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Biden-Harris Administration Announces Updated Resource to Support the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs

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The U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (the Departments) today announced the release of an updated joint-policy statement on supporting the inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs.

The HHS-ED Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs builds upon a statement originally released in 2015 and includes a renewed commitment and urgency, as children with disabilities continue to face barriers accessing and fully participating in inclusive early childhood programs. The statement was updated consistent with a directive to both agencies in President Biden’s Executive Order on Increasing Access to High-Quality Care and Supporting Caregivers.

“Our nation’s youngest learners – including those with disabilities – deserve access to high quality early childhood programs that nurture their potential and provide a strong foundation for future success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Today, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services strengthen our shared commitment to break down barriers for young children with disabilities and Raise the Bar for inclusivity in our early childhood programs.”

“The responsibility to ensure that young children with disabilities and their families are included in high-quality early childhood programs is a shared one. Government, at all levels, early childhood systems, and schools must work together to provide necessary support to parents with their kids,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra. “Today, Secretary Cardona and I reaffirm the federal government’s commitment to our role in this important work. Together, we can ensure every child with disabilities can participate in high-quality early childhood programs.”

Over 61 million adults in the U.S. have a disability, and nearly one out of every six children is estimated to have a developmental delay. The Departments’ shared vision is to build a culture of inclusion for individuals with disabilities beginning at birth, continuing in early childhood programs and schools, and into communities and workplaces.

“Inclusion in high-quality, evidence-based early childhood programs sets the stage for continued inclusion through school years and beyond. Setting high expectations for early inclusion paves the way for children with disabilities to reach their goals and to learn, live, and thrive in school and in their communities,” said Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services Glenna Wright-Gallo.

“All children benefit from inclusive early childhood settings that provide enriching learning experiences. It is incumbent upon leaders, at all levels of government, to work together to ensure that children with disabilities and their families are welcomed and supported in all early childhood settings,” said Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Jeff Hild.

The statement reiterates expectations for inclusive early childhood settings and updates recommendations for state and local agencies that implement Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs, Head Start, childcare, home visiting, preschool, and public schools to increase inclusive early learning opportunities for all children. Additionally, the statement includes evidence-based models and exemplars of inclusion and resources for programs and others to support high-quality individualized programming and inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood programs.

To read the HHS-ED Policy Statement on the Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Early Childhood Programs and to learn more, visit: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/idea-files/policy-statement-inclusion-of-children-with-disabilities-in-early-childhood-programs/.

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