Montana: Infant/Toddler Merit Pay and Certified Infant/Toddler Caregiver Stipend
May 22, 2009 | Child Care and Early Education
Infant/Toddler Merit Pay
Montana's Infant Toddler Merit Pay program was developed with the goal of improving the quality of services provided to infants and toddlers by encouraging child care providers and caregivers to participate in additional training. This initiative provides small monetary awards of $500 to individuals who enroll in training on caring for infants/toddlers while working in an early childhood facility. Since its inception in 2002, the Infant/Toddler Merit Pay program has been funded by the infant/toddler earmark portion of Montana's Child Care and Development Block Grant award.
To qualify for the program, eligible individuals must be working at least 15 hours per week in a Montana licensed or registered child care facility. In addition, individuals must also be an active member of the Montana Early Care and Education Practitioner Registry, which tracks professional development among early childhood providers. Both center-based and family child care providers are eligible for the infant/toddler merit pay. However, providers who already hold the Montana Infant/Toddler Caregiver Certification may not participate in the program
Eligible individuals must then complete a 60 hour Montana Infant Toddler training, which is based in part on the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC). During the training, participants receive at least some mentor coaching, including a minimum of two coach visits. Participants may take the training for college credit. While optional, most providers participate in an Infant/Toddler Environmental Rating (ITERS) assessment pre- and post-training. The ITERS assessment identifies program areas, such as language reasoning activities and personal care routines, for quality improvements.
Upon completion of the training, participants are automatically able to receive the infant/toddler merit pay; no formal application is required unlike other Montana merit pay programs. All training has to receive approval from the Montana Early Care and Education Training Approval System. Awards are dependent upon available funding. Since its inception, the infant/toddler merit pay program has been awarded to 179 providers.
Certified Infant/Toddler Caregiver Stipend
Once providers have earned the Montana Infant/Toddler Caregiver Certification, they can apply for a different monetary award called the Certified Infant/Toddler Caregiver Stipend. The Certified Infant/Toddler Caregiver Stipend aims to ensure continuity of care among infants and toddlers in child care settings by creating incentives for infant/toddler providers to stay in their position at a given child care facility. In Section 7.3a of the Montana Child Care Policy Manual, it is noted:"The early interactions between an infant and a primary caregiver are instrumental in shaping the child's brain, laying the foundation for future learning and emotional growth. When that relationship changes frequently or is suddenly discontinued, the development of the child's brain is also interrupted. It is vital that infants and toddlers receive responsive and nurturing care from a knowledgeable caregiver over an extended period."
To retain highly qualified infant/toddler providers, the program gives a stipend of $1,600 to certified Infant/Toddler providers that work at the same licensed or registered care facility for at least 18 consecutive months. Any Montana certified infant/toddler provider who works at least five hours per day during the week may apply for this stipend. This includes both center-based and family child care providers. The provider must directly serve infants and toddlers and be an active member of the Early Care and Education Practitioner Registry. Providers that complete the training for the Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Certificate automatically receive an application for the stipend along with their certificate in the mail. One of the following must be completed in order to obtain a Certified Infant Toddler Certificate:
- A current Infant/Toddler Child Development Associate certification (CDA)
- A current Family Child Care CDA that includes 30 hours of documented infant/toddler coursework
- The complete, four-module Program for Infant/Toddler Caregivers
- The Child Care Development Specialist Apprenticeship
- Associate Degree in Early Childhood/Child Development that includes 30 hours of documented infant/toddler coursework
- Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood/Child Development that includes 30 hours of documented infant/toddler instruction
Certified Infant/Toddler Caregiver Stipends are awarded twice a year on January 1 and July 1. The stipend is paid out in increments every 6 months. To receive the maximum $1,600, a provider must show continuous employment at the same child care place for 18 months beginning the day that the stipend was awarded.
Since the stipend's start in 2005, there has been a decrease in the rate of turnover among infant/toddler providers with very few participants dropping out of the program. The stipend has been awarded to 352 providers. Montana is in the process of re-designing the STAR quality rating system and will incorporate the IT merit pay and the stipend program into specific STAR levels for IT caregivers. The new STAR system will begin field testing in June 2010.
State contact information:
Linda Kjorstad, Best Beginnings Program Officer
Early Childhood Services Bureau, Department of Public Health and Human Services
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