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College of Health and Human Sciences

Jennifer Francois chosen to spearhead the use of DEC recommended practices for young children with disabilities

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

­­­­Jennifer Francois will serve as a statewide "ambassador" to spearhead use of the DEC Recommended Practices for the care and education of young children with disabilities. Francois, assistant professor of early childhood education, is among 22 newly selected aPRy Ambassadors who are chosen to bring awareness and support to the dissemination and use of the DEC Recommended Practices (RPs) and the associated resources and tools. Ambassadors now reside in 24 states.

“I am so very excited and honored to have been selected as an aRPy Ambassadors and DEC personnel on the dissemination and implementation of the DEC Recommended Practices,” said Francois. “Through my role as an aRPy Ambassador, I hope to create an even greater awareness of the DEC Recommended Practices. I hope to be able to provide training and professional development opportunities that lead to a better understanding of how the DEC RPs connect to the work pre-service and in-service professionals are doing with young children and their families. I believe that a continued focus on workforce development around the DEC RPs will create professionals who are better equipped to incorporate these practices which, in turn, will enhance the lives of children and families.”

The aRPy Ambassador Initiative represents a unique partnership between the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) of the Council for Exceptional Children and the Region B Parent Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) at Parent to Parent of Georgia. The partners contributed to the processes of selecting, preparing and supporting professionals from across the country who act as aRPy Ambassadors.

Through a cooperative agreement with the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education, the ECTA Center developed a suite of free resources and videos – starring the animated spokesperson 'aRPy' for whom the project is named – to help practitioners and families apply these recommended practices to developmental interventions in everyday routines and settings involving children and families.

The ambassadors form an international cohort with knowledge of evidence-based practices, professional development and training, and their state's early childhood services and practitioner networks. Not only will ambassadors collaborate with one another to develop and share strategies and resources, but each will develop and implement goals aimed at improving outcomes for young children and their families.

2016's inaugural group of ambassadors were instrumental in helping to design, document, and make recommendations for supporting this new group of ambassadors to disseminate materials nationally. The group will meet in person with ECTA in April 2020 to receive training and support, including a toolkit to use in their activities.

Francois and her fellow "aRPy Ambassadors" are professionals from organizations, including OSEP funded Parent Training Information Centers, state agencies and universities, who are working on behalf of children with disabilities birth through age 5 under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Francois is an assistant professor of family studies and human services (early childhood education) at Kansas State University. Francois has spent the past 20 years, working in a variety of settings that focus on young children and their families. These include being involved in a longitudinal research grant on children with specific language impairment, serving as an administrator for an early care and education program that served children with disabilities and their families and most currently as a faculty member in the early childhood education program. Her areas of expertise include pre-service teacher preparation in early intervention and early childhood special education, language acquisition, and social and emotional development in young children. She has been actively involved in local and state level organizations that focus on advocacy efforts around young children. These include serving as President for the Kansas DEC and a board member of the Kansas NAEYC. She has also served as a board member of my local Interagency Coordinating Council.

This article was posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, and is filed under Applied Human Sciences, College News.