A Mother’s Desperate Search for Inclusive Child Care Services
By Diana MTK Autin
Statewide Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN)
For the past 10 years, the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network of New Jersey has been home to the New Jersey Inclusive Child Care Project. Through this project, we are able to provide on-site training and technical assistance to child care providers to help enhance their capacity to include children with disabilities and special health care needs. We are also able to provide training and telephone technical assistance to families, training to staff of the Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies and community-based family-serving agencies such as members of the Hispanic Directors’ Association, and on-line train-the-trainer sessions on Red Flags in Child Development, Rights of Children with Special Needs and their Families in Child Care, and Family Resources.
Increasingly, the calls we receive from child care providers and families involve young children with challenging behavior. The desperation in the voices of parents as they talk about their children and how they are being treated is painful to hear. But when parents learn about the services and supports we can provide, their rights, and the obligations of child care providers, they are rejuvenated and develop renewed energy and sense of direction on what to do next. One such story exemplifies the importance of providing family supports in addition to helping child care centers with professional development.
The mother of a 5-year old son with autism contacted us because he was experiencing behavior issues at his after-school program. The after-school provider told the mother that she had to provide an aide or her son could not return to the program because he would not follow directions, wandered off, and would not engage with the other children. Her district refused to provide an aide and she did not know what to do next. The mother called around to multiple other agencies and no one could advise her; some did not even return her call. In desperation, she googled “inclusion + child care,” and found SPAN. Our Inclusive Child Care project staff shared information with her about the requirement for child care centers and other public accommodations to provide reasonable accommodations, as well as the training and technical assistance we could offer the after-school program. We talked with her about requesting supports for her child to participate with non-disabled peers in the after-school program, and called the program to explain their obligations and offer our services, including giving them some immediate tips on how to effectively include her child. We shared other resources with her, including Parent to Parent. We are scheduled to go on-site to the after-school program to provide training and technical assistance, and are working with the mother to get the school to build support services for her son during the after-school program. The mother who called us at the end of her rope is now optimistic and building a collaborative team to work with her son during and after school to help him develop more appropriate behaviors and develop friendships with his peers.
The Statewide Parent Advocacy Network is New Jersey’s Family to Family Health Information Center and houses New Jersey chapters of Family Voices and the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health as well as New Jersey Statewide Parent to Parent. To learn more, visit here.