How Delaware Combined Forces and Found Funding

Delaware, under the leadership of the Department of Education, the State Early Childhood Council and the United Way, created a public-private funding pool to develop and implement its Quality Rating & Improvement System (QRIS).

The United Way became the fiscal agent to manage the private funding contributed by the Delaware Business Round Table, PNC Bank, United Way, Rodel Foundation, Nemours Foundation and others. With a portion of the funding pool, a network of technical assistance early childhood specialists was established and trained to work with Early Care and Education (ECE) centers volunteering to work through the QRIS levels.

Stakeholders and Support

A governor’s conference on early childhood in 2006 resulted in a Delaware Early Childhood Plan, which catalyzed a number of efforts to improve the early childhood system. Simultaneously, the Delaware Department of Education, which staffs the state’s Early Childhood Council, joined forces with the United Way’s “Success by Six” committee to plan the QRIS, called Delaware Stars for Early Success.

The United Way brought together private and business funders and agreed to be the fiscal agent for the combined funds that became the start up funds. The Delaware Legislative Children’s Caucus was also a significant champion. Support from the state’s Office of Child Care Licensing (OCCL) was key to successful implementation. Around the same time the QRIS was being developed, OCCL revised and modernized licensing regulations.

Program Organization and Technical Assistance

Delaware Child Care Resource and Referral Agency, called the Family and Work Place Connection (FWPC), had a long history of providing training and technical assistance to ECE providers and also had resource centers located throughout the state. This agency became the operational arm of the QRIS to enroll providers, conduct assessments and provide technical assistance.

A QRIS manager was hired by FWPC for day-to-day management of the process. A management committee, consisting of representatives from each of the major funding agencies, was established to make strategic decisions and monitor the program.

To develop the health and obesity prevention components of the QRIS, the Nemours Foundation became a funding partner and member of the management committee. Nemours directed its funds to hire and train technical assistance providers who were health specialists with training and experience implementing healthy eating and physical activity practices.

Prior to QRIS development, Nemours provided technical support to the committee that revised the licensing regulations to include nutrition, physical activity and screen time standards. Nemours also worked with the Department of Education to update the health components of the “Early Learning Standards.” Both of these vehicles were important to establish the health components of the QRIS standards.

Lessons Learned

  • Delaware QRIS is built on the state’s child care licensing rules. The revised rules set a high standard for nutrition and physical activity making it a challenge to increase those standards within the QRIS system. In addition, the state’s Child and Adult Care Food Program significantly increased its requirements.


  • It is hard to find technical assistance (TA) providers with the needed expertise. State health providers and the state health department may need to help build health expertise among the QRIS TA providers if qualified TA health specialists are not readily available.


  • The QRIS implementers did not immediately see health as an essential component of quality, but rather as a distraction from a primary focus on qualifications and credentialing of the workforce. When including health in the QRIS, be involved from the start to influence the standards for each level of the QRIS and to educate both funders and QRIS management about the importance of health as a component of quality.


  • The Delaware QRIS and the health components came about through joint voluntary effort by many players. This was an advantage as nontraditional funders such as businesses and foundations joined forces with state agencies. However, the voluntary nature of the partnership created an unusual management structure with blurred lines of authority and accountability that created some difficulties in financing decisions and management expectations. The governance structure for the QRIS was clarified with the Department of Education taking the lead, contracting with the Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood (DIEEC) at the University of Delaware to provide QRIS services. QRIS technical assistance was offered by DIEEC and other nonprofit early childhood organizations.