The West Virginia Infant/Toddler Professional Development Program (WVIT) began in 2006 with an innovative approach of classroom training combined with on-site technical assistance. Since then, several other programs have been added under the WVIT umbrella.

With this new advanced professional development came the need to organize the State’s Infant/Toddler Specialists housed in the six Child Care Resource and Referral offices. Bringing the Specialists together provided the opportunity for networking, sharing of knowledge and collaboration on additional statewide projects to facilitate improved quality for infants and toddlers in family child care homes, centers and facilities.

The Infant/Toddler Specialists Network (ITSN) developed after the roll-out of WVIT and is coordinated by Joyce Tucker, Early Care and Education Specialist with the Department of Health and Human Resources, Division of Early Care and Education, Quality Initiatives Unit. Annual professional development for the group has included the most current, research-based training available in the field. Specialists are certified in the Program for Infants/Toddlers Care (PITC). Other trainings have included infant massage, Pickler Intensive Institute, Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale, Ages and Stages 3, car seat instillation, and safe sleep.

The next spin-off was the Infant/Toddler Quality Improvement Project known as ITQuIP. After completing the original WVIT 50 hour module training, a caregiver may elect to participate in ITQuIP. This is a year-long commitment involving the caregiver, director and Infant/Toddler Specialist, beginning with an observation using the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scale (ITERS-R) to determine the classroom’s strengths and areas for improvement. The caregiver, director and specialist then create a plan of action to address any health and safety issues brought to light during the ITERS-R observation. The plan of action allows for monthly technical assistance visits by the specialist to assist with areas of improvement through coaching, other trainings, referrals and resources.

The Great Beginnings Infant/Toddler Conference began in 2007. This annual, two day event is specifically designed for directors and caregivers of infants and toddlers who have participated in previous WVIT programs. Plans for this year’s conference are under way and will feature two model rooms; one for infants and one for toddlers. Keynote speaker will again be Keith Pentz who captivated participants with his practical, fun and heart-felt presentations. Attendees at this year’s conference will select from sessions on observation, lesson planning and leadership. A game show style session, Baby Jeopardy, will focus on licensing issues and will surely be entertaining.

In the fall of 2011, WVIT II – Relationship Based Care was piloted in two regions. This training consists of 45 hours of classroom training and a 10-hour practicum that is completed at the participant’s site. The practicum, chosen by the participant, is the piece that brings the training from WVIT I and II to fruition. WVIT II is being offered by Choices Resource and Referral (R&R), Mountain Heart South R&R, Mountain Heart North R&R and Link R&R. In the coming year, the training will also be offered by Child Care Resource Center R&R and Connect R&R.

With the use of ARRA funding, the ITSN facilitated the PITC Directors Academy and the PITC Caregivers Academy presented by Peter Mangione, Director of West Ed – Center for Child and Family Studies in California. PITC’s philosophy of responsive, relationship-based care is deeply embedded in WVIT trainings. During the same time period, the Beginning Together Institute was presented by Linda Brault, also from West Ed. This conference included folks from child care, Early Head Start and WV Birth to Three in a collaborative effort to shed new light on inclusive practice.

A two year long process ended in the fall of 2010 with the publication of West Virginia’s Early Learning Standards Framework for Infants and Toddlers. This effort was led by the ITSN and included folks from Early Head Start, WV Birth to Three, higher education representatives, Starting Points, ACDS, child care and the Division of Early Care and Education. The ELSF for Infants/Toddlers is available through each R&R agency and can be found on line at www.earlychildhood.org under publications.
In 2012 the ITSN developed criteria for selecting developmentally appropriate curricula for infants and toddlers. Working with EHS, the group reviewed many curricula and found two that met the rigorous criteria. Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers and Twos along with High Scope’s Tender Care and Early Learning became West Virginia’s approved curricula for participating in WV’s Tiered Reimbursement program.
Most recently, a two day conference was held providing an in-depth look at how to implement Creative Curriculum for Infants, Toddlers and Twos. Presenter, Donna Fowler from Teaching Strategies, offered insights on navigating the curriculum and solutions for individual situations. Ms. Fowler will return in September for follow-up sessions during Great Beginnings.
Watch for innovative new professional development opportunities from the ITSN coming soon. Hope to see you at the 6th annual Great Beginnings Infant/Toddler Conference, Sept. 13th and 14th at the Charleston Civic Center.