FCDJFS is Central Ohio’s public social service agency handling one of the state’s largest overall caseloads. The county agency is responsible for basic financial, medical, and social services programs for residents, including Medicaid, workforce training, and child care. By July 2020 the State of Ohio will require all child care providers who receive public dollars to be quality rated through Ohio’s Quality Rating Improvement System – Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) or lose that funding. FCDJFS has engaged ACS on multiple projects since 2014 to improve internal operations of their child care departments and to engage providers and parents to increase awareness about SUTQ and increase the number of star-rated providers.

How we did it: The work has been accomplished through multiple phases during several years and continues today:

  • Phase one was focused on internal effectiveness. ACS engaged agency leadership and community partners and stakeholders to help build a strategy to utilize limited public funds that support child care and youth services more effectively and purposely; outlined a messaging strategy for the changing landscape of Medicaid expansion and Federal healthcare exchanges; and coordinated agency efforts as part of a regional infant mortality task force to build a collective strategy to increase program enrollment and improve outcomes.
  • Phase two utilized focus groups, survey research, and public advertising to increase awareness among providers and parents about high quality early learning. ACS led and developed FCDJFS’ Early Learning Media Campaign between May and September 2017.
  • Phase three in 2018 utilized additional surveys and focus groups with parents, and analysis of existing FCDJFS data, to develop more focused advertising and outreach to key community partners. ACS also developed and implemented a no-cost training for center and home-based providers to help them understand the SUTQ process and prepare them to become or stay quality rated.
  • In 2019, ACS began phase four, continuing the work started in 2018 with training for center and home-based providers regarding the SUTQ process. In addition, ACS is working with FCDJFS to ensure their child care unit has the capacity to take over responsibility of SUTQ ratings for home providers.

Outcomes to date: FCDJFS is positioned and prepared to be proactive and strategic on behalf of its taxpayers and clients. FCDJFS now has the tools and a detailed plan to improve operations within its child care departments. FCDJFS is implementing and tracking the progress of a strategy to prepare Type B Home Providers to transition into Step Up To Quality. In addition:

  • 185 child care providers and 463 individual professionals completed FCDJFS SUTQ training, fulfilling 100% of the 2018 training goal.
  • Awareness of a five-star rating system for child care went up 18 percentage points, from 32% to 50% in 2018, when compared to a similar survey from 2017.
  • Awareness of Step up to Quality (SUTQ) went up 13 percentage points, from 20% to 33% since July 2017.
  • 44% of survey participants had a favorable view of a five-star rating system (up from 28% in July 2017).
  • 31% of survey participants had a favorable view of SUTQ (up from 18% in July 2017).
  • Approximately 25% of respondents recall seeing advertisements.
  • 93% of survey participants believe that access to a child care provider is essential for someone in their household to attend work or school.

Learn more about FCDJFS at jfs.franklincountyohio.gov and http://www.stepup2starrating.com/.


“The team at ACS really helped us realize our vision and put it into action. We’ve made great strides, but we certainly still have work to do—and those children and their families are counting on us for that.””

Joy Bivens

Director, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services

Their [ACS'] knowledge of job and family services, early childhood education, urban school districts, and their approach to analyzing community needs is really helping us create a long-term strategy that is ultimately going to help us serve this community.”

Anthony S. Trotman

Former Director, Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services