Best Care provides professional development for thousands of Arkansas childcare professionals

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LEARNING -- Some 2,000 childcare professionals take part in Best Care training each year. (U of A System Division of Agriculture file photo)

The Best Care training, a professional development course that reaches thousands of Arkansas childcare professionals annually, will be offered virtually and in-person in 2022. Family and consumer science agents with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture plan to conduct 35 Best Care trainings from January to May this year.

“Best Care is an important resource for childcare providers and families because it connects trusted research to the adoption of best practices in early childhood and personal development,” said Rebecca Simon, program associate for Early Childhood and Family Life with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Best Care is offered free statewide through the division’s Cooperative Extension Service in partnership with the Arkansas Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education. The program began in 1997 as a pilot program and has been funded by the Arkansas DCCECE since 1999. The program also receives funding from the Arkansas Department of Education’s Arkansas Better Chance program.

The training provides professional development to about 2,000 childcare professionals annually, Simon said.

“Best Care is designed to bring early childhood professionals training opportunities that keep them up-to-date on subject matter and methods to help them become more effective educators,” Simon said. “Best Care offers ten hours of high quality, research-based training that addresses the four program areas of Family and Consumer Science: child development, consumer economics, health and nutrition.”

Simon explained that Best Care is taught in a multi-county setting, referred to as “clusters,” with 26 clusters throughout the state.

“What is unique about Best Care is that it is offered statewide using the network of county family and consumer science agents, who serve as contacts for their county or cluster’s early childhood training needs,” Simon said. “Childcare providers begin calling their counties in November and December to ask about Best Care training available in their communities because of the long-term success of the program. The curriculum is developed at the state level, but the success of the program is really due to the FCS agents across the state and their reputation at the county level as the ‘go-to’ person for annual training.”

“Best Care can also be a way to network and promote other county programs that would be beneficial to the childcare providers,” she said.

In 2021, Best Care provided professional development to 1,300 early childhood professionals. The course was available in an online format via courses.uada.edu, and it was also provided virtually in three or four multi-county “clusters,” with some classes provided in-person in the late spring and early summer.

This year, four virtual trainings are scheduled, and the rest are slated to be in-person. Moving in-person classes to virtual is decided on as-needed as COVID numbers progress, Simon said.

Best Care training topics for this year include Growing Young Gardeners, Healthy Habits: Nutrition and Fitness Practices, STEAM in Outdoor Learning, Infant Care and Self-Regulation, When Accidents Happen: Basic First Aid, Child Care Prepared: Disaster Preparedness, Music in Early Learning, Making a Clean Sweep, Effective Communication, and Playground Safety.

Anyone interested in Best Care training should contact their local Family and Consumer Science agent at uaex.uada.edu/counties/ for information about upcoming trainings offered in their area. More information about Early Childhood Professional Development opportunities in Arkansas can also be found at uaex.uada.edu/life-skills-wellness/child-care-providers/.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.

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