Parents’ Perceptions of the Parent Aware Website and Search Tool

ReportEarly ChildhoodSep 18 2019

Parent Aware is Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS). Parent Aware aims to help child care and early education programs improve their caregiving and teaching practices, and helps families find high-quality programs by searching programs’ Ratings at Parent Aware is unique nationally in the investments it has made in its website and the overall marketing of the child care search tool, initially through private funding and now through funding from the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant.

Minnesota invested in the Parent Aware website to make it easier for parents to access information about early care and education programs in one place. is a website where families can search for Rated programs, licensed programs, Head Start, and Prekindergarten programs, as well as review programs’ health and safety records all on one site. Additionally, Parent Aware markets directly to families using radio and television ads, and supports Rated programs in marketing and advertising their Rating to families.

Families have been able to conduct online searches for Parent Aware Rated Programs since 2008. In 2014, the Parent Aware website underwent a major redesign, and has been updated and refined every year since then. The reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant in 2014 included a requirement that states implement a consumer education website. Minnesota already met many aspects of this requirement and continues to make improvements to facilitate the search process and use of the site.

Evaluation is one strategy that supports the continuous improvement of the website and other components of Parent Aware. In 2018, the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) contracted with Child Trends to conduct an evaluation to better understand how families in Minnesota use the internet and the Parent Aware website in their child care search process. Child Trends used four methods to learn about how the website is working. First, the research team examined Google Analytics data to gather information about how visitors use the website. Second, researchers examined Google Trends data to learn more about the child care search terms people in Minnesota type into Google search. Third, Child Trends, in collaboration with Child Care Aware of Minnesota, conducted an online survey about visitors’ perceptions of the site. Finally, the team conducted phone interviews with parents to gather feedback about their experience on the website.

This report describes the research questions and key findings from each data collection activity. These findings highlight what parents and other consumers of child care report about Minnesota’s online child care search tool on the Parent Aware website. As such, the findings are important for informing possible refinements to the website so that families can use it to choose high-quality early care and education settings that meet their needs.

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