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ATLANTA -- More than 500 child care providers across Georgia have already signed up for a new, voluntaryquality ratings system by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning.

"We're going for the top," said Tressie Evans, Director of theSheltering Arms Center in Downtown Atlanta. "We're going to try our best. We believe in the top."

The first ratings will come out next summer after an in-depth application and review process that includes on-site evaluations.

"It is essential to children's development that they have high-quality care," said Bobby Cagle, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. "This system will provide symbols that are easily recognizable."

It'll be a three-tiered system that comes with privately-funded financial incentives for providers to improve their rating.

Centers, family daycares, after-school and pre-k programs can all qualify.

But they'll have to move far beyond the minimum licensing requirements to get a good grade.

"For instance, they'll need to have lower child to staff ratios," Commissioner Cagle said."They will also have very intentional learning practices with lesson plans, a specific curriculum to follow."

Eight different Sheltering Arms centers have already applied for the new ratings system.

"We believe in quality, and this is going to enhance our program," Evanssaid.

It should also make it easier for parents to find the quality care they need.

Since the ratings won't be out until next summer, here's a tool to help you do some child care research right now.

You can go to theGeorgia Department of Early Care and Learning website, click on "search for pre-K or child care", type in your county, zip code or enter a name.

You'll find information about the programs and links to recent inspection reports.