Being an educator or director can be challenging at times: there are schedules to maintain, policies to follow, children to take care of, and a number of other tasks that can seem daunting when chaos ensues. Whether you have been in the education field for many years or have just started your journey, there are moments when you feel you could use an extra hand, or maybe 10. Many of us have been educators for some time and if we reflect on our past experiences, it seems we would have all grown immensely from utilizing a specialist outside of our program. Specialists can help childcare programs by bringing different approaches and ideas when they are needed the most.

What can the specialists do for my program?

Here at the YWCA, there are two specialists who can offer you or your educators support. We have an Infant Toddler Specialist, Andrea Capriotti, and a Quality Specialist, Stephanie Siemens. Andrea focuses on ages birth to three and Stephanie focuses on ages three to twelve. In addition, we can coordinate consultations, trainings, observations, and assessments of children. Within the specified age ranges of each specialist, they can promote the ExceleRate Illinois program and offers technical assistance to licensed Family Child Care Providers and licensed Child Care Centers.  Andrea and Stephanie can also conduct silver circle of quality renewals while assisting with implementing continuous quality improvement plans to improve the quality of your entire program.

What is the ExceleRate program?

The ExceleRate Illinois program provides programs with a process for pursuing quality improvements for your child care business. ExceleRate Illinois, organized in a Circles of Quality system, provides guidelines, resources, and supports to assist in making changes that lead to a higher quality program. This comprehensive system includes Licensed Child Care centers, Licensed Family/Group Child Care Homes, School Based Preschool Programs, and Head Start/Early Head Start Programs. Within each circle of quality, there are four domains that include the standards to be met:

  • Teaching and Learning
  • Family and Community Engagement
  • Leadership and Management
  • Qualifications and Continuing Education

There are four circles of quality a program can achieve based on the standards required in the four domains:

  • The Licensed Circle of Qualityis the foundational circle of quality, and recognizes compliance with the licensing standards of the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
  • The Bronze Circle of Qualityrecognizes qualifications and professional development, with completion of a robust series of trainings. Bronze Circle trainings are aligned with the standards of ExceleRate Illinois, and prepare programs for success as they progress through the Circles of Quality.
  • The Silver Circle of Qualityrecognizes completion of a rigorous self-assessment and implementation of a continuous quality improvement process, as verified by an independent assessor. Silver Circle programs meet or exceed specific quality benchmarks on learning environment and instructional quality, along with selected administrative standards; qualifications; and professional development.
  • The Gold Circle of Qualityrecognizes programs which have demonstrated quality on all standards, as validated by an independent assessor. Gold Circle programs meet or exceed specific quality benchmarks on learning environment, instructional quality, and all administrative standards; group size and ratios; qualifications; and professional development.

For further information on the ExceleRate program and how to get started, please visit or contact one of our specialists.

How do I contact the YWCA for a Specialist?

There a few ways to reach out for assistance. You can contact the YWCA at 815-484-9442 and reach Andrea Capriotti at ext. 228 or email [email protected]. Stephanie Siemens can be reached by dialing ext. 234 or email at [email protected].