Arkansas: Framework for Infant and Toddler Care

Mar 08, 2007

The Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care is an example of how a state can promote high standards for programs and guidelines for early learning for infants and toddlers. This state example was originally written as part of Starting Off Right: Promoting Child Development from Birth in State Early Care and Education Initiatives and updated for the Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care project.

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Overview

In 1997, the Arkansas Early Childhood Commission, appointed by the governor, convened a committee of experts in infant and toddler development, including providers of Early Head Start. This committee was charged with developing the Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care. The group met over the course of a year, and a neutral facilitator oversaw the process. The effort grew out of recognition that guidelines for infants and toddlers were necessary to complement a framework being developed for pre-school age children. Arkansas has linked both frameworks to K-12 learning guidelines.

The Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care is a set of program standards and early learning guidelines that include benchmarks of development and strategies for parents and caregivers to use with young children under age three. Arkansas contracts with the state university to provide an Infant/Toddler Certificate available to all providers (i.e. center-based, family child care, Early Head Start). The Infant/Toddler Certificate includes training on the Framework and 60 hours of professional development activities related to high quality infant and toddler care. The state also disseminates materials that translate the Framework into ideas for activities for parents to do with their children.

Arkansas provides technical assistance to infant and toddler providers across early care and education settings, including centers, Early Head Start, and family child care. Family, friend, and neighbor caregivers are eligible to receive training, if interested. Through a partnership with the state university system, Arkansas offers training on the Framework for Infant and Toddler Care, focusing on using children\'s literature to implement the Framework in care settings. Participants receive children\'s books appropriate for children under age three.

A new curriculum (based on children\'s books) for children 18-36 months is now available at no cost at www.arkansas.gov/childcare/advfortoddlers.

Adventures for Toddlers is:

  • A curriculum that includes experiences based on the Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care Developmental Strands and Benchmarks.
  • A curriculum that includes experiences for all of the developmental strands - self-concept, emotional, social, language, physical, and cognitive.
  • A curriculum that is flexible, allowing caregivers to choose from experiences in eight Focus Areas.
  • A curriculum designed for licensed and registered child care programs in Arkansas.
  • A curriculum designed to link with Adventures in Learning for children ages 3-5 years, based on the Arkansas Early Childhood Education Framework.

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Evaluating Program Impact

Arkansas is in the process of doing a statewide analysis and evaluation of the state\'s early childhood professional development system. Infant and toddler programs funded through the Arkansas Better Chance initiative are using the OUNCE scale for child development assessment. Program quality within the State Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) will be implemented in late 2009 with the Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale used as a measure of quality and program evaluation.

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Funding

The development and dissemination of the Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care are funded through the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) infant and toddler earmark. Only federal funds were used for the development and ongoing dissemination of the IT framework.

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Relationship to Other State Child Care and Early Education Initiatives

The Arkansas Framework for Infant and Toddler Care is administered by the Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Child Care & Early Childhood, which also administers the state professional development system, the child care licensing program, the child care subsidy program, and the Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) pre-kindergarten program. The ABC program serves a small number of infants and toddler (500 infants and toddlers of 20,000 total children served). DHS is also the lead agency on the federal Maternal and Child Health Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems (ECCS) Grant and serves as the statewide network contact for the R&R agencies.

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Additional Opportunities and Challenges

  • Arkansas Better Chance (ABC) pre-kindergarten funding has increased to $111 million, but all new funding is earmarked for children ages three to five. However, the original funding for ABC allowed programs to serve children from birth to age five. The current goal is to fund pre-kindergarten exclusively from the new funds and apply the original ABC money (approximately $10 million) to initiatives for infants and toddlers. The current director of the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood is very interested in linking infant and toddler initiatives to the expansion in programs for pre-kindergarten children.
  • The majority of community-based providers in the state ABC program serve children age three to five exclusively, so there is less of a "trickle-down" effect for young children.
  • Assisting local communities in identifying and addressing their needs is also a challenge and an emerging priority especially in expanding services to full-year, full-day for children birth to five years.

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Advice for Other States

  • Reach out to all the partners in provision of infant and toddler care across the state, as they are our strongest link to ensuring high quality standards and supporting a framework for early learning.
  • Ensure that the infant/toddler framework is aligned with and linked to the preschool and K-12 frameworks. By aligning the framework across age ranges, you garner support from all sectors of the education and early care community.
  • Design "user-friendly" materials (e.g., guides, posters, brochures) to connect families to the framework. Families need to be connected and to have strategies, activities, and ideas for being their child\'s first teachers.

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Additional State Information

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Source

Interview with Kathy Stegall, Program Support Administrator, Arkansas Department of Human Services, on November 8, 2005. Last updated October 22, 2008.

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