California: Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC)
May 22, 2009 | Child Care and Early Education
In 1985, the Child Development Division of the California Department of Education became concerned about the quality of infant and toddler care and the lack of specialized training and materials for caregivers of children under age three. With initial funding of $400,000, through a competitive process the state selected WestEd (then called the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development) to create the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC), a collaboration now in its third decade.
PITC is a comprehensive multi-media training of trainers initiative that uses a relationship-based approach to early care and is grounded in extensive developmental research on children from birth to three. There are six key program policies at the heart of the PITC approach: primary care; small groups; continuity of care; individualized care; cultural responsiveness; and, inclusion of children with special needs. The training can be used with center and family child care providers, and has been extended to family, friend, and neighbor caregivers in several locations. After completing PITC training of trainers, participants can be certified as trainers in the module(s) they have done.
In California, PITC's state-funded Partners for Quality supports fifteen Infant/Toddler Specialist Coordinators who work with a network of certified PITC Infant/Toddler Specialists to provide training, coaching, mentoring and reflective action planning to infant/toddler providers. Any child care center is eligible to apply for PITC training and mentoring, provided it commits to the participation of at least five center staff members, including the center administrator. In addition, an organization may apply on behalf of groups of between five and ten licensed family child care providers or license-exempt caregivers. Over the last eight years, WestEd estimates that 155,908 infants and toddlers have benefited from the regional support services of Partners for Quality and 38,500 center-based infant care teachers and family child care providers have benefited from PITC training.
PITC also works with California's community colleges to integrate the PITC approach into their coursework and has selected five community colleges to demonstrate PITC in practice at their child development centers.
California's 2008-2009 Child Care and Development Fund State Plan continues to provide more than $6 million annually from its infant-toddler set-aside to fund PITC training of trainers, Partners for Quality, and demonstration programs. The California Department of Education has also identified PITC as the training and technical assistance element of its Infant Toddler Learning & Development Foundations, which describe evidence-based expectations for the way most infants and toddlers make progress in the major domains of learning and development: social-emotional, cognitive, language, and motor/perceptual development. PITC staff also helped develop the California Department of Education's Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Program Guidelines, which provide specific policies and practices for programs seeking to implement high quality care. The principles and practices of PITC are evident throughout these standards. The depth and span of PITC's reach in California contributed to the creation of a common vocabulary and expression of shared values that facilitated the adoption of these state resources. PITC is now in the process of integrating the new foundations and program guidelines into its training activities.
PITC has grown far beyond its California origins. Sixteen other states and the Migrant and Early Head Start programs have implemented PITC institutes over the past several years. WestEd estimates that nationally more than 100,000 trainers and caregivers have benefited from PITC training.
The U.S. Department of Education has funded a four-year evaluation of PITC's impact on child care quality and on children's development, particularly on children's language, cognitive, and social skills that are closely associated with school readiness. Led by Berkeley Planning Associates, the evaluation team will use a cluster-based random assignment design, with a sample of 240 Southern California and Arizona child care programs (150 family child care homes and 90 centers) and approximately 1,000 children under the age of three. The evaluation's study period will conclude in 2010.
 Douglas R. Powell, Who's Watching the Babies? ZERO TO THREE Press, 2008, p. 59-75.
Tom Cole, Child Development Consultant
Child Development Division, California Department of Education
Sheila Signer, Center for Child & Family Studies Communications Manager
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