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Jessica Brock, center, helps Kyrie, left, and A.J. build with blocks at Friendship House. (Matt Hamilton/The Daily Citizen)

Georgia unveiled a new three-star rating system for day care centers last week and three local providers earned top marks.

Friendship House, the Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center and Dalton Heritage Head Start received three-star ratings from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. The ratings can be viewed at

“We’ve always felt like the services we provide are excellent. But to go through a process like this keeps you sharp. It makes you keep your edge,” said Friendship House Director Mary Thelma Norris.

“The entire process took about a year,” said Friendship House Program Manager Tracy Defore.

Defore said day care centers had to put together a portfolio and provide information on child-staff ratios, nutrition plans, curriculum and lesson plans, as well as physical activities. In addition, she said, state officials did on-site visits and reviewed every aspect of operations.

Kaye Ralston, center manager at Dalton Heritage, said the process makes sure that centers focus on each child’s development.

“The Family Resource Agency (which operates Head Start in northwest Georgia) tries to stay ahead of the game. We try to do the things that help better our centers and our children,” she said.

The rating process is voluntary and not all day care centers chose to go through it.

“Anyone who goes through it should be commended no matter what their score because it’s a tremendous amount of work,” said Whitfield County-Dalton Day Care Center Executive Director Debbie Rector last month after being informed of the results of the review. “But it’s obviously very nice to have received the highest award. We are very proud of that.”

Those centers that did go through the rating process will now receive higher reimbursements from the state for serving low-income children. The higher the rating, the higher the reimbursement.

The rating is good for three years, but centers will have to keep updating their data in order to keep the rating.

“Friendship House has been nationally accredited since 1995. That is something we have renewed and kept up. And when the state created Centers of Distinction for child care, that was an honor we worked toward and achieved,” Norris said. “So when the state created this three-star rating system it was something the staff decided they wanted to pursue. They worked hard on it and they deserve the credit.”


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