Delaware: Implementing Preservice Training Requirements and Group Sizes for Licensed Center-Based Infant/Toddler Providers

Jun 26, 2009

In 2007, Delaware released a set of revised regulations for child care centers that made significant changes to program standards and caregiver practice. Delaware\'s center-based licensing rules had not been updated since the 1980s. In 2002, a baseline quality study was commissioned by the state. That study used the Environment Rating Scales to evaluate the quality of early care and education programs in the state, excluding non-licensed relative care. Among the findings released in 2005 -- only 30 percent of licensed settings in Delaware were rated as at least "good." An additional 27 percent were rated poor/dangerous, while the rest were rated mediocre. These findings spurred a focus on preservice training/professional development and curriculum that would be aligned with Delaware\'s new early learning guidelines for Infants/Toddlers and Preschoolers.

Delaware\'s revised regulations included changes specific to infant/toddler care, such as:

  • Improving the provider-to-child ratio for infants and toddlers and adding new group size limitations for the first time for all age groups, including infant/toddler care: The new provider: child ratios are 1:4 for infants under age one, 1:6 for younger toddlers ages 1-2, and 1:8 for older toddler ages 2-3. The maximum group sizes are eight for infants under one, twelve for toddlers ages 1-2, and sixteen for toddlers ages 2-3.
  • Requiring specialized training for early childhood administrators and early childhood curriculum coordinators serving infants and toddlers: Either the administrator or coordinator must successfully finish at least three college/university credits. The credits may be included in the 45 clock hours of training in infant and toddler development and curriculum that is required for administrators and coordinators in centers that serve infants and toddlers.
  • Improving health and safety practices with infants and toddlers: A center serving infants and toddlers must install approved safety gates at stairways where the infants and toddlers are located. Additional standards were added to sleeping accommodations for infants. To protect the health of all children, infants four months old and younger that have a temperature of 100 degrees or higher may not be admitted to a center and will be sent home even if there is no change in the infants\' behavior.
  • Strengthening food and nutritional standards for infants and toddlers: The revised regulations add to and enhance the nutritional standards that oversee the selection, preparation, and serving of meals to infants. For instance, juices may not be served to infants until the infant is able to drink from a cup in order to promote behaviors that help prevent baby bottle tooth decay. If a center requires that parents/guardians provide the meals for their infants, then the parents must be informed of the importance of sending meals that meet the same nutritional standards expected of centers, including the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) Meal Pattern Requirements for Infants.
  • Ensuring smooth transitions for newly admitted infants and toddlers: Providers must work with parents to create a transition plan for newly admitted children. This includes exchanging relevant information about the child and assigning a primary caregiver to each infant or toddler.
  • Setting program goals and planning developmentally appropriate curriculums: Centers are expected to develop program goals and plan curriculums using the state\'s early learning guidelines for infants and toddlers as guidance.
  • Monitoring the developmental progress of infants: Centers must develop individual plans for each infant (under one year old) in care that identifies age-appropriate goals and specific activities and experiences to support those goals. Providers are expected to record any developmental milestones or concerns and to share these records with parents.

To implement these changes and provide support to providers, the state realigned Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds (including funds transferred from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant) to cover the cost of outreach, implementation, training, and T.E.A.C.H. scholarships. In addition, the state coordinated training and resources through the Delaware Department of Labor\'s early childhood apprenticeship program. The state\'s CCR&R conducted further outreach and training on the new standards to providers.


State contact information:

Janet Carter, Education Specialist
Delaware Department of Education, Early Care and Education Office
(302) 735-4241

Evelyn Keating, Associate Director
Delaware Institute for Excellence in Early Childhood, University of Delaware
(302) 831-6522


See all Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care State Examples.

Read more about the project recommendation to Improve Center Ratios and Group Sizes, including research, policy ideas, and links to online resources.

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