One of the 2016 YoungStar Evaluation Criteria changes now being implemented in child care programs statewide is the recently added optional point for Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) (Learning Environment and Curriculum, B.1.3), which replaced the Additional Work on a Quality Improvement Plan. YoungStar Technical Consultants (TCs) are working with providers to incorporate this point into their daily practice, or identify what they already have in their program that meets the requirements. The point requirements read as follows, and all 5 must be met to earn the point:
- Written program philosophy includes a statement regarding how the program believes children learn AND how teachers teach, reflecting developmentally appropriate practice. The program philosophy is available to families and staff in the parent handbook and employee handbook.
- Staff provides care that is engaging, comforting, culturally sensitive and compassionate. Interactions must be positive or neutral at best. Teachers use language that the children understand and help children communicate appropriately. Teachers foster relationship building between, teachers and children, and peer to peer.
- Exploration and play for children is supported by the environment. Learning occurs best when opportunities are created in natural and authentic contexts.
- Children have routines and consistent schedules. Teachers adapt schedules and experiences to individual children’s needs within the group setting.
- Reciprocal relationships with families exist between program and families. Programs must make an effort to get to know children’s families.
(*Taken from DCF site, PowerPoint Overview of 2016 Evaluation Criteria)
Mary Sue Voights, a trainer & YoungStar TC with Child Care Resource & Referral, Inc., has already worked with both group and family child care programs on earning the DAP point.
“It’s interesting because I find that family programs have less difficulty with this one,” said Mary Sue, referencing her own experience with DAP thus far. “Family providers work with mixed age groups so they are already used to making the materials and activities available to varying ages and abilities.”
Mary Sue has found ways to make this point more accessible to both group and family programs. She tailored a DAP training to be a one-on-one consultation tool to support individual programs in meeting the specifics of the point, has compiled handouts on DAP and what she calls “DIP” (Developmentally Inappropriate Practices), and uses a video clip about DAP from NAEYC to show providers how they can effectively implement DAP.
An example of this is supporting group centers in incorporating enough free play. Mary Sue reviews the schedule with them and shows them where they might eliminate some of the whole group play activities, instead, “setting up experiences and materials in the centers and then just going through them with the children, playing with them to support their development.”
“Everybody really wants to do the right thing [by incorporating DAP],” noted Mary Sue, “but we have lost sight of what DAP are for children, which is putting play back in and being there, guiding that play with them.”
In working with infants and toddlers, said Mary Sue, this means bringing content back to what is DAP for an age range where children, especially toddlers, appear to be more capable than they actually are emotionally. Understanding DAP means providers know what to expect for typical behavior from the children in their care, and use that to better support each child’s needs.
Carrie J. Steinke, Quality Improvement Specialist at Childcaring, Inc., said that TCs at her agency are also in full swing to support programs in earning the DAP point.
“We are talking about both the DAP and the Family Engagement (FE) points early and often in our work with programs,” said Carrie. “We are encouraging providers and programs to engage with those points by the second TC visit, if at all possible, if they are planning to earn them, because we really need to have a good amount of time to cover all of the details of those points—both in consultation and at rating time.”
Carrie said they are asking programs to look carefully at their current practices to see where changes to policies or procedures could be made to meet the requirements of the point, while still meeting the philosophy of the program and the needs of the children.
“These points; [DAP and FE], are both a nice opportunity to talk with programs about best practice in a new way,” added Carrie.
For more resources on DAP
Developmentally Appropriate Practice Pinterest Board
Recommended Professional Development Library for DAP
Q&A with the editors of Developmentally Appropriate Practice
DAP Frequently Asked Questions
10 Effective DAP Teaching Strategies
The Activity Idea Place:
Developmentally Appropriate Practices with Young Children