New Jersey First Steps

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Infant/Toddler Quality Initiative

The NJ First Steps Infant Toddler Initiative, funded by the NJ Department of Human Services, Division of Family Development assists educators of very young children in providing the very best care for infants and toddlers. The New Jersey First Steps Infant/Toddler Initiative has two predominant goals:

  1. To improve the quality of infant/toddler early care across the state
  2. To increase the availability of quality early care programs for families with infants and toddlers

NJ First Steps is for early care providers interested in establishing, improving and expanding services to infants and toddlers. These services include:

  • Professional Development: Topics are delivered by specialized trainers to present best practice standards in infant and toddler brain development. pfp_annual_2014_page_14_image_0001Education enables providers to work toward the NJ Infant/Toddler Credential.
  • Technical Assistance & Consultation: The Infant/Toddler Specialists serve as mentors to new and experienced early educators. Services provided include: telephone and on-site support, site observations, assessments, and development of a plan of action.
  • Resources & Materials: Programs for Parents has a resource library where early care providers can access education in the form of DVDs, videos, equipment and other essential learning materials.
  • Community Partnerships: Community and statewide organizations are stakeholders committed to improving the quality of life and early education for young children. These groups include Child Care Aware of New Jersey (CCANJ), the Coalition of Infant/Toddler Educators (CITE), Professional Impact NJ (PINJ), the NJ Association of Infant Mental Health( NJAIMH), NJ Early Intervention System (NJEIS), health care organizations, higher education, government, business, local school districts, parents and others.

    Question
    Why is NJ First Steps important?AnswerIn New Jersey, at least 50 percent of mothers with children under the age of three are employed outside of the home, and an estimated 12 percent of infants and toddlers attend a regulated child care program. Recent studies such as the Raising the Bar in Infant Care: Helping Teachers Improve Their Qualifications to Work with Infants and Toddlers released by the NJ Infant and Toddler Child Care Initiative of the NJ DHS, Office of Early Care and Education led to a concern with the qualifications of the infant toddler workforce. The “Raising the Bar” study revealed that the state’s infant and toddler child care providers are not prepared to provide high-quality experiences for very young children, our most vulnerable and impressionable population in care. The study found that New Jersey’s infant/toddler providers have inadequate education and limited experience. They also have lower qualifications than their peers working with older children. Forty percent of family child care providers and 50 percent of center staff caring for these children have no formal education beyond high school.QuestionHow do child care providers access the support of NJ First Steps?AnswerYou can benefit from First Steps. The following agencies are serving as the lead for your community:
  • Northern NJ: Programs for Parents, Inc. – 973-744-4050, ext. 1016 [ Visit Web Site ]
  • Central NJ: Community Coordinated Child Care of Union County – 973-923-1433, ext. 108 [ Visit Web Site ]
  • Southern NJ: Southern Regional Child Care Resources, EIRC – 856-582-8282 ext. 145 [ Visit Web Site ]These three lead agencies are working in collaboration with CCANJ, the NJ Division of Family Development, Zero to Three, and a statewide advisory committee to create a statewide system of infant/toddler specialists who will be responsible for providing comprehensive services to aid or enhance the quality of infant/toddler care in licensed centers and registered family child care homes.

For more information contact Cynthia Soete at firststeps@programsforparents.org

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