Successful Family Conferences

When working with young children, establishing a process to communicate with families is critical. Scheduled conferences are an excellent opportunity to have in-depth individualized discussions about a child’s development and growth as a learner.

Please refer to the Maryland EXCELS Toolkit for TIPS on how to prepare for and conduct successful conferences with families

Maryland EXCELS Payments

Maryland EXCELS payments reward your program for providing high-quality services to families using Child Care Scholarship. At Maryland EXCELS Quality Ratings 3, 4, and 5, your program will receive increased reimbursement amounts ranging from 10% to 44% based on the age of the child, the type of care, and your program’s quality rating. 

The chart below shows the percentage of payments to programs. On the Invoice Detail Report, Maryland EXCELS Payments are shown as “EXCELS” payments for each child.

Maryland EXCELS Payments Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating
Level 3 Level 4 Level 5
Family Child Care

Under 2 years of age

11% 22% 29%

2 years of age and over

10% 21% 28%
Child Care Center

Under 2 years of age

22% 37% 44%

2 years of age and over

10% 19% 26%


Developing an Inclusion Policy

Child care providers play an important role in the lives of young children and their families and promoting inclusion in your program is good for everyone.  In an inclusive program, children with and without special needs have access to and participate in the same routines, play, and learning experiences as all other children.  Inclusive practices within a program can provide peer role models, allow for opportunities to practice and teach new skills, create a level of comfort in a more diverse community and demonstrate compassion. In an inclusive program, the unique needs of children with special health care needs or disabilities are recognized and addressed. 

To learn more about developing an inclusion policy for your family handbook, please visit the Maryland EXCELS Toolkit.

Recognized Accrediting Organizations

Accreditation is a method by which a program demonstrates to an outside organization or agency that the program is meeting the quality standards set by that organization. The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) recognizes national accrediting organizations as aligning with the overall mission and high standards for early childhood, public prekindergarten and school-age child care programs. Quality Assurance Specialists offer guidance and support to programs seeking accreditation. Additionally, the Accreditation Support Fund is available to assist programs with the cost of national accreditation fees and reimbursement of expenses related to Maryland Accreditation.

To recognize the importance of meeting and demonstrating standards at this highest level of quality, Maryland EXCELS participating programs must achieve accreditation in order to reach a Quality Rating 5. In addition, accredited programs entering Maryland EXCELS will receive credit for requirements already demonstrated to the accrediting organization.

Recognized Accrediting Organizations

Child Care Centers

Family and Large Family Child Care Homes

School-Age Only Programs

Public Prekindergarten Programs

Updated: September 2023

Inclusive Practices

Quality programs provide nurturing, developmentally appropriate environments where children can grow and learn. All children benefit from participating in programs that emphasize being responsive to individual strengths and needs, a hallmark feature of inclusive practices.

Definition and Benefits

Inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every child and their family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children, with and without disabilities, and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. Access, participation, and support are the defining features of inclusion often used to identify high-quality child care and education programs. (Adapted from: DEC/NAEYC. [2009]. Early childhood inclusion: A joint position statement of the Division for Early Childhood [DEC] and the National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC]. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina, FPG Child Development Institute.)

In an inclusive program, children with and without disabilities can access the same routines, play, and learning experiences. Providers in inclusive programs learn to recognize children as individuals with unique strengths, needs, abilities, and interests. They continually make creative accommodations and modifications to routines, play, and learning activities so that each child benefits from participation.

In addition to provisions addressing access and participation, an infrastructure of systems-level support must be in place within a program to reinforce the providers’ efforts in caring for and teaching children with a wide range of needs.

The Maryland State Department of Education is dedicated to making high-quality child care and education programs accessible to all children. Therefore, Maryland EXCELS directly incorporates quality aspects related to inclusion. 

High-quality programs:

  • Promote open lines of communication and collaboration among all partners and stakeholders involved in children’s lives, including working with early intervention or special education service providers to support positive child and family outcomes;
  • Have written policies on their philosophy or mission and practices regarding the inclusion of children with disabilities, special health care needs, challenging behaviors, or all mentioned;
  • Make specific professional development efforts to increase provider preparedness to care for children with diverse needs;
  • Employ developmentally- and age-appropriate practices that are responsive to children’s individual needs; and
  • Monitor each child’s progress using valid and reliable developmental screening and assessment methods, and share this information with families.

What are the benefits of inclusion?

Children who participate in inclusive care and education programs benefit by:

  • Experiencing a sense of belonging and community;
  • Developing friendships with a diverse range of children;
  • Learning from other children through modeling and interactions;
  • Developing sensitivity and understanding for and of people’s differences; and
  • Having positive self-concepts.

Providers who adopt and implement inclusive policies and practices benefit by:

  • Improving knowledge of child development;
  • Learning about helpful resources and services;
  • Enhancing relationships with families and community partners;
  • Understanding and valuing individual differences; and
  • Strengthening their reputation in the community by demonstrating a belief in equality.

What are accommodations?

Accommodations are changes in how a child receives support in accessing information and participating in routine, play, and/or learning experiences with other children. Accommodations do not substantially change an activity’s content, materials, or performance criteria.

Accommodations can include changes in the following:

  • Presentation format
  • Child response requirements/expectations
  • Time/scheduling
  • Environment
  • Equipment

What are modifications?

Modifications are changes made to what a child is experiencing. Modifications ensure a child has equal opportunities to participate meaningfully and productively with other children in routine, play, and learning experiences or in all three areas. However, the expected outcome of their participation is different.

Modifications include changes in the following:

  • Content/materials
  • Level of difficulty
  • Performance criteria

Professional Development and Technical Assistance

Providers may be concerned if they possess the necessary knowledge and skills to work with children with disabilities and other special needs. Accessing and utilizing appropriate information and training is essential to addressing such concerns. Parents and family members are a primary source of information regarding how to best care for and support their children in care and education settings. Various professional development opportunities and resources are also available to help prepare providers to work with children with diverse needs. Your MSDE Quality Assurance Specialist (QAS) or the Maryland Family Network can assist programs with locating professional development and technical assistance opportunities.

Support Team Contact Information

Program Coordinator Contact Information

Quality Assurance Specialist Contact Information

Find Your Child Care Resource Center

24/7 Technology Support

In general, we encourage programs and providers to seek help from

Program Coordinators when you need:

  • Brief help navigating the Maryland EXCELS System and this assistance can be provided over the phone or via email;
  • Guidance on the standards, documentation and Additional Achievements;
  • Documents you have uploaded to be reviewed and rated; and
  • To give feedback about the standards, website, or the online system.

Quality Assurance Specialists when you need:

  • Face to face, on-site, or telephone/email support with the system, standards, or evidence including assistance with registering for Maryland EXCELS;
  • Assistance with other MSDE initiatives such as: Maryland Accreditation, credential applications, CLASS/Maryland EXCELS Assessments, etc.;
  • Assistance with scanning, uploading documents, and/or computer use; or
  • Training or support related to Maryland EXCELS.

NOTE: Quality Assurance Specialists also conduct Continuous Quality Improvement Visits to published programs to verify implementation of Maryland EXCELS standards. QASs also provide follow up and technical assistance related to Continuous Quality Improvement Visit observations.

Child Care Resource Centers when you need:

  • Assistance with Maryland Child Care Credential applications, accreditation, etc.;
  • Assistance with scanning, uploading documents, and/or computer use;
  • Approved professional development;
  • Support and technical assistance related to licensing regulations;
  • Early Childhood Mental Health and Behavior Consultation assistance; or
  • Program improvement such as room arrangement.

24/7 Technology Support when you need:

  • Assistance using the Maryland EXCELS System, such as resetting a password;
  • Support with technology, such as Microsoft applications, tablets, etc.


Updated: March 2024