Private Organization Accreditation

Heartland for Children is the not-for-profit agency responsible for the foster care system in Polk, Highlands, and Hardee Counties.


Nicole Deprez-Garrity, M.Ed.

Volunteer Roles: Endorser, Lead Endorser

Nicole Deprez-Garrity is a lead After School Endorser based in Germany.
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Early Childhood Education facilitates appropriate child development and ensures the health and safety of children in care.

ECE 8: Caring for Children with Special Needs

The organization considers additional communication, activity, and staffing needs to promote optimal inclusion and development of children with special needs.

Interpretation: Special needs include medical, developmental, social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

Research Note: Early Childhood Education (ECE) programs are required to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA expects ECE programs to eliminate discriminatory admissions policies and practices; individually assess whether a child can be served by the organization with reasonable accommodations; and make reasonable accommodations so a child with disabilities can participate in the program. Reasonable accommodations are those that can be implemented without causing undue hardship to the organization. Examples of reasonable accommodations that can be implemented by an ECE setting include: changing policies and procedures; providing auxiliary services or aids to assist in effective communication with individuals who have speech, hearing, and visual impairments; and removing physical barriers under certain circumstances.

Rating Indicators
All elements or requirements outlined in the standard are evident in practice, as indicated by full implementation of the practices outlined in the Practice standards.
Practices are basically sound but there is room for improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • Minor inconsistencies and not yet fully developed practices are noted, however, these do not significantly impact service quality; or
  • Procedures need strengthening; or
  • With few exceptions procedures are understood by staff and are being used; or
  • For the most part, established timeframes are met; or
  • Proper documentation is the norm and any issues with individual staff members are being addressed through performance evaluations (HR 6.02) and training (TS 2.03); or
  • Active client participation occurs to a considerable extent.
Practice requires significant improvement, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards. Service quality or program functioning may be compromised; e.g.,
  • Procedures and/or case record documentation need significant strengthening; or
  • Procedures are not well-understood or used appropriately; or
  • Timeframes are often missed; or
  • A number of client records are missing important information  or
  • Client participation is inconsistent; or
  • One of the Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.
Implementation of the standard is minimal or there is no evidence of implementation at all, as noted in the ratings for the Practice standards; e.g.,
  • No written procedures, or procedures are clearly inadequate or not being used; or
  • Documentation is routinely incomplete and/or missing; or  
  • Two or more Fundamental Practice Standards received a rating of 3 or 4.

Table of Evidence

Self-Study Evidence On-Site Evidence On-Site Activities
    • A description of services for children with special needs
    • Documentation of training and qualifications for teaching staff who are responsible for children with special needs
    • Resource and referral list for specialized services and supports
    • Interview:
      1. Program director
      2. Relevant personnel
      3. Parents of children with special needs
    • Review child files

  • FP
    ECE 8.01

    Parents of children with special needs receive assistance obtaining and coordinating specialized supports necessary to enroll and keep their child in care.

    Interpretation: Parents may need assistance obtaining suitable transportation, managing logistics, and coordinating services with other providers such as specialized screenings, assessments, and treatments. The amount and type of assistance provided will vary based on the resources available at the organization.

    Research Note: Literature suggests that barriers to the enrollment of children with special needs include a lack of appropriate transportation, cost, challenges in coordinating services, and a lack of teachers that possess the competencies to care for children with special needs.

  • ECE 8.02

    A team approach is used in service planning, care provision, and transition planning.

    Interpretation: The team should include parents, service providers, and teaching staff.

  • ECE 8.03

    Teaching staff and administrators promote the child’s inclusion in activities with other children.

    Interpretation: Whenever the child is attending the program, intervention services and special medical services provided on-site should be integrated, to the greatest extent possible, into the ongoing activities of the group to promote inclusion.

  • ECE 8.04

    Teaching staff who are responsible for working with children with special needs are qualified and trained to meet the specific needs of children in their care, and consultants and other professionals are brought in when necessary.

    Interpretation: The organization must seek out specialized training and support from parents, medical providers, and other specialists as needed. Some medical services should only be provided by qualified medical practitioners. Teaching staff and their supervisors must work with parents and consultants to clarify what activities they are not qualified to take on and seek additional support as needed.

    Interpretation: Appropriate qualifications and training will vary given the needs of the children in care. It can include a combination of education, training, and experience.

    Research Note: Studies show that the greatest barrier to providing inclusive child care is staff that lack specialized training in caring for children with special needs. As a result, organizations that employ teaching staff and supervisors with relevant education, training, and experience tend to provide a more inclusive child care group setting.

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