Maryland EXCELS: Helping Families Search for Quality Child Care

Families have a lot to consider when they’re looking for the right child care and early education program for their family. Cost, location, and availability are important factors—but quality is the most important factor of all.

Maryland EXCELS helps families choose quality child care and early education programs that meet their needs. By searching for a Maryland EXCELS quality-rated program, families are choosing from programs that place particular emphasis on achieving high standards and implementing practices that support children’s development and learning.

Families can easily search for programs and providers on the Maryland EXCELS website and Quality Finder mobile app. Search categories include location, Quality Rating, and other achievements. Criteria for each Quality Rating area are also viewable.

“Fundamentally, quality matters … licensing is a component of quality, but it’s not the only aspect,” said Christopher Swanson, Senior Director of Quality Early Care and Education at Johns Hopkins University, School of Education, Center for Technology in Education (JHU CTE), a partner in the development and operation of Maryland EXCELS.

As participants of Maryland EXCELS, child care centers, school-age child care programs, family child care homes, and public prekindergarten programs earn ratings on a progressive scale from 1 to 5. A Quality Rating of “1” means a program has met initial quality requirements. A rating of “5” means a provider has demonstrated the highest Quality Rating.

“With each level of quality, the program is meeting more stringent requirements in areas such as curriculum, teacher training and qualifications, degrees, and other staff development activities that make teachers better teachers, and family child care providers more adept at their jobs,” said Lindi Budd, Maryland EXCELS Branch Chief with the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).

Families can naturally have anxiety about leaving their children under another person’s care and guidance. It’s important to seek a provider who has the right skills and qualifications as well as the personality and environment to suit their children’s needs.

Interviewing programs is a great place to start. MSDE’s Early Childhood Development website provides guidance on how to start these conversations, as well as other valuable information to help in the search for finding the best fit.

Here are some additional questions families can ask to give a clearer picture of how a program or provider operates:

  • What curriculum do you follow?
  • How much time do the children spend working with the curriculum?
  • What are some examples of culturally-inspired activities you do with the children?
  • If a special education teacher, speech or occupational therapist works with your child, where in your house or center can this person conduct sessions with my child?
  • How are disagreements between children handled?
  • What do you do if a child is having a rough day or seems out of sorts?
  • What do you do if a child doesn’t want to participate in an activity?
  • What are your child care center or house rules?
  • How do you enforce the rules and what are the consequences for not following the rules?


The more a family knows–the more informed they will be.

Does your family need help with child care costs? You may be eligible for the Child Care Subsidy Program, which provides financial assistance to working families in Maryland. Additional resources assisting families in their search for child care include Maryland Family Network’s LOCATE: Child Care and the MSDE Child Care Mapping Tool.

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