QRIS Frequently Asked Questions

Answers to some Frequently Asked Questions have been updated as of May 6, 2024

Why is there a Quality Rating and Improvement System in Place?

The federal government requires that each state examine its Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) through a lens of continuous improvement. This means states are always challenging themselves to develop tools to improve quality and make lasting impacts.

While the existing system did make quality impacts that were beneficial for participating programs, the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR) saw an opportunity in 2021 to create a system that would appeal to more programs, and thereby increase participation to expand quality care and early education for more children and families. The mandate for continuous improvement challenges states to step outside their comfort zone and examine current practices to determine where opportunities for growth can be found. We looked closely at the previous QRIS system and gathered feedback from the field to raise quality, accessibility, and support for early childcare and education programs in the state of Alabama. We officially launched the new system in January of 2022.

August 2021: Mr. Bernard Houston, Director of Childcare Services with the Alabama Department of Human Resources, explains some changes to the Alabama Quality STARS rating program.

Who is implementing the QRIS system?

DHR receives federal and state funding to implement the QRIS system in Alabama. The Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education (ADECE) has been selected by DHR to administer the QRIS system in Alabama through an interagency agreement.

How was the current system developed?

The new QRIS system was developed with consideration of public survey responses from STAR-rated and unrated programs. An advisory council has been created with prominent stakeholders in private childcare, family childcare, Head Start, higher education, advocacy groups, and community leaders. Input from other states regarding the progress of their own QRIS system as well as ideas from state and national voices offered a broader perspective.

Has the system continued to use a “STAR” Rating?

Yes. QRIS determines a standard of quality and serves as a system of information for families who are selecting from childcare options. Many states use the ‘STAR’ as a recognizable marker of quality for their QRIS programs. A statewide education campaign will showcase the many benefits of continuing to use the ‘STAR’ in Alabama.

What if my program was in the process of preparing for a STAR rating before 2021?

If your program was in the process of gathering information for a STAR rating prior to 2021, please refer to the assessment page on this website to view the new criteria for assessment.

According to the new system, what are the criteria for a STAR 1 rating?

According to the recently revised Child Care Licensing and Performance Standards, licensed centers and homes meet the criteria for a one (1) star rating in Alabama Quality STARS. There are no additional requirements for a STAR 1 Rating. Programs that opted out of the STARs program will not receive the STAR 1 incentive.

If I opted out of STAR 1, can I still apply for a higher STAR rating when the new system is fully implemented?

Yes, programs interested in a higher STAR rating and meet the qualifying criteria may apply, even if they opted out of STAR 1.

When can I apply for a higher STAR rating? Do I need to wait for my licensing annual review or relicensing date?

Providers may apply for a higher rating assessment after they have been licensed by DHR for one (1) year. It does not need to be at the time of your annual licensing review or relicensing date.

Providers who have already achieved a STAR 2 or higher may apply for an assessment for a higher rating once per year.

  • Guided Support– Up to two (2) months of technical assistance
  • Enhancement– Up to six (6) months of technical assistance (requires a formal assessment to be completed before participating.)

Providers may apply for only one (1) technical assistance option (Guided Support or Enhancement) once per year based on the completion date of the previous technical assistance model.

Programs that have completed a technical assistance model must apply for Assessment for a STAR rating before being considered for participation in another technical assistance model.

What about incentive payments? When will I receive it? How many times a year do I receive a payment?

If you have specific questions about STAR incentive payments or have not received your STAR Incentive Payment, contact DHR Child Care Subsidy at DHR_QRISpayments@dhr.alabama.gov. Please allow 90 days after your assessment for your payment to process. Please wait until after 90 days before emailing if you have not received your payment.

How many times may I request a STAR Rating assessment in a year?

Providers who have achieved a STAR 2 or above may apply for a higher rating assessment once per year.

If I am not satisfied with the result of my STAR rating assessment, what are my options?

If a provider has a valid dispute with the Alabama Quality STARs Guidelines or the assessment procedure he or she may appeal to have their STAR rating assessment reviewed following the protocol outlined in Section 13.00 on page 19 of the updated Alabama Quality STARs Guidelines. Otherwise, the provider may apply to participate in the Enhancement program to receive technical assistance and support in implementing quality practices to improve their rating or they may apply for a new assessment after 12 months (1 year).

What if my STAR Rating is up for annual review or renewal?

Providers who are STAR 1 Rated will have their rating reviewed at their licensing annual or renewal visit. Programs that meet licensing performance standards are automatically STAR 1 rated unless they have opted out.

A STAR 2 or higher rating is good for 36 months (3 years) from their most recent assessment as long as the provider remains in good standing with DHR and continues to meet the criteria for their STAR rating. STAR-rated programs must apply to renew before the end of the third year. Failure to apply for a renewal can jeopardize STAR rating status.

Providers rated STAR 2 or higher will have an annual review visit around the anniversary date of their most recent assessment. If it is determined during the review visit that the provider has continued to meet the criteria of their STAR Rating, then their STAR rating remains active. If a provider no longer meets the criteria for their STAR rating, their STAR rating may be reduced or invalidated. Providers whose STAR rating has been denied, reduced, or invalidated are eligible to re-apply after six (6) months unless otherwise notified.

Where can I complete the Alabama Quality STARs (QRIS) Orientation?

There is a required orientation all providers must complete. This orientation is available on-demand virtually through the AlaCEED platform. Visit the Getting Started page on this website and complete Steps 1 and 2 to start the process. Anyone who completed a QRIS Orientation under the previous system (before 2021) must complete the updated orientation before applying for a STAR 2 or higher.

Yes. In May of 2024, we updated some items in our guidelines. A summary can be watched in the video below or accessed at this link: Summary of Alabama Quality STARS Guidelines

Recent Updates to Alabama Quality STARS

How do we apply?

Please visit the Getting Started page by clicking the link below to view the process map, step-by-step instructions, and tutorial videos on applying for the new system for assessment, guided support, or enhancement.

Who do I contact with questions?

For more program information contact:

QRIS Director: Kellie Holcomb

Email: info@alabamaqualitystars.org

Phone: 334-604-6260

Website: www.alabamaqualitystars.org

For STAR 1 Questions and STAR Rating Incentive Payments and Certificates for all STAR Levels contact DHR:

Email: DHR_QRISpayments@dhr.alabama.gov

Please allow 90 days for incentive payments to process.

For STAAR Vendor Code: We are a different program for STAARS-they are with the Department of Finance. Please visit their website’s contact page to get in touch.

STAARS Vendor Code Website: vendors.alabama.gov

Early Child Care