FOCUS Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System

Wave pattern

Building standards of quality and achievement for early childhood programs and professionals

FOCUS on Young Children’s Learning is a tiered quality rating and improvement system (TQRIS) that works to strengthen early childhood programs serving children and their families in New Mexico.

The FOCUS Verification process assesses the quality and achievement of early childhood programs. The Early Childhood Education and Care Department (ECECD) has contracted with the University of New Mexico Early Childhood Service Center (UNM ECSC) to provide consultation support for programs and to conduct FOCUS verifications.

  • An increase of the per child subsidy rate provided upon successful verification of each subsequent star level.
  • A consultant-guided pathway to continuous improvement with adaptive support to  meet program needs
  • Access to on-site or community based training, professional development, and technical assistance.
  • Supportive networking opportunities
    among providers

The FOCUS Program and Verification process are free to any licensed early childhood family child care home, child care center, or out-of-school time program in New Mexico that meets the entry-level, 2 Star criteria. In order to become eligible, Head Start and other early care and education programs operated by the military or tribal communities must show compliance with the relevant regulatory agency.

How to Apply

To JOIN the FOCUS program, apply here. 

For VERIFICATION apply here


child care classroom

View the FOCUS Criteria Chart

  • Click the image below to open
  • Updated July 2022


Casey Lafferty
TQRIS Manager

UNM ECSC Verification Team

New programs are assigned a consultant to guide them toward the FOCUS 3-Star requirements. Consultation continues throughout the program’s participation in FOCUS.

Program practices and continuous quality improvement are based on the FOCUS Essential Elements of Quality, including:

  • Full Participation of Each Child
  • Health Promotion and Developmental Screenings
  • Professional Qualifications
  • Ratios and Group Size

The FOCUS criteria also incorporate Quality Practices that Support Children’s Growth, Development, and Learning.

Center-Based Care

Additional information

Home-Based Care

Additional information

Verification Process

The transition from 2 Star (entry level) to 3 Star is expected within 24 months. Annual verification is required. Star levels can be increased at any time, and programs may advance at their own pace.

Programs are guided through the following:

Application Process

  • Program submits application for verification.
  • Applications are processed immediately. Verifications typically occur within 45 business days from the date the application is received.
  • The verification team connects with the program to schedule a date and a verifier is assigned.
  • The program receives an overview of what to expect during verification.

Day of Verification:

  • A site visit is conducted (by teleconference or in person following COVID-safe practices) to review documentation, observe practices, and gauge alignment with the Essential Elements of Quality.
  • Feedback is provided upon conclusion of the visit.

Following Verification:

  • The verifier presents the results to the UNM ECSC Verification Leadership Team. A determination is made within ten business days.
  • The verifier shares the results with the program through specific feedback in the verification tool
  • If all verification components are met for the requested Star level change or renewal:
    • Notification is provided to the program and ECECD.
    • The program receives a new license and an increase of the subsidy rate per child served, if applicable.
  • If follow-up is required:
    • The program will address any “not met” items from the verification tool
    • A Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) action plan is developed with a timeline for the program to meet the necessary components.
  • Consultants continue to support programs in building and maintaining quality practices.