What You Do and Don’t Want to See in an Infant Program

A brightly colored mat on the floor, an unbreakable wall mirror low enough for babies to look at themselves, squishy blocks within reach on low shelves—everything’s so inviting! When you visit a program, how can you tell if it’s also safe and supportive for your baby?

What You Want to See

  • Group size is limited to no more than eight babies, with at least one teacher for every three children. Each infant is assigned to a primary caregiver, allowing for strong bonds to form and so each teacher can get to know a few babies and families very well.
  • Teachers show warmth and support to infants throughout the day; they make eye contact and talk to them about what is going on.
  • Teachers are alert to babies’ cues; they hold infants or move them to a new place or position, giving babies variety in what they can look at and do.
  • Teachers pay close attention and talk and sing with children during routines such as diapering, feeding, and dressing.
  • Teachers talk, sing, and read to babies, enabling infants to become familiar with language and ultimately to recognize words and sounds.
  • Babies eat and sleep when they are most comfortable doing so. Teachers consider infants’ individual preferences for food and styles of eating.
  • Teachers follow standards for health and safety, including proper hand washing to limit the spread of infectious disease.
  • Teachers can see and hear infants at all times.
  • Parents and teachers share children’s activities and development on a daily basis, building mutual understanding and trust. Teachers welcome parents to drop by the home or center at any time.

How to Choose Quality Child Care

What are the hallmarks of quality child care? How do you select a good caregiver? ZERO TO THREE has established some basic principles—discussed below—which define quality care for infants and toddlers.

More and more infants and toddlers are spending time each day in some type of child care setting. All children—especially infants and toddlers—need a child care setting where they can thrive with caregivers who understand how to promote their healthy growth and development. Young children need a schedule that is responsive to their needs, including appropriate stimulation and time to rest. They need to be talked to and played with. They need love and attention. And they need the opportunity to form the kind of comfortable, secure relationship with a caregiver that will nurture their healthy emotional development.

Selecting Quality Child Care

The South Carolina Child Care Resource & Referral Network (SC-CCRRN) is committed to helping parents find the best information on locating quality child care, early childhood resources in their community, information on state licensing requirements, and availability of child care subsidies. It also supports families in making childcare choices for their children to prepare them for school readiness and a bright future.

Choosing child care is one of the most important decisions families make, but all too often they rely on word-of-mouth. Parents are a child’s first and best teachers, but those who care for children when parents can’t be are also extremely important for a child.

When parents know they have left their children in a safe, loving, and stimulating child care environment that they can count on, they don’t have to worry while they are at work. Research shows that when parents know their child is getting the kind of care children need to be happy, healthy, safe, and ready for school they are more productive employees.

Understanding Inclusive Child Care

As different as we are from one another, as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different.”

– Fred “Mister” Rogers

South Carolina strives for quality inclusion that provides and supports high quality, culturally and linguistically responsive inclusion for all children with disabilities and their families. There are good reasons for all children to be cared for together.

  • It is beneficial for all children. Research tells us that regardless of their abilities, children in high-quality child care programs are better prepared to enter school and more likely to develop social and emotional skills.
  • Your professional services are in demand. Most communities need quality, inclusive child care. By providing inclusive child care, you are supporting parents with children with disabilities to work or study or just take time out for themselves.
  • It is the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects people with disabilities from discrimination. The ADA affords people with disabilities the chance to participate in all activities and opportunities of community life, including child care.  Additional information regarding the ADA in Child Care can be found under “Inclusion” resources.  

Everyone benefits from inclusive care. Inclusive child care provides families with greater child care choices, opportunities for their children to learn and make friends, links to community resources and services, contacts with other families in the community, greater awareness and understanding of people with disabilities, and the opportunity to teach their children about individual differences.

Why is high-quality child care important for children with special needs?

Most children, including those with disabilities and special needs, spend some time in a child care environment during early childhood, as well as while attending school.

In a high-quality child care environment, child care providers respond positively to differences in children’s abilities, interests and experiences. Children with and without disabilities develop a greater appreciation of each other and of individual differences.

The focus is on planned developmental activities — individualized or in small groups. The environment provides needed predictability and routine, as well as novelty and stimulation. All inclusive environments allow children to grow and learn physically, emotionally, intellectually and socially alongside his/her peers.

It is important that the teacher and child develop a mutually respectful communication system, building and enhancing understanding and trust and leading to optimal development. Children who participate in high-quality child care programs are better prepared to enter elementary school and are more empowered to maximize their independence and acceptance into society.

All inclusive programs allow children to interact positively, make friends and learn from a diverse group of children in a “natural environment,” as provided for in federal law. Quality inclusive programs program must emphasizes health, nutrition and safety, as well as positive learning experiences.

Children who are cared for together (whether or not they have disabilities):

  • Feel a sense of belonging
  • Have better self-esteem and confidence in their abilities
  • Experience a wide variety of friendships
  • Learn from and share experiences with other children
  • Develop sensitivity towards others
  • Appreciate differences in others and themselves
  • Are encouraged to be resourceful, creative and cooperative

Caring for children with disabilities helps you:

  • Build on your experience and skills
  • Appreciate the differences and unique qualities in all individuals
  • Enhance your child care business through new partnerships
  • Tap into available community resources
  • Strengthen your reputation as a child care professional
  • Demonstrate your belief in equal opportunities and rights for all

Getting Started

Follow these steps to make yours an inclusive child care program:

  1. Check your policies and procedures to make sure they are open and inclusive to all children. Your policies must not screen out children with disabilities.
  2. Remove physical barriers to allow all children to participate. This can be as simple as rearranging a few pieces of furniture.
  3. When you get a call from a parent of a child with disabilities, ask about the child’s specific needs and arrange to meet the child and the parents.
  4. Make decisions about your ability to serve each child on a well- informed, individual basis. Children cannot be excluded from a child care setting simply because they have a disability.

Creating an Inclusive Environment

Inclusive practices create an environment in which children can work and play to their potential and are better able to understand and accept differences among themselves.

  • Use activities and materials that are well organized and accessible to all the children in your care.
  • Make sure there is enough space for children to move around (including children with wheelchairs or other assistive devices).
  • Use furniture and bathroom fixtures that are child size and durable.
  • Encourage each child to join his or her peers. Give children support to join others when it is needed.
  • Treat all children with respect. Don’t assume that children with disabilities can’t understand what you are saying about them to others.
  • Speak clearly when talking to children.
  • When talking to a child, allow time for him/her to respond to requests. Some children may need extra time to respond.
  • Point out strengths and successes of all children. Emphasize similarities among children.
  • Be consistent in routines and interactions.

Additional Resources

Learn more about choosing high-quality child care from the following state partners and national programs. 

ABC Quality is a voluntary rating and improvement program that helps South Carolina parents find high quality child care. 

Child care providers who opt to participate in ABC Quality must demonstrate that they meet, exceed or surpass basic child care standards. The program is administered by the Division of Early Care and Education of the SC Department of Social Services.

Visit http://www.abcquality.org/ to learn more.

South Carolina wants the best for its children and that means ensuring a safe, nurturing environment in which they can grow up healthy and happy. As a parent, one of the most important decisions you will ever make is choosing the right child care (day care), but making this choice can be confusing. That’s why the first step in choosing a quality provider is to look for licensed child care. Licensed child care providers are required to meet the basic health and safety needs of children, undergo background checks, and be inspected by the Department of Social Services (DSS).

Visit http://www.scchildcare.org to learn more.

The Department’s mission is to serve South Carolina by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children and vulnerable adults, helping individuals achieve stability and strengthening families.

Visit https://dss.sc.gov to learn more.

The Center for Parent Information & Resources is your central “Hub” of information and products created for the network of Parent Centers serving families of children with disabilities.

Visit https://www.parentcenterhub.org to learn more.

Information on the Child Care and Development Block Grant, links to other Administration on Children and Families sites and other information within the Department of Health and Human Services, with links to other related child care sites.

Visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/occ to learn more.

Early Head Start is designed to nurture healthy attachments between parent and child (and child and caregiver). Services encompass the full range of a family’s needs from pregnancy through a child’s third birthday.

Visit https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/programs/article/early-head-start-programs to learn more.