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Community Environmental Health

IDEM Environmental Health > Five Star Environmental Recognition for Child Care Facilities > Five Star Child Care Guidelines Five Star Child Care Guidelines

What do you get when you ask child care providers, government officials, doctors and parents to come up with an idea on how to recognize exemplary, environmentally-safe child care facilities? In Indiana, you get teamwork and Indiana's Five Star Environmental Recognition Program for Child Care Facilities!

How This Program Works

IDEM awards stars to child care facilities that exceed state requirements for environmental health and safety. Star ratings remain in effect for three years. Participants must re-apply to keep their status.

Application submittal due dates are April 1, August 1 and December 1. Applications are evaluated three times per year.

Eligibility Requirements

Participating child care facilities must:

  • Be licensed or registered (operate more than four hours a day, 10 consecutive work days and care for more than five children);
  • Be in compliance with all applicable state rules and regulations (Head Start facilities also must be in compliance with applicable federal regulations);
  • Meet all criteria for the star category in which they will apply; and,
  • Submit a complete and accurate application.

How Participants Benefit

Here are just some of the benefits you get for taking steps to protect children:

  • Free advertisement! Participating facilities are recognized on the IDEM Web site. IDEM also works with your local press to promote your facility's accomplishments to newspapers, radio, and television stations.
  • Free educational materials! Once you apply, you'll receive information for parents on lead, mercury, and other environmental hazards. You'll continue to receive additional materials throughout your membership.
  • Free lead risk assessment! Licensed lead risk assessors are available to test your paint, dust, soil, and drinking water for lead hazards. If a lead hazard is found, the assessor will work with you to develop options to minimize the hazard at minimal cost.
  • Free training opportunities! Participating facilities receive notices of opportunities to attend training on lead, asthma, and other environmental health issues. Most opportunities are offered at no cost.
  • Free Earth Day presentations! Each year, IDEM personnel volunteer to provide Earth Day presentations around the state. 5-Star participants receive higher priority for these much sought after interactive presentations.

How To Apply

  1. Read through the application and determine the star category in which you will apply.
  2. Completely and accurately fill in the information requested and gather the requested documentation, as applicable.
  3. Mail or fax your completed application and documentation.

Where to Get Assistance

IDEM staff are available to assist you in completing the application. They can visit your facility and help you through the process at no charge. To request on-site or phone assistance, call (800) 988-7901.

So How Do You Start?

At first glance, the application process may seem complicated, but don't give up! The best way to start is by reading through the application (now available on the IDEM Forms page), deciding how many stars you'd like to apply for, and completing the self assessment booklet [PDF]. Once you've checked off the items that are already completed, please call IDEM at (800) 988-7901. We will help you determine if you need a lead risk assessment and will be able to provide it for free. We'll also help you determine the next steps toward submitting the application.

Additional Guidance

Below is additional guidance on the various program requirements as well as sample policies. Sample policies are provided for assistance with implementation of the Five Star Program.


Compliance History

Applicants must have a positive compliance history. The review committee uses CareFinder to make this determination. The following guidelines are considered when reviewing an applicant’s compliance history:

  1. The review committee may choose to hold an application for approximately one year for the following compliance issues:
    1. If more than two environmental health violations (violations that relate to topics covered by the Five Star Program) are cited within the past year.
    2. If more than two reoccurring violations are cited within the past three years (same violation cited in at least 2 inspections).
    3. If more than four violations are cited at the facility during the most recent inspection.
    4. If an average of more than three violations are cited during each inspection over the past three years.
    5. If a major violation is cited. Major violations are generally considered violations which affect whether children are directly supervised, violations that could make children sick or injured, or other similar examples. Most paperwork violations are normally not considered major, however missing criminal history checks are major.
    6. If compliance issues were identified during the Five Star site visit and were not addressed.
    7. If compliance history is questionable and does not demonstrate a strong commitment toward meeting state requirements.
  2. Membership is not available for facilities:
    • On probation;
    • With provisional licenses;
    • Are not licensed or registered; or
    • Under an open enforcement case.
Self Assessment

The self-assessment [PDF] allows you to walk through your facility and rank areas where hazards may be present. All new applicants must complete the assessment.


Prevention of Exposure to Lead Policy

For 3-Stars, the child care (no matter of year constructed) must have a policy that identifies any known lead paint and lead hazards at the facility and what steps are being taken to reduce children’s exposure to lead hazards. A Sample Prevention of Exposure to Lead Policy [DOC] which meets the requirements of the Five Star Program is provided.

Lead Poisoning Prevention Training for Cleaning and Maintenance Staff in Pre ’78 Buildings

For cleaning and maintenance staff in buildings built prior to 1978, it is vital they understand the key role they play in reducing children’s exposure to lead that may be present in the building in which they work. Improper cleaning techniques could unknowingly spread lead dust around classrooms, on kitchen counters, and on floors where children play. Illegal maintenance work not only breaks the law, but also could increase lead exposure to children.

By law, all child care providers in buildings constructed prior to 1978 must meet federal requirements under the U.S. EPA Renovation, Repair, and Paint Rule. There are many components of the rule, with an overarching requirement that child occupied facilities (including child care) built before 1978 must use Lead-Safe Certified Firms to conduct renovation, repair, and painting.

To meet Five Star Program requirements, applicants may use either of the following training options for cleaning and maintenance staff:

  • Option 1: Cleaning and maintenance staff may take the free online training, titled “Let’s Get the Lead Out,” available from IACCRR’s Training Central program. Clock hours are available. Copies of certificates should be kept as proof of training.
  • Option 2: In house training using the following:
    • Maintenance staff may read the following brochure and website to meet the Five Star Program training requirement *:
    • Cleaning staff should be trained on the following lead safe cleaning practices to meet the Five Star Program training requirement *:
      • Requirement 1: Lead dust can come from many sources: windowsills, door jambs, floor boards, dirt, and more. Since your facility was built prior to 1978, assume lead dust exists. To reduce lead dust, clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces with wet paper towels weekly. Use a mop or sponge with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas. Use HEPA vacuums instead of regular vacuums for carpets. Wash throw rugs, never shake.
    • Directors must read the following brochure to meet the Five Star Program training requirement *:

* Staff should sign documents and keep in file as proof of training.

Lead Poisoning Prevention Training for Staff in Contact with Families (Directors, Teachers, and Nurses)

Staff in contact with families should know about lead poisoning and encourage families to have children under six tested.

To comply with the Five Star Program training requirement, applicants may use either of the following training programs for staff in contact with families.

  • Option 1: Free online training, titled “Let’s Get the Lead Out,” is available from IACCRR’s Training Central program. Clock hours are available. Copies of certificates should be kept as proof of training.
  • Option 2: A free online 17 minute video, titled “Lead Paint: Indiana’s Poisoned Children,” is available. A 30 minute version is also available, which has aired on Indiana PBS stations. Sign-in sheets should be kept as proof of training.
Use Cold Water Only Signs

You may create your own signage to remind staff to flush faucets used for cooking and drinking each morning or you may use the sample Water Flusher Signs [PDF].

Lead Risk Assessment

IDEM will provide a lead risk assessment at no cost. A lead risk assessment determines where lead hazards exist. Please contact IDEM at (800) 988-7901 to schedule a time for an assessment of your building.


Recycling Mercury and Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Mercury containing items should not be thrown in the trash. Mercury can be released when the item is broken, contaminating the parking lot, street, or facility. Mercury containing items such as fluorescent bulbs, thermometers, and thermostats should be taken to a location which recycles them. Some household hazardous waste locations will accept these items for recycling. In addition, certain home improvement stores also offer recycling. Free downloadable recycling posters are available to promote battery and fluorescent bulb recycling.

Mercury Information

Many thermostats contain mercury. If you choose to replace your existing thermostat, it is recommended that a professional heating and cooling contractor remove mercury thermostats to reduce chances of breaking the mercury containing capsule within the thermostat. Mercury thermostats should be recycled, never thrown in the trash. When replacing thermostats, be sure to purchase a digital thermostat.

If you have a mercury thermostat, there is no requirement to remove it, however, IDEM can provide you with a mini mercury spill kit for your facility. IDEM also has "Contains Mercury" Stickers to place on the thermostat as a reminder to recycle it rather than throw it away. Stickers and spill kits are available at no cost by contacting IDEM at (800) 988-7901.

Additional information about mercury is available on the IDEM Recycle Indiana website.

Pest Control

Pest Control Policies

For 3-stars, follow the Indiana Pest Control Policy for Child Care Facilities [PDF] available from the Indiana Pesticide Review Board. Please adopt this policy and share it with your pesticide application contractor. Ensure the contractor follows this policy. In addition, facilities are not permitted to store pesticides at the facility.

For 5-Stars, the child care must have a policy that specifies integrated pest management and meets, at minimum, the criteria below. A sample Pest Control Policy which meets the requirements of the Five Star Program is available at Sample Integrated Pest Management Policy [DOC]

A written IPM policy for the Five Star Program must include the following:

  1. Regularly scheduled applications of pesticides are not permitted.
  2. Storage of pesticides in the facility is not permitted.
  3. Staff are prohibited from bringing pesticides into the facility (no residential or any other pesticides allowed).
  4. Only certified pesticide applicators or registered technicians that have working knowledge of IPM principles and practices may apply pesticides. Any pest management professional hired to provide pest management or other services must comply with this IPM program and notification policy and be knowledgeable about IPM practices. Pest management professionals must refrain from routine pesticide spraying, provide detailed service reports with each visit and give recommendations for pest prevention.
  5. When necessary, use of least-hazardous pesticides may be considered after nonchemical management practices have failed. Pesticides will not be applied when children are present at the facility. Toys and other items mouthed or handled by the children will be removed from the area before pesticides are applied. Children may only return to the treated area after two hours of a pesticide application or as specified on the pesticide label, whichever time is greater. In the event of an emergency where pests pose an immediate health threat to children and staff (e.g. wasps) and pesticides are applied, ensure that children will not return to the treated area within two hours of a pesticide application or as specified on the pesticide label, whichever time is greater.
  6. Notification: Parents and staff will be notified of a pesticide application at the facility at least three operational days in advance except in emergencies where pests pose an immediate health threat to children or staff (bees). Parents and staff will be notified as soon as possible when advance notice is not provided and include an explanation of the emergency, the reason for the late notice and the name of pesticide applied.

Additional Information on Integrated Pest Management:

Integrated pest management (IPM) techniques involve eliminating potential food, water and living space for pests, and sealing up their entry routes into buildings and using pesticides only when a confirmed pest problem is present.

Additional IPM tools are available:

Cleaning and Maintenance

State Recommendations for Use of Quaternary Ammonia or Chlorine Bleach
Green Cleaning Policy

Sample Green Cleaning Policy [PDF]: See page 54 of the following document for a model green cleaning policy.

Five Star criteria for Green Cleaning require a child care solely uses cleaning products that are:

Air Quality

Radon Tests

Radon test kits can be ordered for free from the American Lung Association of Indiana at (317) 819-1181. Radon test kits are also available at many local hardware stores. If you are renewing your stars, you will need to retest the facility to ensure the level did not increase. It may take several weeks to receive results from the lab. Be sure to leave enough time to obtain these results prior to the 5-Star application deadline. Note: Include a copy of the radon results with the application.

Pet Policies

To meet 3-star criteria, at minimum, the policy must address the following:

  • Animals on our Premises (including visiting animals)
  • List of Animals:
    • Common health risks associated with these animals:
    • Animals are located in these areas (be specific, use floor plan if necessary):
  • Visiting animals are located in these areas:
    • The staff assigned to the individual animal is responsible for the care and treatment of the animal at all times including disasters. Staff responsible for animals are:
    • Alternative staff are:

To meet 4-star criteria, refer to the following sample pet policies:

To meet 5-Star criteria, at minimum, the policy must address the following:

  • No Pets with Fur or Feathers Sample Policy – To reduce asthma and allergy triggers, _______ Child Care does not permit pets with fur or feathers (except to meet ADA requirements for service animals or on rare occasions, such as for Show and Tell and when students with asthma or allergies are appropriately accommodated.)
100% Tobacco-Free Facility and Grounds Policy and Signs

A written Tobacco-Free Policy for the Five Star Program must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Prohibit staff, parents, volunteers, and visitors from tobacco use inside the building and outside on the grounds as well as in vehicles (private or facility owned) used to transport children for child care activities and during field trips, walks, and other off-site activities. Hookah; e-cigarettes; and smokeless, dissolvable, and flavored tobacco products are also all prohibited.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services Creating Tobacco-Free Schools [PDF] guidance provides additional assistance on developing a Tobacco-Free Policy.

  • Arkansas Tobacco Prevention and Cessation Program, The Oxygen Project [PDF]: Sample Signs and language are provided on page 38 of the document
No Idling Policy and Signs

For a sample policy for school bus idling, follow the School Transportation Association of Indiana policy [PDF] for bus idling during warm up. Magnets containing the school bus idling policy are also available by contacting IDEM at (800) 988-7901.

  • Sample “No Idling” policy for Parents [DOC]

Information is available from the Indiana State Department of Health [PDF] to educate parents about the dangers of idling.

Contact IDEM at (800) 988-7901 regarding free "No Idling" signage for your facility.

Asthma Training for Teachers

To comply with the Five Star Program training requirement, applicants may use either of the following training programs for staff in contact with families.

  • Option 1: The FSSA Health Consultants will provide free asthma training to child care providers at your facility. Clock hours are available. To request free asthma training, contact your health consultant.
  • Option 2: Teachers may take the free online training, titled “Asthma Module 1” and “Asthma Module 2” available from IACCRR’s Training Central program. Clock hours are available. Copies of certificates should be kept as proof of training.
Asthma Action Plans

Additional asthma tools are available:


SmogWatch is available from IDEM to monitor your local air quality daily.

Energy Efficiency and Recycling

Recycling can be a fun hands-on activity for children and a great way to get involved in helping your facility. If you are not currently recycling, contact your local solid waste management district to find out how they can help you begin.


Written Asbestos Policy

A written Asbestos Policy [DOC] for the Five Star Program must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Directions for handling building materials when it is unknown whether asbestos is present
  • Describe locations of known asbestos-containing material in the building
  • Directions for handling known asbestos-containing material
  • Policy to ensure no new asbestos-containing materials enter the building especially during renovation

Additional information is available from FSSA: Demolition and Renovation at Child Care Facilities [PDF]


Emergency Action Planning Guide
Indiana Emergency Management Agencies

Additional information on Emergency Action Planning is available online simply by searching for this topic (i.e., Day Care Facilities Emergency Planning Guide, etc.). A few samples are below:

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)

PCB Plan

A written PCB plan for the Five Star Program must meet the following minimum requirements: