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Child Care Star Rating System

One of the biggest decisions facing working parents is finding quality child care. After all, the choice you make today could affect your child’s development, learning, and future success in school. The Department of Human Services (DHS), the department responsible for licensing child care agencies, is working to help families make informed choices about child care through Tennessee’s Child Care Report Card and Star Quality Program.

Many parents are requesting child care services for the first time and may need help with the selection process. It is important that parents find child care that can best meet the needs of the child and family. Families should start their child care search with confidence and knowledge about components of quality child care. The family has to make the final decision and should be well informed about the agency's health and safety history, and report card rating. It is good practice for parents to conduct a pre-visit to any agency they may want to enroll their child. Families are encouraged to make frequent visits to a potential agency before enrolling their child. This will afford the parent/guardian the opportunity to observe a “normal” day at the agency; and to assess if the agency can meet the needs of the child and the family.

What is the Tennessee Report Card and Rated License for Child Care Agencies?

Under Tennessee’s Report Card and Rated License System, every licensed child care provider must receive an annual evaluation as part of its licensing process. This program is required for all licensed providers after they have been licensed for one year.

During the evaluation process, DHS Licensing Program Evaluators (PEs) review several areas of quality.

At Child Care Centers, Licensing PEs review:

  • The director’s level of experience, education and training
  • The teaching staff’s level of experience, education and training
  • How staff members use developmental learning standards in their teaching
  • How the center involves parents and families
  • Teacher/child ratios and group size
  • The center’s pay and benefit plans for staff
  • During a separate visit, Assessment PEs conduct program observations for each age group using the Environment Rating Scales.

At Family and Group Homes, Licensing PEs review:

  • The caregiver’s level of education and training
  • How staff members use developmental learning standards in their teaching
  • How the child care home involves parents and families
  • Business management
  • During a separate visit, Assessment PEs conduct program observations using the Environment Rating Scales.

After the evaluation, child care providers will receive a report card, along with a detailed report outlining the results. This report card must be posted with the child care provider’s license in an area where all parents easily can see them.

Star-Quality Program

Unlike Tennessee’s Report Card and Rated License System, the Star-Quality Child Care Program is voluntary. The Star-Quality Program was designed to recognize, support, and increase the quality of child care providers throughout the state, while offering additional training and assistance to those looking to improve their rating.Participation is voluntary however, all licensed child care agencies must be assessed to meet minimum licensing standards including the annual environmental rating scale procedures.

How Does the Star-Quality Program Work?

The Star-Quality Program offers recognition to those providers who exceed minimum licensing standards. Under the program, a provider can earn a rating of 1, 2 or 3 stars, which can then be displayed along with its license.

The more stars a program has, the better the quality of care it offers to children. Providers also receive a full report of their Environment Rating Scale observation, so they can continue to understand and address areas that need improvement. Simply by participating in the Star-Quality Program, providers show families in their communities that they are working to offer the highest-quality child care.

The Star-Quality Program rates child care centers on a scale from 1 to 3 stars:

  • 0 Stars – The child care provider has a license in good standing and meets the state’s child care licensing requirements. A 0 Star Rating may also be related to disciplinary actions placed upon the agency. Contact the agency's Program Evaluator for additional information.
  • 1 Star – The child care provider meets a standard that exceeds the state’s minimum child care licensing requirements.
  • 2 Stars – The child care provider continues to exceed the state’s minimum child care licensing requirements, with increasingly high standards.
  • 3 Stars – The child care provider has achieved the highest quality standards and provides child care at the highest standard.

Keep in mind that a provider with fewer than 3 stars can still be a quality program. Any number of stars shows that the program has exceeded minimum state requirements. Technical assistance and training are available to all child care for those providers looking to achieve higher quality and earn stars.

Click here to find out more about Tennessee’s Child Care Report Card System and the Star-Quality Program.

If you need assistance finding licensed care, we offer two ways to find facilities near you.


This listing also includes the agency’s location, hours of operation, ages served, services provided and other useful information to assist you in your search for child care. As of July 2014, the listing includes the compliance history for each agency as well as contact information for the assigned Licensing Program Evaluator.