RIKI Introduction/Main Page

What are the key indicators that distinguish high quality programs?   It is not about finding more or less rules/regulations/standards, it is about finding the “right” rules/regulations/standards that help produce positive outcomes for children (Theory of Regulatory Compliance)(Regulatory Compliance)(Journal of Regulatory Science). “Washing your hands will help in the prevention of the spread of infectious diseases but will not create a high quality program; and using the ‘creative curriculum’ will help children developmentally but it will not protect children from injuries”

And then it is building and implementing data driven/empirically based program monitoring systems that reflect this knowledge in order to determine the most cost effective and efficient approach which led to the differential/targeted/inferential monitoring approach (Theory of Regulatory Compliance (TRC) Monitoring Paradigms Key Elements)(Regulatory Compliance and Quality Differences)(Journal of Regulatory Science).  Although the theory and model were developed within the early care and education field, its applicability transfers easily to all other human services, social regulations, and regulatory science in general.  Another way of thinking of it is similar to Steve Jobs’ “30% Rule“!

The bottom line with the Regulatory Compliance Theory of Diminishing Returns (see figure below) is that the fully compliant programs are not necessarily the best programs when it comes to quality.  Or another way of putting it is that many of the best programs are not in full compliance with all rules but rather are in substantial compliance with all rules.  This has tremendous public policy implications and if it is true beyond the early care and education field, it has implications for all human services and for all regulatory science.  Full 100% compliance (theoretically attempting to attain “no risk”) with all regulations just may not be the best public policy when it comes to assessing regulatory compliance in any field or industry.  Pursuing this goal of full compliance (100% = no risk) with all rules could be counterproductive for building a high quality delivery system.  The methodologies presented here will help to mitigate this potential harmful effect and offer further protections for individuals, such as full compliance always with certain predictive rules or high risk rules.

So what does this mean for the licensing/regulatory compliance field in general.  Licensing is considered a gatekeeper function which essentially means a facility must meet certain rules in order to enter the playing field and must maintain those rules in order to remain on the playing field.  Based upon research done in licensing, this gatekeeper function works very well in distinguishing between the low performers and the high performers; however, licensing does not work very well in distinguishing between the mediocre performers and the high performers, the best of the best.  Based upon the Regulatory Compliance Theory of Diminishing Returns ceiling effect, the gatekeeper function does not work as well at the upper end of regulatory compliance which would include substantial and fully compliant programs.  It works well at the lower end but not at the upper end of the regulatory compliance continuum.   And the question remains, is this result pertinent only to human services regulatory administration/compliance or is this result more generalizable to skewed data and closed systems which demonstrate a ceiling effect.

The Key Indicator methodology created by Dr Fiene in the 1970’s which resulted in an Early Childhood Program Quality Improvement & Indicator Model (RIKI ECPQIM-DMLMA Book of Readings) and the implementation of a differential monitoring methodology has gone through five generations/editions from 1975 through to 2022. The ECPQIM’s key components/elements in improving child care quality are through an early childhood program quality indicator model of training, technical assistance, quality rating & improvement systems, professional development, mentoring, licensing, regulatory science, risk assessment, differential/targeted/inferential program monitoring, and accreditation.   Here is a tool based upon the ECPQIM compliance and quality key indicators being developed with the assistance of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education (ECPQIM Tool).

Most recently, Dr Fiene has applied a validation framework to ECPQIM, see the following anthology which ties the theory, model, framework and results together (TRC ECPQIM VAL DM)(Please see the Publications Page on this Website for additional information and the papers constituting this anthology).  Rigorous validation studies were completed in 2019-2020 clearly demonstrating the reliability and validity of ECPQIM (Please go to the NARA website to learn more about these validation studies (NARA Key Indicator Studies))

Regulatory Compliance Law of Diminishing Returns

If interested in any of the publications or links on this website, please contact RIKILLC by emailing RFiene@RIKInstitute.com or go to one of the major research engines, such as Google Scholar or go to the Publications Page on this website for selected publications that can be downloaded.  Also, take a look at the RIKINotes blog which contains posts related to licensing measurement & systems, differential monitoring, and regulatory compliance key concepts.

fiene r picture

Richard Fiene, Ph.D., Research Psychologist (Bio)

Dr. Fiene has spent his professional career in improving the quality of child care in Pennsylvania, nationally, and internationally. He has done extensive research and publishing on the key components in improving child care quality through an Early Childhood Program Quality Improvement & Indicator Model (Fiene ECPQIM Slides (PPT153N)) of training, technical assistance, mentoring, regulatory science, licensing, monitoring, and accreditation. Supporting ECPQIM is the following Anthology of articles providing the background research to the model (ECPQIM Anthology of Articles).  The child care models that he developed in the 1970s and 1980s have been used in the majority of states to improve their licensing/regulatory systems and were the precursors to the development of quality rating systems. A Parent’s Guide to Choosing Safe and Healthy Child Care published by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services and used by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care is based upon 13 Indicators of Child Care Quality (the Fiene Key Indicators) and has been used as a checklist by parents nationally to select child care (Parents Guide Checklist). This checklist was highlighted in a Parade Magazine article (7/19/09) The New Push For Quality Child Care. In addition, the Fiene Key Indicators have been used as part of NACCRRA’s Report Card on Child Care Quality: We CAN Do Better; state’s licensing and monitoring systems; and Caring for Our Children: Basics and Stepping Stones to Caring for Our Children.

In addition to Dr Fiene’s academic appointments at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Pennsylvania State University as a professor of human development and psychology, he has been a Special Assistant to both the Deputy Secretary for the Office of Children, Youth and Families and the Secretary of Public Welfare during the 1990’s in which he was the Research Director and Policy Analyst for the development of the licensing and training systems in the Department of Public Welfare (now the Department of Human Services) for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He was the first director of research for the Office of Human Services Licensing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  He also was part of the statewide committee that developed the original standards for the Pennsylvania QRIS Keystone STARS program and the original designer of the CCECD – Child Care and Early Childhood Development training system. In the development of the CCECD training system, he provided the initial funding for Better Kid Care an innovative national on-line training delivery system.  He developed and implemented an early childhood program certificate series at Penn State Harrisburg which blossomed into the present day early childhood certification program.  He co-founded the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Early Childhood Education Linkage System (ECELS) with Dr Susan Aronson; he was the founding director of CAECTI – Capital Area Early Childhood Training and Research Institute (CAHHDI Five-Year Report) at Penn State University with Dr Mark Greenberg, Director of the Prevention Research Center (PRC Five-Year Report)(PRC Ten Year Report); and helped to bring TEACH to Pennsylvania.  Dr Fiene is a past Fellow of the Pennsylvania Psychological Association, a past Member of the American Psychological Association, Eastern Psychological Association, American Association of University Professors, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Society for Research in Child Development,  American Educational Research Association, and one of the founders of the University-Based Child and Family Policy Consortium.  He has been an expert reviewer for Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Young Children, Child Care Quarterly, Child and Youth Forum; and for Prentice & Hall, MacMillian, and Random House Early Childhood Series.  Dr Fiene has also been either interviewed for stories in the following newspapers and television regarding his research studies: Boston Globe, USAToday, NBC News, WGAL, and other news outlets.

Dr Fiene started his career in the early 1970’s directing one of the first national infant toddler demonstration centers in the US.  His early research led to the development of the Child Development Program Evaluation Scale (CDPES) which influenced the future development of differential monitoring, and identifying herding/clustering behavior in two-year old developmental play patterns, and most recently proposed an innovative approach to how children acquire their concepts of space and time through the development of a Spatial Acquisition Device (SAD) similar to Noam Chomsky’s Language Acquisition Device.  Dr Fiene has been a consultant to Zero to Three; served on the National Review Panel of the Program for Infant Toddler Caregivers with T. Berry Brazelton, Laura Dittman, Magda Gerber, Asa Hilliard, Alice Honig, Jeree Pawl, Ron Lally, and Sally Provence (pictured below); was one of the original national commissioners for NAEYC’s Accreditation System; and a member of the Pennsylvania Early Childhood Task Force Research Team (researchers from Penn State, Temple, & University of Pittsburgh) created by Governor Richard Schweiker and Co-Chaired by Honorary Chairperson Fred Rogers (pictured below).  And most recently he is a member of the Office of Child Care’s National Center for Early Childhood Quality Assurance’s Licensing Expert Panel and Licensing Research Work Group and the Office of Head Start’s National Center for Early Childhood Health and Wellness COVID19 Early Childhood Expert Panel.

The Pennsylvania Task Force Research Team (University Child Policy Consortium: Penn State, Temple, & University of Pittsburgh researchers) with Fred Rogers and Governor Schweiker.

The National Review Panel of the Program for Infant Toddler Caregivers.

Dr Fiene’s education include a BA in early childhood/elementary education and an MA and PhD in developmental psychology.  Dr Fiene graduated with a Regents Diploma, was a Regents Scholar and received a Scholar Incentive Award while at SUNY Stony Brook (Stony Brook University) and is Certified in Early Childhood Education in New York state (Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi).  He continues taking Continuing Education courses in research methodology, data analysis, regulatory science and is CITI Certified (ID#:5527822)(Biomedical Certificate1) (Clinical Practice Certificate1)(Biomedical Certificate2)(Clinical Practice Certificate2)(IBM Statistics Certificate)(RJF/PSU Scientist Certificate) as a research psychologist/investigator,  regulatory scientist, and data analyst; and continues his affiliation with Penn State as an affiliate professor at the Prevention Research Center, Penn State University and research consultant at Penn State Hershey – College of Medicine.  

Dr Fiene has received several awards during his career including, being chosen by the Exchange Leadership Initiative (Exchange Leadership Initiative Article)(The Exchange Leaders Website Link) to join the 300 Early Childhood Exchange Leaders from around the world; the National Association for Regulatory Administration’s President’s Award (Contributions) for contributions to regulatory administration and science, in particular his theory of regulatory compliance, differential monitoring, licensing key indicators and risk assessment rules methodologies; nominated for Research/Scholarly Activity Award and received the Academic Advising Award at Penn State Harrisburg; Pennsylvania Children, Youth, and Families Governmental Innovation Award; his research led to a Provincial Award in Ontario for their Tiered Licensing System; Capital Area Association for the Education of Young Children Golden Apple Award; Pennsylvania Association for the Education of Young Children VOICE for Children Distinguished Career Award (VOICE-BIO-Dr.-Fiene) (PennAEYC Website Award Notification); listed on AD Scientific Index (Richard Fiene Scientist.php), and the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and the Who’s Who of Science and Engineering.  He continues to be a member (retired) of the Association for Psychological Science/formerly American Psychological Society (Year of Election: 1997) as a research psychologist and a member of  The Trust Practice and Risk Management Association as a research psychologist and regulatory scientist.  Member of Sigma Xi, Scientific Research Honor Society (Nominated and Year of Election: 2022)(Sigma Xi Certificate)(Sigma Xi Membership)(Sigma Xi Contributions); Member of the Royal Meteorological Society (Year of Election: 2022); Associate of the American Meteorological Society (2022).


Over the past 50 years, Dr Fiene’s research and publications have helped states develop and improve their child care licensing systems to more clearly focus on the key factors in developing high quality child care programs (his research has been disseminated to all 50 states and over 120 countries). His key indicator and weighting methodologies developed in the 1970’s have led to the development and implementation of risk assessment, differential monitoring, and abbreviated inspections in the regulatory administration field; have been highlighted in four major national publications by the Assistant Secretary’s Office of Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) & United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Office of Children Care (OCC), and the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE): the ASPE white paper (Innovation in Monitoring ECE Programs)(ASPE ECE Monitoring Paper)(ASPE ECE Monitoring Summary), HHS/USDA Joint Monitoring Statement (Final HHS USDA Joint Monitoring Policy Statement), the OCC licensing brief (Monitoring Strategies for Determining Compliance (OCC Differential Monitoring)), and the OPRE/TRLECE research brief on Monitoring Practices Used in Child Care and Early Education Licensing (TRLECE Licensing Monitoring Practices); and are part of the NARA Licensing Curriculum.  Most recently Dr Fiene’s research while at CAECTI related to his mentoring/coaching program was highlighted as a compelling model in the ASPE/LITES Compelling Models Report (LITEScompelling) and his differential monitoring approach was highlighted in the OPRE/Child Trends’ Coordinated Monitoring Systems in Early Care and Education Report.  In 2016, the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Education Tiered Licensing System based upon Dr Fiene’s key indicator and risk assessment methodologies received a governmental innovation award.  And in 2017, BUILD, the National Center for Early Childhood Quality Assurance (NCECQA), and the National Association for Regulatory Administration collaborated on a series of webinars (The Webinar Series: OCC Website) with 10 states to more efficiently and effectively monitor licensing; and the development of a National Standards Crosswalk Tool by NCECQA.

His key indicator and weighting methodologies have led to the development of Stepping Stones to Caring for Our Children, the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation system, Head Start Differential Monitoring and Key Indicators, Caring for Our Children-Basics, Thirteen Key Indicators to Quality Child Care (considered the Gold Standard in the early childhood regulatory field), Child Development Program Evaluation Scale (CDPES), cited in the Child Care Development and Block Grant Legislation, and the Cruise to Quality Child Care Standards for the cruise line industry as adapted by CLIA.

In 2013, Dr Fiene created RIKI – Research Institute for Key Indicators LLC (2020 Promise ECE Innovation) in order to consolidate all research development into a single research institute.  All Dr Fiene’s previous research became part of the new institute specifically designed to further develop his human service licensing and program monitoring methodologies and systems.  In 2016-17, RIKI has had the distinct honor to become a partner with Results For America as it relates to providing and supporting empirical evidence for blue ribbon interventions – Invest in What Works Coalition Partners.  In 2018, RIKI has had the opportunity to partner with the Early Childhood Innovations Network.  And in 2020, RIKI has partnered with VIBE/FSL (VIBE/FSL/RIKI Research Team).   Dr Fiene and RIKI also have had research collaborations with excellent teams in Washington, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Indiana.  He presently continues to work full-time at the research institute.

In 2015, RIKI and NARA (National Association for Regulatory Administration) entered into an exclusive partnership for the future development and implementation of differential monitoring, risk assessment and key indicators in which NARA will assume the intellectual property rights of these methodologies. Also please see the NARA Key Indicator Systems Brochure, NARA Targeted Measurement Tools, NARA Key Indicator Webpage, NARA 2017 Licensing Survey Report, and NARA Key Indicator Systems.

For additional information, please contact Dr Fiene via the National Association for Regulatory Administration (NARA) regarding the regulatory compliance and program quality data contained in the Early Childhood Program Quality Improvement and Indicator/Differential Monitoring Data Base: RFiene@NARALicensing.org 

Dr. Fiene recently updated the Licensing Measurement and Systems NARA Licensing Curriculum Course through the use of this website as part of NARA’s series on the Key Indicator System: Facilitated Dialogues with Dr Rick Fiene.

After reviewing this webpage, the interested reader can go to the NARA Key Indicators webpage which provides detailed national and state reports in developing differential monitoring, key indicator and risk assessment systems.  Also, you may want to check out the eHandBook that Dr Fiene wrote on Licensing Measurement and Program Monitoring Systems (LMS eHandBook RFiene)(LMS eHandBook 2nd Edition).

Here is a brief outline of the Course, Licensing Measurement and Systems/Key Indicator Systems: Facilitated Dialogues with Dr Rick Fiene:

  1. Overview of Licensing Measurement & Systems
  2. Conceptual/Theoretical Framework
  3. Principles of Instrument Design
  4. Measurement: Reliability and Validity
  5. Regulatory Compliance and Program Quality
  6. QRIS and other Quality Initiatives
  7. Statistical Methods and Data Base Development
  8. Coordinated Program Monitoring
  9. Differential Monitoring and Key Indicators 
  10. What Research Tells Us
  11. What Research Doesn’t Tell Us: Unanswered Questions
  12. National, International, and State Examples
  13. Future Directions

Here is an Overview to the Course: