Impact Impact: Feature Issue on Early Childhood Education and Children with Disabilities

Sustaining Inclusive Care in Minnesota:
The Center for Inclusive Child Care


Cindy Croft is Director with the Center for Inclusive Child Care, Concordia University, St. Paul, Minnesota

The Center for Inclusive Child Care (CICC) at Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, is a state- and foundation-funded organization whose mission is to create, promote, and support pathways to successful inclusive care for all children in Minnesota. It offers training, consultation, leadership, and administrative support to early care and education providers, school-age care providers, parents, and professionals in the field with the goal of creating and sustaining opportunities for high quality, culturally-responsive inclusive care in which children and their families are supported and nurtured.

The CICC began in 1994 as a statewide training collaborative between the Minnesota Departments of Human Services and Education to bring inclusion training across the state to the early childhood community. Today it offers the following:

  • Online self-study courses on topics ranging from Autism to IDEA; Info Modules, which are short tutorials on over 30 disability subjects; and a Train-the-Trainer Center, which includes chatrooms and discussion boards for online coursework. These are designed for early childhood and school-age professionals and parents, and available through the CICC Web-based Learning Center . While the self-study courses and Info Modules were initially designed for Minnesota, most have disability information that would be useful to practitioners and parents across the country.
  • Workshops for early childhood and school-age care professionals interested in increasing their knowledge and awareness about the needs of children with disabilities and how to include all children in their settings. In addition, CICC offers six train-the-trainer courses throughout the year to individuals who can then present the workshop curriculum to professionals in their own communities.
  • A searchable online database of selected documents and Web sites for parents and professionals on disability topics. The Web site also provides "Ask a Consultant" and "Ask the CICC" features, which enable users to query an inclusion consultant or CICC staff about children they may be serving or other questions about child care, services in their community, or other resources for which they may be searching. These features are available for use within and outside of Minnesota.
  • On-site Inclusion Consultation services to child care providers and parents of children with special needs in order to ensure the successful inclusion and increased retention of children with disabilities and those with challenging behaviors in their community care settings. The CICC has trained consultants who, with parental permission, will work with an early childhood program to examine the environment, programming, and activities; observe the child; and then provide recommendations for strategies and activities so that the best outcomes for the child can be achieved.

The CICC resources have been well-received by child care providers. In an outside evaluation of the CICC training, child care providers overwhelmingly stated that CICC training broadened their knowledge and ability to care for children with special needs and gave them confidence. They also reported that, since the training, they felt more comfortable working with children with disabilities in their childcare. Trainers participating in online train-the-trainer courses have reported 100% satisfaction with the learning platform and curriculum content. In the post-survey for self-study courses, 98% of participants agreed with the statement, "Generally speaking, did this course meet or exceed your expectations?" And through our onsite consultation program the CICC has been able to achieve a 90% retention rate after six months following initial consultations.

Consistent and high quality early childhood settings are important for all children. Children with special needs are often included with great success in many early childhood settings, including child care centers, preschools, and family, friend, and neighbor care, as well as specialized programs like Head Start and early childhood family education classrooms. However, we also know that many children are in inconsistent care. For the past 15 years, our role has been to provide tools to help everyone be successful in the early care and education relationship.