February 28, 2017
The Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council is one of several organizations throughout Maryland which supports and advocates for the inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in all facets of the community. Two Maryland EXCELS providers who have contributed to this mission in the area of early child care are family provider Claudia Cabellos, owner of Learning Playland, and center provider Jennifer Dorsey, director of A World of Friends. Both programs were featured in the Council’s Side-by-Side videos demonstrating the nature of inclusive child care.
For Claudia Cabellos, who started her program right after the birth of her third child, early child care quickly became her passion. And, because Claudia worked with a mixed age group of children who had a wide range of skills and needs becoming an inclusive program was “natural.”
“These are not hard steps if you are open to accept(ing) anyone in your life as unique,” she notes.
One step she took is providing great communication to her families to ensure a smooth transition for all. Another helpful step is using referral services provided by Maryland Infants and Toddlers and Child Find. By partnering with these agencies, Claudia is able to give children in her care access to services. Also, she is able to learn from the professionals who visit her program.
Not only does Claudia benefit from the support of referral and community services; she also receives guidance from Maryland EXCELS and her Quality Assurance Specialist, Yvonne Bell. Yvonne provided Claudia with one-on-one Maryland EXCELS assistance. By working with Yvonne on her Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating, Claudia expanded the documentation of her practices and also implemented helpful changes to her program. “The children are the ones who benefit the most with the changes,” Claudia said.
For Jennifer Dorsey, the Owner and Director of A World of Friends, the decision to be inclusive was personal. “My own children are my inspiration. I have a child with special needs,” she states. Her goal was to create a quality, affordable program where children of all abilities are accepted and where they can learn and grow. “You do not have to spend a great deal of money. You have to use your creativity,” she notes.
The Child Care Resource Centers (CCRC) and the Maryland State Child Care Association (MSCCA) are two of Jennifer’s favorite resources for problem solving and brainstorming ideas for her program. On one occasion, her experience at the Baltimore City Child Care Resource Center connected her program with an independent therapy company. A World of Friends is now partnered with this organization to complete free evaluations of the children in her program, in other centers and for family providers in her area.
A helpful tip that both Claudia and Jennifer offer is to create a network with others in early child care. “A fresh set of eyes and a fresh thought may be all you need,” Jennifer said.
Maryland EXCELS wishes to thank both of you for demonstrating what inclusion in early child care is all about!