care programs reaching higher quality ratings under YoungStar?

Trends for Children: More Children in Higher Quality Programs

  • Children in YoungStar moved to higher quality: There was a significant shift of children to higher-quality rated programs: a 9% increase of children in 5-Star rated programs, and a 7-8% increase of children in 4-Star and 3-Star programs over 2 years.
  • Drop of children in 2-Star programs: There was a significant decline in the number of children in 2-Star programs (-12%), a reduction of 1,510 children.
  • The number of children particularly increased in 3-Star and 5-Star programs: The greatest shift appears to be the uptick of children in 3-Star programs, an increase of 1,741 more children over 2 years.  There was also strong growth of children in 5-Star programs, with an increase of 670 children.
  • More children in 4- and 5-Star programs: A significant rise in the number of children in 4- and 5-Star programs, the highest rated for quality, with an increase of 823 children.

The table below provides more detail of the trends from January 2015 to January 2017.


Trends in Child Care Programs: Programs Moving to Higher Quality Ratings, But an Overall Decline in YoungStar Participation

  • Shift of child care programs to higher quality: Over 2 years, more programs had 3-, 4- and 5-Star quality ratings (79 more), especially 5-Star, with an 8% increase.
  • Fewer programs were participating in YoungStar over 2 years: There was a 10% drop in the number of programs participating in YoungStar serving Wisconsin Shares subsidized children. The primary decline was in 2-Star programs, particularly family child care programs, which dropped from YoungStar by 22% (329 programs). The number of licensed group child care centers, which can enroll many more children than family child care, was steady, with a very slight decline.

The table below shows the changes over 2 years, with a breakout of the type of child care program in YoungStar: licensed group child care centers, family child care programs (licensed and certified), and public schools.

Key Trends

We are seeing a significant shift of children in YoungStar moving toward higher quality programs – or the programs they are enrolled in moving up in their star quality rating. There is also a trend toward fewer child care programs participating in YoungStar, with a marked decline in family child care programs, while more children are in group child care centers. Earlier analysis showed that there has been a sharp drop in the number of children subsidized through Wisconsin Shares, with a particular reduction in the most rural counties, where family child care is more likely to be the primary child care choice for families.


Dave Edie

Early Education Policy Analyst