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Indiana's Paths to Quality Recognizes the Unique Developmental Needs of Infants and Toddlers

Jun 26, 2018

Indiana’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), Paths to QUALITY, is a voluntary statewide rating system for early care and education programs.

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It began as a local initiative in the 1990’s and was implemented statewide in 2008 after an evaluation showed that participating providers made significant quality improvements over a 3-year period. Participating providers include licensed child care centers, licensed child care homes, and unlicensed registered child care ministries. Each level of Paths to QUALITY builds on the foundation of the previous one, resulting in significant quality improvements at each stage and in national accreditation at the highest level, 4. Providers must meet all requirements for the previous levels (including those specific to infants and toddlers, if applicable) in order to advance or maintain a level rating.

In 2007, Purdue researchers found that Paths to QUALITY ratings provide trustworthy information about child care quality, when compared to research-validated measures. Providers rated at a level 4 were observed to be providing significantly higher quality care and education when compared with providers at level 1. Purdue researchers have also found that more than 70% of parents report that they would use Paths to QUALITY ratings to guide their childcare decisions, making it an accessible and useful resource for parents in Indiana. Providers in the study reported that they benefited from the public recognition that a high rating provides and from the mentoring they received from the state of Indiana to improve the quality of their center.

Adding to the system’s success is the way in which it differentiates the needs of infants and toddlers from older children by identifying particular requirements that must be met when caring for the youngest children. Specific infant-toddler standards are included at all levels of Paths to QUALITY, in recognition that infants and toddlers have different developmental needs than older children. Infant-toddler indicators cover continuity of care, provider-child interactions, materials, daily schedules, and language and literacy development. In addition, Indiana’s statewide network of Infant Toddler Specialists provides training and individualized technical assistance as needed, including to programs participating in Paths to QUALITY that care for infants and toddlers.

This description of Indiana’s work is highlighted in ZERO TO THREE’s publication A Place to Get Started: Innovation in Infant and Toddler State Policies.

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