By Troy Hunter, Director of Research, Evaluation, and Performance, Groundwork Ohio
Follow Troy on LinkedIn
Ohio seeks to invest in children with disabilities as it introduces the Professional Early Childhood Inclusion Credential (PECIC) under the Ohio PROMISE initiative. This credential is an effort to increase inclusion through awareness, knowledge, competence, and confidence of child care professionals for including and meeting the needs of children with disabilities and their families in early childhood spaces.
Ohio’s Children Deserve Better
The inclusion of individuals with disabilities has come a long way from the initial creation of schools in the United States. Children and adults with disabilities have an extensive history of being oppressed, ostracized, and excluded from the rest of society. It wasn’t until 1975 with the initial creation of the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, later reauthorized as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), that children with disabilities had rights and protection to education. However, there are many children in Ohio who have limited access to quality care and deserve better.
“Inclusion is ensuring that everyone, regardless of their abilities, has the opportunity to participate fully in society. This starts with expecting our very young children with disabilities and their families to be welcomed and cared for safely in every environment where they live, play, and learn. It is furthered by allowing our children without disabilities to engage with, learn alongside, and befriend their peers.”
In 2021, Ohio provided disabilities services to 20,802 preschoolers and 16% of total public-school enrollment in Ohio were served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. In 2020-2021, 5.6% of children were receiving Part-C Early Intervention. Children with disabilities are in communities and deserve to have a place where they belong. Setting a foundation for inclusion is critical at a young age for children with and without disabilities. Forty-five percent of White students and an alarming 67% of Black students with disabilities spend less than 80% of their time in a general education classroom as reported by the National Center for Learning Disabilities. Prioritizing the inclusion of children with disabilities at a young age can help promote more children to be included with their peers throughout their educational experience and within their lives. Investing in inclusion early in childhood can help increase inclusive practices as children get older.
House Bill 7 introduces another way for Ohio to invest in children by increasing eligibility for early intervention for children born before 28 weeks of age and increasing funding for early intervention services. In Ohio, 10.3% of children were born preterm which can lead to long term developmental impacts on children.
Call to Action
Early childhood professionals and partners can take the first step toward committing to inclusion in Ohio by applying for the credential. By making this investment in inclusion, providers communicate that it is important to ensure all children have a place and belong in their center. At its core, inclusion means belonging, and belonging is having a meaningful place at the table with peers. Applying for this credential helps pull out a chair and invites children with disabilities to have a seat and feel at home.
To apply for the credential, applicants must have a minimum of a high school diploma or be able to document enrollment or graduation from a Career Technical Education course of study as a high school student. The PECIC is structured in three levels but individuals pursuing the credentials currently can only apply to Level 1. Level 2 and 3 will be available later in 2023. The credential will be initially awarded for two years and then can be renewed for three-year cycles after that. To obtain the credential, applicants must prove successful completion of five core courses:
Making Referrals in Early Childhood Settings (Available on OCCRRA through OhioTrain)
Preschool Special Education 101: Childfind (Available on OCCRRA through OhioTrain)
Responding to Trauma and Supporting Resilience (Available on OCCRRA through OCALI)
This Child, Each Child Will Grow and Learn (Available on OCCRRA through OCALI)
We Can Do This, Right Where We Are (Available on OCCRRA through OCALI)
The advantages of the PECIC expand beyond child care. When professionals are equipped with the tools to create inclusive environments, the benefits extend to all children. Inclusion nurtures empathy, compassion, and understanding among young children, setting the stage to value diversity and respect every individual. Ohio's PROMISE PECIC demonstrates a commitment to inclusion. By prioritizing the needs of children with disabilities and their families, and by equipping child care professionals with the necessary skills and knowledge, Ohio is making the first steps toward a more inclusive society. The PECIC isn’t enough alone to make meaningful change to how we include individuals with disabilities in our community, but it is a tool that can be used to foster a sense of belonging for all children, and all Ohio’s children deserve to belong.
You can go to the OCCRRA page to learn more about the credential and how to apply.
Update: In a letter released on Friday, August 4, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services introduced the Inclusive Child Care Program (ICCP) designation for qualifying programs. Financial support is offered to select ICCP-designated programs, with eligibility requirements based on staff training. One-time payments are provided to programs receiving the ICCP designation, and grandfathered programs with prior experience also receive payments with the first 50 child care programs being eligible for a one-time payment of $15,000 and first 50 Family Child Care home providers being eligible for a one-time payment of $2,500.
The ICCP designation is valid for a year, requiring annual renewal. Additionally, forthcoming funds will further support access to inclusive child care for children with special needs and their families. More information and the application to apply is available here.