NDAD has awarded the fourth $5,000 Faye Gibbens Memorial Grant to Child Care Aware of North Dakota (CCAoND), a training and information hub for child care providers and offers parents customized referrals to licensed child care options.
CCAoND is provided by Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota through a contract with the state. The grant is helping CCAoND to purchase specialized equipment, materials and resources for providers who care for children with special needs or challenging behaviors while participating in the program’s inclusion support service, which offers “best practice” coaching and consultation.
NDAD awards the grant twice annually to an agency or organization to be used for a health, welfare, social service or educational purpose for at-risk populations. The grant award is named for NDAD's late co-founder and longtime program services leader, who died in early 2014.
“We’re just very grateful at Child Care Aware to have these funds,” said Scoti Welder, a CCAoND inclusion specialist. “I’m excited when I visit a provider and they have a concern that I can say, ‘You know, we have this great resource that I can bring to you at your facility that you can use’ – something that will just give the confidence and a bit of knowledge to go further” helping a child with special needs.
An inclusion specialist responds to providers’ requests for support and information regarding caring for children with behavioral concerns, developmental delays or other special needs. Providers observe children with specific needs who often lack the materials or equipment to provide the best possible care for those children.
“All too often we see children with special needs kicked out of child care settings. . . . Sometimes the reason is because the provider just doesn’t have the means to purchase the equipment, materials or resources needed, so unfortunately it is easier to let the child go,” Shonda Wild, child care wellness services manager, wrote in CCAoND’s Gibbens grant application.
NDAD’s help means more children with special needs will “be included in activities that they haven’t been able to be a part of before because they have never had the right equipment.”
Such equipment includes specialized seating devices, utensils and cups, laminators to create visual schedules, weighted blankets, fidget toys and calming tools, adaptive toys, and sensory items, such as “chewelry.” Other resources would include books for providers about caring for children with specific special needs.
With the grant, CCAoND already has purchased several nebulizer machines to help children with asthma or who are getting over conditions such as pneumonia. “It’s something we anticipated some providers can really benefit from, so parents do not have to drag their own machines back and forth,” which can jeopardize those machines’ integrity, Welder said. “Some other pieces of equipment we didn’t want to purchase ahead of time because we wanted some purchases to be able to be specific for a child.”
Child care providers typically lack the financial resources to purchase specialized equipment and materials. The same challenge applies to many parents, particularly when such equipment is left with the provider.
“Providing the child certain equipment or materials increases the ability for the child to learn, to be a part of the typical child care setting and increases the providers’ ability to care for the child with the best practices in mind,” Wild wrote.
“When I work with providers, I tell them, ‘Every child you work with has a special need,’” Welder said. “It’s like the child who goes to sleep only a certain way, so you know you need to rock them, or bounce them. I encourage providers to think of a child with a disability the same way. Whatever their need is, you’re just going to modify for that need.”
Child Care Aware helps families find child care and helps early childhood professionals build their knowledge and skills. Child Care Aware additionally works with North Dakota communities to expand their child care capacity.
Child Care Aware assists more than 5,000 North Dakota families to find child care and trains more than 5,600 early childhood practitioners annually.
The program’s inclusion specialists don’t provide direct services to children, Welder said. “Sometimes I’ll do some modeling with providers, or maybe implementing a picture schedule, those kind of things,” she said. “But it’s more support for the provider who’s going to be working with that child 40-plus hours a week. A lot of teaching and coaching.”