Child care provider Brenda Arzac Ramirez reads to the children attending her four star Parent Aware rated program in Minneapolis.

By Susan Schaffhausen

In 2017, Think Small undertook new efforts to increase the number of child care providers who devote their care to ensuring children’s health, safety, and best practices for early learning through participation in Parent Aware.  Parent Aware is the statewide Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) for Minnesota. Parent Aware participation and quality ratings are focused on getting children ready to succeed in school and bring significant benefits to licensed care providers, both family and center-based.   Parent Aware is the opportunity for providers to go beyond basic care certification and strengthen their commitment to excellence.

Think Small was responding specifically to a steady decline in the number of family child care programs in Minneapolis and St. Paul (15% from 2014 to 2017) and the smallest number of providers entering Parent Aware in the history of the program. This was a concerning trend as the metro area has a significant number of family child care providers of color and new immigrant providers, who often serve populations with limited resources and opportunities.  Parent Aware participation makes a valuable range of free and low-cost resources available to support providers, including coaching and trainings from early childhood professionals, professional development support, funding support for quality improvements, and access to higher child care assistance rates and early learning scholarships.

Watch this video Think Small produced highlighting the benefits of participating in Parent Aware.

An evaluation of state policies that affect Parent Aware participating providers and the structured support tiers that limit eligibility for assistance has led Think Small to seek additional funding sources and advocate for policy changes that support providers in a manner more consistent with the intention of the initiative.

As a result of Think Small’s ongoing efforts to support and prepare providers, we went from having the smallest cohort of programs signing up for Parent Aware in January 2017 to the highest ever in July 2017, the very next cohort!  We also saw the state increase its Quality Improvement grants from $1,000 to $2,500 per program per year. We think both of these developments were prompted in part by our intervention.

Providers who wish to participate in Parent Aware can apply for either the January or July 2018 cohort.  The deadline for application is December 10, 2017.  Think Small offers free information sessions for Ramsey and Hennepin county providers.  Details are available on the website or by calling:

Upcoming FREE Information Sessions

To register for an info session in Ramsey or Hennepin Counties, please contact Tanisha at 651-523-7283 or

Think Small East: 10 Yorkton Court | St Paul, MN 55117
Thursday, November 9th: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday, November 29th: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Think Small West: 2021 E Hennepin Ave | Minneapolis, MN 55413
Tuesday, November 14: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday, December 5: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

For additional information on available information sessions, contact the program in your county below.

Anoka & Washington Counties
Contact: Annette Borman at 763.783.4711 or

Carver & Scott Counties
Contact: Linda Poikonen at 612.254.3717 or

Dakota County
Contact: Mischelle Ulrich at 952.985.4045 or

To inquire about Parent Aware, please contact Kari Schmitz, Parent Aware Recruitment Supervisor, at 651-233-2297 or  Additional program details are available on the Think Small website or Parent Aware website.