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Belief Statement

In Rhode Island, all children and their families are valued and welcomed as full members of our communities.

We respect and celebrate individual differences and strive to create a sense of belonging for each and every child. We understand that high-quality early care and education programs serve as the essential foundation for the development of all young children, including children with disabilities.

Due to the critical importance of the early childhood years, in September 2015 the U.S. Department of Education along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a Policy Statement on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs.  It is the Departments' position that all young children with disabilities should have access to high-quality inclusive early childhood programs where they are provided with the necessary and individualized supports to meet high expectations.  In alignment with the U.S. Departments, Rhode Island believes that every young child should have the opportunity to participate in a high-quality general education environment.  In addition, we recognize that successful participation requires not only enrollment in a program but specialized instruction designed to assist each child in reaching the goals of the Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards (RIELDS). Effective, evidence-based instruction embedded within the daily classroom routine and individualized to meet each child’s needs is critical to reaching these goals. Rhode Island recognizes the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices as essential guidance to practitioners and families regarding the most effective ways to improve the learning outcomes and promote the development of young children with disabilities, birth through age 5, and to bridge the gap between research and practice.

Rhode Island understands the importance of partnerships among early education programs, families, and specialists that promote high expectations, maximize each child’s potential, and lead to positive outcomes. We discourage the notion that children with disabilities need to be “ready” to be included and welcome our responsibility as educators to support all of our young learners.

In Rhode Island, we recognize Rhode Island’s Workforce Knowledge and Competencies (WKC) for Early Childhood Teachers and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Educators as the essential skills and knowledge for educators who work with young children. These WKCs define what early childhood educators need to know, understand, and be able to do to promote young children's healthy development and learning. Rhode Island is committed to supporting educators in reaching the competencies through formal study, professional development, and technical assistance.

Finally, Rhode Island recognizes federal and state laws and regulations governing the education of individuals with disabilities, including the requirement to support children within the least restrictive environment (LRE). We value more than 30 years of research demonstrating the benefits of inclusive education not only for young children with disabilities but for all children, families, and communities.

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