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Virginia’s Infant & Toddler Specialist Network
Child Care, Quality Improvement, Infant Toddler Specialist Networks
Source Of Information:
ZERO TO THREE Policy Center state updates
In an effort to improve the quality of care for infants and toddlers, Virginia implemented an Infant-Toddler Specialist Network (ITSN) that builds on existing community initiatives and partnerships. Child Development Resources (CDR), a nonprofit involved in several early childhood projects in the state, was selected by the Virginia Department of Social Services to administer the ITSN. The Network’s activities are guided by a state-level leadership council made up of representatives from agencies and organizations providing services to the birth-to-three population. Service delivery is managed in each of the state’s eight regions by sub-contracted organizations that were selected through a competitive grant process. CDR made an intentional effort to select diverse regional offices, such as institutions of higher education, child-focused nonprofits, and county government agencies, so that each would bring unique knowledge, experience, and strategies to the project.
Each regional office is responsible for hiring and providing day-to-day supervision of its infant-toddler specialist(s). The Network began in 2009 with 10 specialists and has now expanded to 15.
Specialists provide three levels of service based on need to child care providers that serve infants and toddlers (both centers and family homes): • quality improvement – individualized on-site consultation, mentoring, and support to programs using quality improvement plans; • quality enhancement – training and technical assistance to groups of caregivers, teachers, and directors; and • quality assurance – development and provision of resources, e-mail/phone consultation, and linkages to existing professional development opportunities.
Though the highest level of service provision includes classroom assessment and development of program quality improvement plans, specialists spend a significant amount of time on quality enhancement and assurance activities as well. In 2010 the Network organized Celebrating Babies and Tots, full-day conferences in each region for early care and education providers. The events were such a success that the Network has held annual conferences since 2010.
To maintain consistency across regions, Virginia developed specialist training and service delivery guidelines. For example, quality improvement TA requires specialists to spend at least 40 hours on-site over a minimum of five months working with a provider, and each specialist is required to provide a minimum of 110 hours of group training within their region per year. Specialists attend a comprehensive orientation, must complete certification in all four Program for Infant Toddler Care (PITC) modules, train to reliability on both the ITERS-R and FCCERS-R, and receive Toddler CLASS training. The state also established a robust data system that allows CDR to see where services are being provided, track child care providers’ quality improvement, identify communities that are underserved, and evaluate the overall success of the Network.
*The regional grantees are: Stafford County Public Schools; Virginia Western Community College; People Incorporated of Virginia; Fairfax County Office for Children; Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University; Children’s Harbor; Child and Family Connection; and Children, Youth & Family Services, Inc.