Building standards of quality and achievement for early childhood programs and professionals
FOCUS on Young Children’s Learning is a quality rating and improvement system that works to strengthen early childhood programs serving children from birth to age five and their families in New Mexico.
The FOCUS Verification process measures the quality standards 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 conduct FOCUS verifications.
- FOCUS Verified programs receive an increase in the subsidy rate per child served with each Star level increase.
- A consultant-guided pathway to continuous improvement celebrates program and professional achievement at all levels.
- Framework for both center- and home-based early care and education programs.
- Training, professional development, and technical assistance.
- Adaptive support that reflects communities’ cultural and linguistic priorities.
- Families embraced as partners and advocates.
- Equitable access to services and supports that acknowledge the uniqueness, increase school readiness, and enable children to reach their full potential.
The FOCUS Program and Verification process are free to any licensed early childhood (birth to age five) family child care home, child care center, school-age, 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 Native communities must show compliance with the relevant regulatory agency.
How to Get Access
Programs must first apply to become a FOCUS Program. A separate application for Verification must be submitted to renew current standing or advance to the next star level.
New programs are assigned a consultant for guidance and to determine if they meet the 2 Star minimum entry requirements.
Program standards and continuous improvement are based on the FOCUS Essential Elements of Quality:
- Authentic Observation, Documentation, and Curriculum Planning
- Family Engagement
- Inclusive Practices for Children with Developmental Delays or Disabilities
- Culture and Language Including the Support of Dual Language Learners (DLL)
- Promoting Social Relationships
- Health Promotion and Developmental Screenings
- Professional Qualifications
- Ratios and Group Size
- Program Administration and Leadership
Annual verification is required. Star levels can be increased at any time, and programs may advance at their own pace. Transition from 2 Star (entry level) to 3 Star is expected within 24 months.
Programs are guided through the following process:
- Applications are processed immediately. Verifications typically occur within 45 business days from the date the application is received.
- A member of the University of New Mexico Early Childhood Service Center (UNM ECSC) verification
team contacts the program to discuss the process and two- to four-week timeline.
- The verifier shares with the program administrator an overview plan for the day of verification.
- During the 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.
- The verifier compiles notes and asks for clarification on any details.
- A feedback session is conducted.
- Following the visit, the verifier presents the results to the UNM ECS Verification Leadership Team, and
a decision is made within ten business days.
- The verifier emails the results to the program administrator(s), consultant, consultant supervisor, and ECECD, so all have access to the findings for review and next steps.
- 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 in the subsidy rate per child served.
- If follow-up is required:
- A list of “not met” components is emailed by the verifier to all parties listed above.
- 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, as well as CQI development and execution.