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Professional Development

Workforce / Professional Development

The department offers a range of programs and supports to providers of early care and education that contribute to the availability of quality services for all Montana  children. This includes support to individual providers who participate in approved training activities, grants to early care and education providers and funds to provide training opportunities. Quality initiatives support early childhood professional development, inclusion of children with disabilities and a statewide network of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies.


Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Stipends

The Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver stipend is designed to support individuals who are caring for infants in licensed child care centers or registered group or family child care homes by:

  1. Encouraging on-going skill enhancement,
  2. Increasing their understanding of child development, and
  3. Providing a $1600 incentive award if the caregiver remains in a stable employment situation for at least 18 months.

How does the program work?

  • After completing 6 months of continuous employment, providing direct care for infants and toddlers in a licensed center or registered child care home, a certified infant toddler caregiver will receive a $300 stipend.
  • After completing 12 months of continuous employment, a certified infant toddler caregiver will receive a $500 stipend.
  • After completing 18 months of continuous employment, a certified infant toddler caregiver will receive an $800 stipend.
  • The stipends are paid directly to the Certified Infant/Toddler caregiver.
  • Participation in the Certified Infant Toddler stipend program entails a commitment by the caregiver to the center or home at which they are employed. If a participant leaves their employment (for any reason) before they have completed the 18-month period for which their stipend was approved, they may not continue in the program or reapply from another facility.

Who is eligible for participation in the Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Stipend Program?

  • Individuals who are certified by the State of Montana as Infant/Toddler caregivers by having completed the Montana Infant Toddler Caregiver Certification 60 hour course; and
  • Working in a licensed child care center or registered group or family child care home; and
  • Providing direct care for infants and toddlers on a regular basis. (Regular basis defined as responsible for a group of infants and/or toddlers on a daily basis for at least 5 hours per day.)

How does one apply to participate in the Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Stipend Program?

  • Applications are sent to caregivers after they successfully complete the Montana Infant Toddler Caregiver Certification 60 hour course.
  • Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Stipends are awarded twice per year (January and July). Applicants will be notified within 30 calendar days of the application due date if their application has been accepted or denied.
  • Stipends are awarded in six-month increments and paid directly to the caregiver. A stipend is paid following the completion of each six-month period and must be requested within 30 calendar days of the end of each six-month period.
  • Applicants must be active members of the Practitioner Registry.

Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential

By completing the 60 hour Montana Infant Toddler Caregiver Education course and the 60 hour Preschool Teacher Education Course that lead to a Montana certificate, you have completed your training requirement for the national Child Development Associate (CDA) credential? Contact the MT Early Childhood Project at 1-800-213-6310 or your local Child Care Resource & Referral Agency for more information on the breakdown of hours from the Certified Infant Toddler Caregiver Education course and the Preschool Teacher Education Course. In addition to completing the required training, there are other steps of the process you will need to complete before you apply for assessment to the Council for Professional Recognition in Washington, D.C. For more information on the CDA Credential, and the criteria to be eligible for an assessment, go to www.cdacouncil.org or read the Early Childhood Project CDA Info Sheet.

Early Childhood Project - Career Development Office

The Early Childhood Services Bureau contracts with the Montana Early Childhood Project (ECP) to manage the state’s early childhood Career Development System. The ECP is dedicated to improving the quality of programs and services for Montana’s young children and their families. The ECP is located at Montana State University-Bozeman in the Department of Health and Human Development. The ECP collaborates with many organizations and associations in Montana to enhance its ability to assist families and promote helpful programs and services statewide. The Early Care & Education Career Development Office is located in the ECP. The Career Development Office manages the practitioner registry, training approval system, statewide training calendar and scholarship programs. The ECP, with help from a statewide advisory board, coordinates Early Care and Education Career Development for Montana. For more information, visit www.mtecp.org.

Higher Education Grants

Higher Education Grants are awarded to University of Montana - Western, Flathead Valley Community College and Dawson Community College to provide Early Childhood courses in regions where this type of training is currently unavailable, or in underserved communities around the state.

University of Montana - Western

UM - Western uses research based information to design adult education programs that produce high quality early childhood professionals. These include:

  • Small class sizes to enhance opportunities for faculty and student interacting and student-to-student interaction
  • A lab with each core early childhood course to assist with application of concepts learned in the higher education classroom
  • Development of a community of learners through the use of a cohort model for the early childhood core coursework (a model where the instructor and students complete 24 credits of early childhood course work together).
  • High quality coursework meeting rigorous national standards. UM-Western is NCATE accredited. This is a voluntary accreditation for teacher education programs.
  • At UM-Western early childhood degrees are designed to be seamless. Students can begin by taking credits that meet the training requirement for the CDA (a national credential). These credits form the core for the Associated in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education. This degree articulates seamlessly into the new Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education.
  • Early childhood courses are designed to meet the needs of working practitioners. Most classes meet in the evenings or are offered on-line. Courses are offered onsite in many locations through out the State of Montana. An EC Rural model is also available. This model combines self-study and weekend intensives.

Flathead Community College

Flathead Community College continues to be highly invested in the success of the Early Childhood Education Program on both the Kalispell and Libby campuses. Coursework has been designed to meet the Revised Guidelines for Profession Development as set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. In addition, the early childhood courses are introducing students to the Montana Early Learning Guidelines, emphasizing the practical implementation of learning standards in all content areas for young children. The program content continues to utilize the Montana Early Care and Education Knowledge Base in course planning and evaluation.

Dawson Community College (DCC)

Dawson Community College continues to provide higher education coursework for early childhood education in regions where this type of training is currently unavailable or in communities that are underserved. These areas include the unserved communities of Glasgow, Malta, Plentywood and Lewistown. They will continue to serve Miles City, Roundup, Baker and Sidney. Dawson Community College Early Childhood Education coursework can lead to an: Associate of Applied Science Degree-AAS (60 credits), Certification (32 credits) or assess to CDA Credential coursework. The Early Childhood Education Program at DCC prepares early childhood professionals in accordance with the Guidelines for Preparation of Early Childhood Professionals for Associate Degree-Granting Institutes and NAEYC Competency Standards. Each student completes the Montana Early Care and Education Knowledge Base Booklet. This is a self-evaluation of skills and competencies learned throughout the Early Childhood Education program this is to be used as an outcomes assessment tool.

Inclusion of Children with Disabilities in Child Care Programs

The challenge of inclusion in child care and other early childhood programs is to provide developmentally appropriate experiences for young children—both with and without disabilities—in nurturing, enriching, and enjoyable environments. Inclusion means more than simply placing children with disabilities in existing programs; it means making every-day-little-kid experiences meaningful. Inclusion recognizes that all children:

  • Are unique individuals
  • Have similarities as well as differences
  • Have strengths and needs
  • Are important members of the group

To offer these quality experiences, child care providers are called upon to make modifications in their programs. Most of these modifications are subtle or small, but they can have significant impact on the children. In order to make these changes, it is necessary to combine the strengths of early childhood professionals—especially their willingness to care for young children with disabilities—with the resources of families and early intervention and special education systems. This approach preserves the value, benefits, and integrity of existing early childhood programs while providing the extra information a provider needs in order to meet the individual challenges a child with disabilities may present. For more information, contact Allison Drake at (406) 444-1400.

Montana Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program (MECAP)

The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has partnered with the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI), in offering a registered Child Care Development Specialist (CCDS) Apprenticeship Program as a strategy for linking high quality, well-trained caregivers with the possibility of increased  compensation, job security and career enhancement opportunities.

The CCDS apprenticeship program is an organized formal system of on-the-job learning under supervision of a qualified mentor at a designated early care facility, supplemented by related technical instruction in which the apprentice “learns by doing” and “earns while he or she learns”.  The program offers a national CCDS certificate that is recognized in all 50 states.

For more information, visit www.mtecp.org.

Professional Development Incentive Award

Standard and Higher Ed PDIA

There are two options for Professional Development Incentive Awards (PDIAs) through the Early Childhood Project. Both require a current certificate with The MT Practitioner Registry to apply. The awards are designed to improve the quality of early care and education for young children and their families through ongoing early childhood training and education.

The Professional Development Incentive Award – Higher Ed promotes early childhood education college coursework, certificate and degree programs.  There are three award opportunities to apply for this award, one in the Fall, one in the Spring and one in the summer.  You may choose from one of two tracks: $400 for the completion of 2-5 credits per semester and $1,000 for the completion of a minimum of 6 credits per semester.  Applicants are awarded on a priority basis if funding is limited.  For more information go to http://mtecp.org/incentives.html#pdia

The Professional Development Incentive Award offers incentives to early childhood practitioners who complete specific tracks of early childhood professional development/training options which are designed to impact the quality of early care and education for young children and their families.  For more information and to view the training tracks, go to http://mtecp.org/incentives.html#pdia

For more information on the standard PDIA and Higher Ed PDIA, please contact the Early Childhood Project at:

Early Childhood Project
Montana State University
P.O. Box 173540
Bozeman, MT 59717
1-800-213-6310 or (406) 994-4746


Infant/Toddler and Preschool PDIA

Individuals that complete the 60-hour Montana Infant Toddler Caregiver Course or the 60-hour Montana Preschool Caregiver Course are eligible for a $500 PDIA award. Individuals must be working a minimum of 15 hours per week in a Montana licensed child care facility.

All training must be approved by the Montana Training Approval System.

For more information on the Infant/Toddler and Preschool PDIA, please contact the Best Beginnings Program Specialist at:

Rhonda Schwenke
P.O. Box 822
Choteau, MT 59422
(406) 466-2325