Critchlow Adkins Earns Highest Maryland State Recognition

Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers (CACC), a nonprofit, education-based childcare center with five sites located throughout Talbot County, has been awarded a high honor by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Each of their childcare sites has earned a Maryland EXCELS Check Level 5 rating. Proudly, CACC has achieved these or similar levels of excellence for more than 30 years.

Site Directors for Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers are Annetta Bisco (left), White Marsh; Melissa Johnson, Cordova; Marlene Thomas, St. Michaels; and Keieve Colbert, Easton. Not pictured is Donna Austin, Easton Preschool Site Director.

The development of the Maryland EXCELS (Excellence Counts in Early Learning and School Age Care) Program was started in 2001 by MSDE’s Division of Early Childhood. The impetus behind the program was to improve access to quality childcare for low-income families. It began as a tiered reimbursement program for childcare providers, but between 2009 to 2011, the program was restructured into a tiered quality rating and improvement system.

Like accreditation, the EXCELS Program is a voluntary process during which childcare centers undergo rigorous evaluation of their facilities and curriculums. They are graded based on a number of criteria, including the use of age-appropriate curriculum and multicultural lessons, family engagement, health and safety checks, staff credentials, and classroom observations.

The EXCELS Program has five ratings tiers. Awards are given to childcare providers who substantially exceed state licensing requirements. According to the Maryland Excels website, a Check Level 1 rating is given to providers who “successfully meet initial [EXCELS] requirements.” The top Check Level 5 rating “is granted to those with the highest level of quality and who are state or nationally accredited.”

Access to high-quality childcare plays an important role in promoting family stability and closing the achievement gap between children from low-income families and those from middle- to high-income families. This is crucial in preparing children for kindergarten and beyond. Year after year, children in CACC’s preschool programs enter kindergarten with the skills they need to be ready to learn, and children in its before- and after-school care programs receive the academic and enrichment support to be successful in school and life.

Critchlow Adkins helps its students “excel” by providing enrichment programs like its innovative STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) activities. These projects are formatted for the various age groups CACC serves and teaches children to think critically and use creativity to solve real world problems. Many of these activities are based on the stories from popular children’s books, encouraging a love of both reading and learning.

CACC also focuses on early childhood literacy by participating in programs like Raising a Reader. Through Raising a Reader, every CACC preschooler receives a red bag. Each week, the bag is filled with books for the children to take home and read with their families. By the time the children finish the program, they will have read 80 books together as a family. The importance of daily reading cannot be overstated. Just 20 minutes of reading per day exposes a child to approximately 1.8 million words per year.

Critchlow Executive Director Cristy Morrell said, “We are proud to consistently earn this recognition from the State. Every family in our community, regardless of income level, deserves access to the highest quality care for their children. It is so inspiring to see the way our staff goes above and beyond for our families every single day. With the help of our wonderful supporters, we will continue finding new ways to enrich our children’s lives and help them Build Brighter Futures.”

To learn more about Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers, enroll a child, or make a donation, visit or call 410-822-8061.

Poinsettia Sale a Success

Rebecca Warrington, owner of Shaper’s Hair Salon, and her husband Dan Warrington, owner of Warrington Builders, held their fourth annual Poinsettia Sale last December. The sale raised $1,700 to benefit Critchlow Adkins Children’s Centers. The proceeds will be used to provide tuition assistance for qualifying families enrolled in Critchlow’s childcare programs.

“Being able to host this fundraiser every year means so much to us,” says Rebecca. “We love seeing our community spreading holiday cheer while also supporting a wonderful cause that helps area families!”

Critchlow Adkins Executive Director Cristy Morrell is grateful to the Warringtons for hosting this annual fundraiser in CACC’s honor. “It is so wonderful that they choose to do this for our children every year,” she says. “The proceeds from this sale help us to ensure that every family in our community has access to exceptional childcare, no matter their income level. This event truly changes lives!”

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