October 6, 2020 Promoting Inclusion in ECE Programs On September 30, the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) released guidance on strategies early learning programs should use to ensure all young children with disabilities and their families have access to high-quality, inclusive programming. About OCDEL issued this announcement to provide guidance on strategies that promote inclusion for all students, set an expectation for high-quality programs to be inclusive of children with disabilities, and identify resources available to local early learning programs. Who Does This Apply To? Effective October 1, 2020, this announcement applies to both federally- and state-funded programs, including Child Care Works, Child Care Certification, Early Head Start, Head Start, Early Intervention, Home Visiting programs, Keystone STARS, Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program, Pennsylvania Pre-K Counts, and Family Centers. Next Steps To promote inclusion, local early learning programs must complete the following actions: 1. In collaboration with program staff and families: develop and implement a written program policy that focuses on actively including young children with disabilities in your early learning program; review and modify existing policies, practices, and procedures to ensure barriers are removed that would prevent children with disabilities from accessing or participating in your early learning program; and develop resources for effective communication between families and program staff to ensure families know the benefits of and their rights related to inclusion. 2. Assess staff competencies and implement professional development, which includes family perspectives, related to inclusion based on the needs of staff and families. 3. Seek assistance from your local Early Learning Resource Center (ELRC) to identify examples of inclusive program policies, structures, and activities to provide models of dissemination and replication throughout Pennsylvania. 4. Develop and strengthen partnerships between your program and Early Intervention programs so that supports and services for children with disabilities can be provided within the daily routines and activities of high-quality early learning programs. 5. Participate in ongoing opportunities for stakeholder input and professional development opportunities on additional OCDEL guidance related to the inclusion of all children. 6. Implement this policy in conjunction with the Announcement, Reduction of Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Programs in Pennsylvania and any additional guidance related to the inclusion of all children. OCDEL’s Support To promote practices that support the inclusion of all young children in early learning programs, OCDEL will complete the following actions: 1. In collaboration with and input from stakeholders and families, OCDEL will: provide high-quality professional development opportunities through The Pennsylvania Key, ELRCs, Professional Development Organizations, and Early Intervention Technical Assistance; identify examples of inclusive program policies, structures, and activities to provide models for dissemination and replication throughout Pennsylvania; and provide written guidelines for implementing inclusion policies. 2. OCDEL will provide individualized support, including on-site coaching and consultation, to OCDEL-funded programs. 3. Through the ELRCs, OCDEL will: identify opportunities for community partnerships to promote inclusion, including partnerships for providing individualized support, professional development, and other capacity-building resources; provide support and guidance to assist child care programs to progress in their Keystone STAR level rating; and support child care programs to understand their vital role in supporting inclusion. More Information For more information, read the full announcement.