Episode 9: Kaitlin Northey and Valerie Wood


On this episode of the podcast, CDCI Research Assistant Professor Valerie Wood is joined by early childhood education professor Kaitlin Northey.

Wood and Northey are two of the three authors of a recent study on suspension and expulsion in early childcare education settings across Vermont. They talk about why the study was necessary, what they found, and how comparing Vermont’s data to that of Colorado and Arkansas helped them determine a larger portrait of how suspensions and expulsions in these settings affect Vermont families.

Dr. Northey is an assistant professor of early childhood education in the Education Department in the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont. Dr. Wood is a research assistant professor with the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion.

“…how can you support the social and emotional development of young children when your own wellbeing and life is fraught? Is stressful? Is insecure? Our early childhood educators in Vermont do an exceptional job. They have carried families and children through this pandemic. They have carried our teachers in our teacher prep programs, supported them, mentored them. I mean, these individuals are working so incredibly hard.”

A full transcript of the episode appears below.

Valerie Wood: All right, welcome, Dr. Kaitlin Northey. I am really happy that you can join us for this episode of the CDCI Connects podcast. For the benefit of our listening audience, I am Dr. Valerie Wood. I am the research and evaluation coordinator at the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion or CDCI.

And my research interest is in systems improvements, and this includes the state child welfare system and the state education system. And I’d also like to mention that this project that we’re introducing today was a partnership amongst yourself, myself, and our colleague, Dr. Lori Meyer, who was integral to the project.

So with my introduction done, could you please introduce yourself?

Kaitlin Northey: Sure, so my name is Dr. Kaitlin Northey, and I am an assistant professor of early childhood at the University of Vermont. And my research really focuses on policy implementation and issues pertaining to the early childhood workforce.

Wood: Fabulous. So could you briefly describe the Promoting Inclusion and Exploring Supports or PIES study?

Northey: Yes, well, first it’s important to mention that it was a quality improvement project that was funded by Vermont’s Child Development Division using Preschool Development Birth to Five Grant funding. And I’ll add that I thought it was really impressive that this project grew out of a recognition on behalf of the Child Development Division and Children’s Integrated Services, that there was an issue related to suspension and expulsion of young children from their early education settings.

And I know we’re gonna define the term early education setting later in our conversation, but the fact of the matter was that the state itself said,

“There’s an issue here. And we really want to  understand what’s happening and why it’s happening. What are the drivers of these decisions of suspension and expulsion?”

Wood: I know we both get really passionate about perspectives around that. So what was the goal of the project?

Northey: Our overall goal was really to better understand the supports and services that are available to the young children with specialized health needs in Vermont, to understand what kind of things are here to keep them in school and in their early care
and learning settings.

And we also looked to some other states for some advice about what we could do to help improve.

Wood: That’s great, and you know, when I came into this project, my background isn’t in early childhood development or early education. I came at this from the perspective of disability rights, disability advocacy based on my experience at the Center on Disability and Community Inclusion. And I had no idea until I partnered with you and Dr. Meyer on this project, that there’s wide recognition that this is an issue. That kids as young as two and three are being suspended or expelled from these settings —  public pre-K settings, private education settings.

That, in and of itself, was a little bit mind-boggling to me.

Like what could a two or three year old be doing that’s necessitating that kind of extreme reaction?

Northey: And we also know that it’s an issue within the system. Because it’s not like all children are being suspended and expelled equally. We know that Black children, boys, BIPOC children, children with disabilities — there are certain groups of children that experience higher rates of suspension and expulsion than you would expect to see given their percentage of representation in the overall population. So I think, especially since 2016, this has been a really big focus, even at the federal government level.

But it was really wonderful to see a project like this get funded in Vermont so we could figure out what’s happening here.

Wood: Yes, and thank you for really elevating the portion about disparate impact that some groups are
disproportionately being affected by this problem.

I do want to pause here to define a couple terms. And I know you wanna define a couple terms as well.

So the first term that I’m going to define is specialized health needs. In the framing of our report, we talked about young children. We defined young as birth to six. That was the age group that we’re focused on.

But young children with specialized health needs — that’s a broad term. To break it down, it really means that a person, in this case, a child, requires more care due to a physical, developmental, behavioral, or emotional difference. That’s a lot. There are these different domains. I think it’s important to emphasize there’s a lot of diversity under this umbrella term of specialized health needs And depending on the nature of that specialized health need, the kind of support a child might need in a classroom can look really different.

As a concrete example, a child who has autism will probably need different support than a child who is a wheelchair user. So it’s a broad term in terms of the scope of what we’re looking at under specialized health needs.

Another jargony term that we talked about in our report is multi-tiered systems of support, and this will come up in one of our recommendations. So multi-tiered systems of support — or MTSS as it’s abbreviated — is a term used in the field of education. It’s a framework that helps educators provide academic or behavioral strategies tailored to the needs of students.

And one of the things I learned in this project is that the concept of an MTSS framework grew out of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which was passed by Congress in 2004.

Again, the main point that I found fascinating is the passage of that act really became an impetus to encourage teachers and educators to be more proactive in the classroom? Rather than reactive.

The way I heard it framed into what I viewed is rather than waiting for the child to fail to do anything about it, it’s identifying what
supports the child needs to be successful at the outset. Being proactive instead of reactive. And like a lot of things related to disability, what the literature shows is that the MTSS framework benefits all students, not just the students with disabilities.

Northey: Exactly.

Wood: Great, and then what other terms would you like to define for our listening audience?

Northey: I wanted to talk about ECE because it’s a little acronym that we throw around. It can mean early care in education. It can mean early childhood education. The field defines early childhood education and early childhood and early care in education as really being relevant to ages birth to age eight.

Obviously, part of that continuum crosses into elementary school, right? So when we were thinking about this study and really framing it, we really focused on birth to age six like you said. And we were really looking at the early care in education settings that children were experiencing prior to kindergarten entry.

And so that’s really diverse.

It could be in an early head start classroom, a head start classroom, a childcare at a center, a family based childcare. It could be at a public preschool classroom that’s based out of an elementary school or a school district. I mean, there are a lot of different settings each with their own regulations and qualifications and those types of things.

And so when we think about these children, they’re sometimes in multiple settings, right?

They’re experiencing all different types of interactions with early childhood professionals throughout their early lives.

And so early childhood education, ECE, is a term that might come up when we refer to early childhood. Know that for this study, we were really thinking about birth to age six.

Wood: Great, thank you, that’s so helpful. So the goal of the study was to really investigate what’s happening with young children ages zero to six in these ECE settings related to suspension and expulsion with a focus on children with specialized health needs.

So how did we — in partnership with Child Development Division and Children Integrated Services — how did we go about answering these questions for our study?

Northey: Well, I think the first thing that we started thinking about was what do we know more broadly, right? Which is actually a part that you oversaw was really thinking about the literature. What’s out there? What do we already know? What themes have been shown to be important? And we then started thinking about, “Okay, who in the state would be our key performance?”

We identified state leaders who had different areas of oversight related to ECE settings in Vermont and other early childhood professionals such as providers in Vermont. We also talked to early childhood state leaders and kinda program coordinators
in two other states, in Arkansas and Colorado, to see what are they doing, what’s working well for them, what have they learned, because they were really tackling this as a problem a bit earlier than we were.

Wood: So Dr. Northey, could you say a little bit more about how you landed on Arkansas and Colorado as two other states that
you wanted to look to?

Northey: Yeah, absolutely. So we had reviewed some of the literature about what are states doing, right? What’s going well? What states are kinda being recognized for their efforts?

And because we were interested in looking at this from a state level, there had been other programs that might be city-led programs or regional programs that were also getting kudos as you’d say, but these two kind of rose to the forefront.

It’s important to know that not every state is perfect. But in terms of what we were interested in learning, they really offered great
suggestions and opportunities for us to learn more about their practices.

Wood: That’s great, thank you for sharing a little bit about the thinking behind that. You had mentioned that we conducted a literature review. I’ll just talk a little bit about that piece. The literature review, when you’re looking at doing research, that’s almost the natural starting place. But for me as a person that kinda led the effort on the literature review, it was always in the forefront of my mind that we wanted to ground any recommendations we made to the state of Vermont in the literature to make sure our recommendations were in line with best practices.

Again, going back to the idea that this was a quality improvement study, so I had a really specific purpose to inform systems in Vermont in terms of how they can better meet the needs of children and families with special health needs that are seeking out an early education setting for their child. So that was one of the reasons to do a fairly thorough literature review.

And then the other piece that I took the lead on was I interviewed parents of children with special health needs who had sought out early education settings for their child. And we’ll talk a little bit later about the timing of the study, but in addition to offering the option to be interviewed, because parents in general, everybody is busy, but parents are busy, it worked better to offer a dual option for the collection, for that population to say, you can participate in an interview, or you can participate in an online survey.

And so the bulk of the data that we collected from the parent or family perspective was through the survey results.

Northey: I think that piece was really important because there are some studies that look at how states are functioning and they just look at the state level. And I think what we were really doing is we were looking at it from the state throughout these different levels, right?

From the provider who’s actually overseeing a center to thinking about, well, how are families experiencing this? Right?

And so when we talk about wanting well-coordinated early childhood systems, we want them to work for families, children, and educators. Getting the perspectives of the people that are on the ground being impacted by the suspensions and expulsions of their children was an absolute key and strength to this work. So I applaud all of your efforts that you managed to get those perspectives.

Wood: Well, thank you, yeah. And that’s one of the things I’m really passionate about this project is the fact that we looked at this issue from like a multifaceted perspective, right?

You got to talk to providers and got so much insight into what’s going on with providers because this isn’t a easy decision for anyone, right? Not for the parents on the receiving end, not for the providers who are the ones that need to make those decisions, recognition from state leaders that there’s an issue. So I appreciated that everyone had a shared recognition that this is a problem, but then their identification of what are the drivers of the problem and where do we have kind of an overlap in thinking there.

I think we’ve already started to touch on this, but I would love to move into your thoughts about why was this work important to you?

Northey: Well, I look at policy implementation. I think a lot about the impacts that policies have and I want to understand the nuances of how they’re experienced, right? I wanna know, okay, you have a policy, how does it work for people? What is the who, what, where, why, when, and how of how it’s actually experienced? Because I think even well-intentioned policies can end up having unintended consequences that are felt really significantly by educators and parents and children.

And so thinking about any policy that we pass, I get really excited to see how is it working. What decisions are being made? How does it trickle down into being implemented? Just learning more about it.

And this was a great example of, okay, something is happening in classrooms and settings for young children across the country, but even here in Vermont, how do we learn more about it? What do we know and how can we then design policies to keep children safer, to better support them, to give teachers what they need?

So I was really passionate coming into this about what can this tell us about the system and about policies. How about you?

Wood: Yeah, so I think some of the passions that drove me while we were working on this project was we knew there was a
child care crisis in Vermont. There’s been recognition of that for some time actually, and then layer on top of that, the perspective of parents of a child with a special health need — of which I am one, so I can relate to this issue. And this idea that there’s a childcare crisis, and then finding providers that both are knowledgeable and have the comfort to care for your child, it restricts your options even further.

And I would relate, I live in Chittenden County, so I live in a county that most people would say is fairly well-resourced in this regard and I still encounter that challenge.

Then when we were conducting the study, we had the pandemic, right?

And so lots of childcare centers either like temporarily went on hiatus or many permanently closed. It’s a childcare desert in the way that people talk about food deserts, right?

And fun fact: I actually found a website that you can go to to see if the area that you live is in fact a childcare desert.

So I really wanted to understand for families that have taken that step of finding a provider that can care for their child while they’re either working or attending to their other life needs. And then your child is suspended or expelled. And I wanna recognize a lot of parents go through this experience and they never hear those words.

I’ll talk about that a little more in our discussion, but they’re not labeling these experiences as suspension or expulsion.

But you get to a point where there’s recognition that your child isn’t going to be able to stay in their early care setting. It becomes so much to manage to then find another one when you have all these limiting factors.

So I really wanted to help the state because I think this is a systems problem. So it provides a systems solution. And I heard some of that language echoed in a recent webinar put on by Building Bright Futures, which I know is one of our kinda allies in this work.

So how can we help the state create a systems-level solution for this problem?

Northey: You mentioned a childcare crisis a few times. So when you say it, you’re talking not only about a shortage of actually centers or places for children to go, like the settings themselves or a spot for a child to actually be enrolled. We also have a childcare crisis in terms of staffing, right? So a center might have the space, but they don’t have an educator to actually staff the room. Was there anything else you meant by childcare crisis?

Wood: I think those two pieces cover it. I think on the ground from the family perspective, it’s like, “Can I even find a center that has a capacity to take my child into a classroom?” Right?

And knowing that there are different staffing ratios depending on the age of children, so younger children, you want there to be lower staffing ratios for younger children compared to somewhat older children that are maybe getting ready to move into kindergarten in the next year.

And thank you for raising the other piece which is of the workforce. I know that’s the piece that you’re really passionate about along with policy. How are we preparing the workforce in order to meet the needs that families have, right? It’s like we need more support to do both of those things.

Northey: Yeah, and I think when you said that when we bring specialized health needs into the equation, all of a sudden it gets
a lot more difficult. Because not every setting might be able to meet a child’s needs or their learning needs.

That was something that I came to better understand through this study and this work. I didn’t realize the extent of that and how hard, I mean, I knew it would be difficult for parents, but I just can’t imagine the additional stress that it puts on families.

Wood: Thank you for naming that. I think there is an added stressor there that families are certainly carrying around. So that’s kind of the context of our study. Now, what did we learn?

Northey: We learned a lot because we gathered a lot of data and I think we had the wonderful but difficult task of really piecing it together. Because when you’re trying to understand an early childhood system, it’s really complicated. Because there are these
different settings, sometimes which are overseen by different state agencies and divisions. And so thinking about all of these kind of services together and really focusing on children as the center. Like, “What does this mean for children?” Really helped us.

And I think when we were looking across the data, some themes definitely emerged.

The first one I would say is really informed by a lot of the interviews that we did from Arkansas and Colorado as well, right? Some of their strategies that help them minimize and reduce suspension expulsion actually came down to working together, to actually collaborating and learning about each other’s part of this early childhood system.

And so it’s really inspiring and it also makes it seem like making changes more achievable. Because when we have state leaders who, again, are responsible for their kind of segment of the system, they understand what’s happening in centers and public pre-K classrooms or family childcare. They understand what’s happening for these children and the families and the coaches or the regional supports that are in place.

And so when they understand how their work gets implemented they’re also aware of the political and policy context that come with their work. When we get them to work together at the state level, all the sudden we have kind of all the keys we need to open the doors.

If we can get that collaboration happening in a way that it’s streamlined, well-coordinated systems for families and children and early childhood professionals, all of a sudden, things are working a lot better.

So I would say collaboration was actually one of our really key takeaways is that it’s something kind of simple that can actually strengthen and improve early childhood systems across these different levels and across these different agencies.

I would also then say, obviously, my passion for supporting the early childhood workforce is very well-known already on this podcast.

And so I would say the other biggest takeaway that I had was that it all comes down to the wellbeing of the early childhood workforce.

I think consistently hearing and reminding people that: it is the adults that choose to suspend or expel children. It is the adults that feel overwhelmed or too stressed or too unsupported and under-resourced to actually support children and their families. That was a really big takeaway for me. Because we can often say, well,

“What is this 18-month-old doing that is so egregious that they need to get sent home?”

And it might not be so egregious, right?

So thinking about the wellbeing of the workforce, and we know that their early childhood workforce is notoriously under-compensated, right? When we think about not getting paid enough, the stresses that go along with that.

I personally left working in the K-12 system to work in early childhood and the pay cut that came with that meant that I had to work a part-time job. Thinking about these early childhood educators as doing their best in the moment, but also recognizing that not paying them well means that their lives are pretty stressful and they might not be able to support children with the calm, patience, and compassion that is always needed to kind of get them through those really tough moments.

Wood: Kaitlin, I think you’re raising a really important point here about the wellbeing of the workforce.  I tell my own kids all the time: teachers are people too.

And so it’s really important to remember that we don’t understand the entire scope of their lives. We get these small windows into their day through our children’s experiences and our own experiences with them. And you’re just raising a really important issue.

I know that during the study, as part of the interviews you conducted, a really illuminating story was shared with you, and I was wondering if you could share it with our audience.

Northey: Yeah, so it was actually from one of the states outside of Vermont that I had spoken to. And someone had — she was in charge of kind of a program where they went in to support teachers in helping implement positive behavioral supports for children.

She had gone into the center director’s office and she was just saying, “Goodbye, thanks for a great week. I hope you have a great weekend.” She saw all this camping equipment and she said, “Oh, are you going camping?”

And [the center director said, “Oh no, it’s for some of the teachers. They actually don’t always have reliable places to live.”

And I think just… *sighs*

That coach had said it, but I feel it so deeply. Like how can you support the social and emotional development of young children when your own wellbeing and life is fraught, is stressful, is insecure.

And I think our early childhood educators in Vermont do an exceptional job. They have carried families and children through this pandemic. They have carried our teachers in our teacher prep programs, supported them, mentored them. I mean these individuals are working so incredibly hard. They are well-qualified for their positions and they know children — they’re doing their best.

Teachers deserve to be well-compensated. And so that means fairly compensated for their work. And also receiving benefits.

I think it’s really interesting and problematic that when COVID hit, the COVID-19 pandemic started: higher ed closed, K through 12 closed, and early childhood centers closed for a little bit… but then they really soon opened back up.

And these were some of the educators in our overall education system that are the lowest compensated and the most likely to lack health benefits. And so thinking about what position that puts those educators in, is really tricky.

I also just wanna go back to when we think about teacher wellbeing, which is again supported by the research, right?

We know that stressed-out teachers, teachers that have too many children in a classroom, teachers that are experiencing things in their personal lives, we know that they’re not as able to impact kind of children’s learning and development in the positive ways that we want them to be.

The research supports this, and especially when it comes to suspension and expulsion.

There is a direct correlation between teacher wellbeing and the rates of suspension and expulsion that we see for young children.

So when I wanna think about these teachers as well, I also wanna say they need to be well-qualified. They need to have the training and education to support the children that are in their care. And I think this has come up for us a few times in this conversation — this idea of supporting all children, right?

Children with specialized health needsmight have specific needs. Are the typical early childhood teacher preparation programs preparing those teachers for that?


But they might also need some ongoing professional support, right? Some access to additional training. And the research suggests that if that training can do with meeting children’s specialized needs or — and, I should say, and — the social and emotional development of children that will lower the rates of suspension and expulsion that we see for young children. So it’s really fascinating.

I think I obviously come into this project thinking about the workforce and thinking about policy, but I was really struck by how many of our recommendations really focus and involve educators at the center and thinking about the interpersonal dynamics at the state level, right? That collaboration, the wellbeing of the workforce.

I’m gonna hog the floor while I have it and say that another one of our recommendations focused on a data system.

So, having a data system where multiple entities can contribute, can access that data (obviously in safe and protected ways for children) is really key to, first of all, understanding the suspension and expulsion that’s occurring and into kind of bringing all of our early childhood settings into one space where they can all meet children’s needs. Because a lot of children intersect with different aspects of this system, right?

It is not unusual because of our state UPK system (Universal Pre-Kindergarten) which offers 10 hours of universal pre-kindergarten a week, that a child going to UPK will also go to kind of wraparound care at another center or setting. And maybe another, right? So already you have a child who might be present in multiple systems.

Having a data system in place where all of their information and the supports they’re receiving and past issues that they’ve had can really come together would be really helpful.

And I will just say that Building Bright Futures has been working really hard as kind of a leader in this effort. They actually just released a policy brief or a data brief this past March. It’s really impressive how much they’ve already moved this work forward just since our report was published in March of 2021. And it’s been an ongoing issue in Vermont. So that was really exciting.

I mean, okay, so thinking about the report, what else did we learn, Valerie? Because I have called you before.

Wood: Yeah, yeah. No, all that information, it’s so great to hear from your perspective. And the analogy that came to mind when you were talking about the workforce and making sure that we’re caring for the workforce so that they’re well-prepared to care for our children? As a parent, I’ve heard this so many times: when you’re flying on the plane, put your own oxygen mask on first, because you can’t care for others if you’re not taking care of yourself, right?

I think that’s really applicable in this scenario. What are we asking of our teachers?

And if we’re asking so much of them, are we equipping them with the things they need to feel well-supported?

You talked about looking at salary, looking at benefits, but also looking at professional development opportunities. I think that’s all really important. A couple other lessons that we learned and recommendations that we put forth, were thinking about policies that are inclusion-centered.

So at the top of our conversation, I mentioned IDEA, which is the policy that protects the rights of children with disabilities to get an education. But like so many things, it was an add-on, right? There was already a public education system and then there had to be this push to say, “Well, we need to make sure that the rights of people with disabilities are protected and that they’re having the same access to a free and appropriate education.”

And so in so many conversations about diversity, equity, inclusion, there’s this idea of like flipping the script around to say instead of thinking about equity as an add-on, equity needs to be at the center, right?

And so this case we’re centering equity for children with specialized health needs and their families that love and support them. So what would it look like for Vermont to really take a stance to say, when it comes to early education settings, that’s inclusion-centered.

When I interviewed some of the parents, some of them either in their interviews or in the survey data that I reviewed mentioned that they didn’t even pursue childcare or an early education setting for their child because they had no confidence that there were any providers in their community that could meet the needs of their child.

I think about that. What are we asking of the parents in that situation, right? Are they sacrificing their desire to work? That means the family is bringing in less income. Like, there’s real ramifications when families have to choose between working or staying at home for their child. Again, I wanna recognize diversity of all families. For some families, having a stay-at-home parent is the right choice. And those families should be celebrated.

But it should be a choice, right?

If somebody wants to work, they should be able to figure out within the early childhood system how that can work for their family.

So I think the inclusion-centered piece actually dovetails with what you’re talking about professional development, right? So we might need a lot more professional development opportunities for providers to understand:

  • How do you work with a child that uses a feeding tube?
  • How do you work to set up your center so that it is 100% percent wheelchair accessible?

Knowing that for some of these places, the size of the classroom, that’s your footprint: square footage, you’re paying taxes. There are financial repercussions to say, space the tables out. That means fewer children can fit.

But you’re doing the right thing to say, “We value inclusion and we value all students.”

So I get really excited when I think about the possibility there for policies that are inclusion-centered and that meet the needs of
all children seeking care.

Northey: I think it’s so important though that you’re saying we need these policies that are inclusion-centered and we need the support so they can be implemented, right? We need the extra funding so we can say, “Hey, we have to make a shift in the physical space that we are in.” We need maybe a nurse to come in to help us for a bit. Like we need all of those things, right? We need the policies and we need the supports in place to have a broader infrastructure to actually make sure that we can offer that support.

Wood: Absolutely! Like please, no unfunded mandates. It’s one thing to pass the policy, but if you don’t put any teeth behind it, if you don’t put the financial support behind it, then the burden just either falls on the providers, and in a lot of cases, the story is then that burden gets passed on to the families, right?

So yeah, it’s a systems-level problem that needs a systems-level solution.

Another thing that we learned, and I wanna make sure to give credit to Dr. Lori Meyer here because this was a piece that she really led the investigation that led to this particular recommendation, but conducting additional research on the use of one-on-ones as a support strategy in Vermont’s early care and education system.

And I remember her saying in the presentation that we did together that not all children need a one-on-one, but if our system is missing the less intensive support to those mid-level supports, then one-on-ones become a catchall resource to support children.

So really thinking about, when that’s the only support that’s available to you, how many people are going to gravitate — and I heard this from parents, they’re like, “Well, we were able to access special funding to get our kid a one-on-one support and that was the solution that allowed our child to, the term we would use in from child welfare is to have placement stability within their early education setting.

I think it’s a term that really applies here, right? Because changing schools is a kind of like instability that adds to stress for the child. And it’s a loss of funding for the providers. Like there’s so many impacts when a child is suspended or expelled, or asked to leave a center. But really she is very passionate about this recommendation of saying, a lot of children are accessing one-on-ones that probably could be supported with a less intensive.

So could that be a two-on-one? Or is that having a lower teacher-to-student ratioin classrooms which you reference as part of teacher wellbeing?

Northey: Exactly. Since we’ve done this report, I’ve had quite a few conversations with people about it and I recently was talking to a childcare center director who was trying to estimate the costs involved, but really making safe spaces for children. And she said, “I’ve never suspended or expelled a child.” But that might mean that a child has to be in a classroom with fewer children, which are spots that she’s not able to fill. It might mean that she has to hire someone else to go in as an extra part-time teacher and support. So I think it’s important to also name that center directors and leaders of these settings are already trying to use their own resources as well to solve these problems.

But I mean, it’s just so difficult.

So yeah, more stories are needed to help us really inform the legislature about like, how do we do this? How can we make this better?

Wood: Absolutely. Another one of the recommendations that grew out of Lori’s work on our project was investigating and investing in an early multi-tiered system of support. Vermont already supports the implementation of multi-tiered systems of support in K to 12 schools. So this would just really be broadening the scopeof what they support to say we’re also going to include these early education settings in the policy that supports MTSS systems.

The model that I am most familiar with that falls under the umbrella term of multi-tiered system support is positive behavior interventions and supports or PBIS.

And we have expertise already in the state of Vermont around implementing PBIS. So what could that look like to say we’re also going to include these other settings.

Our outcome was preventing suspension and expulsion. But really, you know, as someone who has worked with the team that implements PBIS in our state, it’s really looking at the holistic health of our student population.

It’s really interesting. This project really helped me understand: schools are a unique community and so why are we excluding early childhood education systems from that, right?

And so really starting to say, it’s a continuum of your educational experiences from birth, from beginning to end. Ideally, I’m an academic, learning never ends. That’s not everyone’s experience. But really, I think the state of Vermont should consider what that would look like in terms of folding in these other settings into best practices that we know support students.

Northey: Yeah, in early childhood, we often talk about a continuum of learning, right? It means building a kind of horizontal alignment, right? Between your head start, public preschool and preschool. And it also means that vertical alignment. So everything that’s happening from infant — from that early head start experience — is going to impact what’s happening later.

So how do we align things? How do we get our standards in order for learning? And how do we get our policies in order to transition? All of these thing that it might seem from one perspective that they are just different systems, but in reality and how children and families experience them and educators in many instances, they’re one system altogether. Ideally, right?

Like we really want to think about these things as being interconnected and honor that interconnection.

Wood: Absolutely. And then the final recommendation that we put into our report to the state of Vermont 9 which we’ve kind of showcased in some of the presentations that we’ve done together as a research team) is creating policies for warm handoffs when families are asked to change childcare providers.

Alright, I’m gonna just be really honest, with you and our listening audience, and say I really hesitated.

That’s a recommendation that grew out of the parent interviews and survey data that I collected as part of the project. They really hesitated to put that in there because really if we are being inclusion-centered, suspension expulsion will never happen. Families are not asked to change childcare provider.

It’s really having a conversation with the family to say this is what’s happening in the classroom, this is what we’re observing in your son or daughter and we want to make a plan with you to figure out what additional supports are needed. So it’s very idealistic, right?

And we’ve talked about, obviously some of the challenges around that. Is it really fair to ask providers to do even more given some of the stressors that we’ve talked about?

But knowing that at least for now, suspension and expulsion may still happen because those options are completely eliminated, at least saying to the family,

“We understand this is really hard to hear. That we are not in a position to adequately support your child at this time. But! Here is someone from…”

Is it children’s integrated services? Is it child development division? There are experts out there that can be invited into those conversations to help the family locate other options. To say here’s a provider who has experience working with us. Or there are no providers that have this expertise, but we are going to provide professional development training, and this person’s willing to take that on.

So in the report I said, no families should be left out in the cold, right? Because that’s what it feels like: ” We can’t care for your child. Goodbye.”

Like suddenly, you’re not the core problem for that childcare, but as a family you’re just left struggling to figure out what do we do next. And it’s really hard.

Northey: Yeah, absolutely. I’m glad you included it.

Wood: Well, thank you. I really was on the fence about it. So those were some of our lessons that we learned, some of the recommendations we made to the state. There were also challenges when we were conducting this study. So what would you like to share?

Northey: Oh, well, let’s go back to January, 2021. What challenges could there possibly have been?I would obviously say that the pandemic presented one of the biggest challenges. I think when you’re designing a study, you are thinking about all the different things that could happen. But I really think that it presented some challenges for us in terms of the time that other people had to give to us, the bandwidth they had to do one extra thing, right?

So I think that we can’t ignore the fact that this data was gathered during COVID and in a very short timeframe, right? I mean…

Wood:  *laughs* Yeah, we had three months.

Northey: Yeah, yeah, we started in January and our report was due at the end of March. And then we can’t just gather the data then write a report. You have to analyze that data. So it was a very quick-paced and maybe grueling experience, but a valuable one. That was a challenge for sure.

Wood: I’m really amazed at the depths of what we were able to learn, right? And I think that speaks to the teamwork that existed between the three of us to highlight what can happen when people are collaborating. So we came into this project with like clear areas of both expertise and passion. And from the outset, it was very clear, the pieces that Lori wanted to take the lead on, that you wanted to take the lead on, that I wanted to take the lead on. And so we were able to just synergize our effort in this really beautiful way that I think continues to feed into some of the discussions we’re hearing at the state level.

The state is really grappling right now with where do they go next with the concept of supporting young children and early childhood education. And I know that Building Bright Futures had an independent research group look at a governance study to say what recommendations will they have and should it all be consolidated under Agency of Education? Should it all be consolidated under Agency of Human Services? Should something new be created?

And I won’t speak to their recommendations because that’s a little bit beyond the focus of our conversation today. But I do think it’s fascinating that I see this as this was like a first step in the state really grappling with this question. (Or maybe not the first step; I think they’ve been grappling with it for some time.) We were able to provide additional insight, both based on research literature and the lived experiences of providers in Vermont, of parents in Vermont about some of the pains that are experienced with the way the system’s currently structured.

Northey: And the system structure as an issue has been well-acknowledged. That study that you’re referencing, the early childhood systems analysis, was actually paid for. The Vermont legislature passed it last year as part of H.171, now Act 45. Recognizing that if we want to improve our early childhood system, we need to improve that structure at the state level.

I think it goes back to our finding about collaboration.

I do think that when you have early childhood living in so many different sectors of the state, it makes data collection a little extra challenging. We were constantly concerned that we were missing a perspective, right? We would be in an interview
and someone would say, “Oh, well, did you talk to this person?”

And we’re like, “No. Yes, let’s talk to that person.”

When we think about like efficiency as part of effectiveness? It is very spread out right now.

And so I think hopefully, the legislature will reflect on that study. But I will say that it made some challenges for data collection and analysis for sure because I think it made us worry that we weren’t getting a full picture and so we ended up doing a lot more interviews than we probably initially thought we would.

Wood: Yeah, I remember in our team meetings, you and Lori just sharing with me when we had our research huddles, so now we have three more people that we need to interview. And really, as a research team, the three of us feeling like to do justice to this work, we can’t exclude these different perspectives. So even inclusion of voice was a guiding principle of the way in which we conducted this study together.

Northey: Yeah, obviously, I’m very interested in state governance structures. It’s like a nerd moment for me. I really love it.

I love thinking about the implications of it, love thinking about how to improve it. I love thinking about all the things. But it was so fascinating and frustrating to be having that experience in our own state.

And then when I’m trying to organize data collection in another state, they’re saying, “Oh sure. Do you wanna talk to all the leaders that interface with this? We all meet once a week. You can come to our meeting. We meet for two hours.”

And being like, “Wait, you’re all there together at once?” So I think just that collaboration aspect, thinking about how people are coming together, thinking about how they’re organized. Yeah.

Wood: I think that’s a great lead in to our next question, which is what do you see as the real world impact of this study?

Northey: Okay, wait, before we get to that, I wanna say a little bit more about the context ’cause I think we mentioned timing as a challenge. You mentioned COVID as a challenge, but with that also, we were in this very rich moment in time where early childhood was really recognized as a profession that is important not just for the wellbeing of children and their future positive outcomes in life and benefits for society, but also a benefit for parents and families. And I think for our overall economy.

Like we were in this really pivotal moment, asking questions about early childhood when actually people were listening and wanting to invest and improve. And there’s been a trend In the United States and internationally to really think about a shift in how we define the purposes of early childhood systems, right? So I think there was this focus on equality for a really long time. Like how do we get people access? We want all people to have access. We want all the children to have access. And that’s where you get some debates in the field about targeted versus universal. Where are things being offered?

There’s been a shift in the past few yearsto really think about the equity of an early childhood system. And so not just about quantity and quality, but also can that system meet children’s diverse needs? Can it provide for children? Can it actually support children in the ways they need to be supported? And so our project came at a time when there are resources behind these efforts, there’s a desire for change. And so I think we’re gonna name the challenges. I also wanna just say like, “Wow, what a moment.” It was incredibly impactful and powerful, which gets me to your question about impact and thinking about, sometimes you work really hard and you write a research report and you submit it, and maybe someone you love and care about reads it, right? Maybe they don’t even read it all the way through.

But this moment in time that we found ourselves, we had people emailing us for this report. “When is it coming out? What are you finding? Okay, if you can send me the report, can you talk to me?”

There’s an interest in getting some improvement effort off the ground. We want to stop this problem.

Head Start is kind of ahead of us because federally, Head Start has said you cannot suspend or expel children from a Head Start program. You have to document all the support you’re giving them. We’ll give you resources. And so again, thinking about the multiple systems that children experience and whether they’re equitable, we want all children to have access to that, right?

And so I would say that one of the first ways that I felt we were having an impact was the conversations that we had with advocates. We were invited to meetings. Lots of meetings. We were invited to talk to people about:

“What do we do with this? We read your report, we love it, we read your recommendations, what do they mean?”

That was really powerful for me. Because I think it’s something that maybe didn’t get a lot of attention.

And so last spring, actually, our report, I think it wasn’t made public until maybe May of 2021. But the Vermont legislature passed Act 35, which said you cannot expel or suspend young children, zero to age eight, from a public setting. Well, we use a mixed delivery approach to early childhood. And so what is public?

You might be a child in a private childcare center, but you get 10 free hours of public pre-K week. And so thinking about the
limitations of that policy, again, while well-intentioned, it left a lot of holes. It left a lot of uncertainties. It left questions. Some of the basic ones being like,

“How are we defining suspension and expulsion? What does that mean for an infant? What does it mean for a toddler? What does it mean in a family childcare setting versus a public pre-K in an elementary setting?”

I think our work raised a lot of questions. And it raised a lot of really valid points in conversations to the point where this passed legislative section. They expanded that law and they said that it is now not okay to suspend or expel children from public or private pre-qualified programs. And Building Bright Futures is going to work with the Agency of Ed and the Child Development Division to really think about not only defining these terms, but really coming up with explicit examples of what they look like in these spaces because they think you’re right. Something you said earlier at the top of this is families don’t always know that their child is being suspended, right?

And you could probably speak to that more than I could, but I do know even when I was a teacher in a childcare center, a parent might get a call saying, “Oh, your child can’t get through their day. Can you come pick them up?”

That is pretty much a suspension unless they have kind of like a fever or something going on.

So thinking about, okay, naming what these things are.

Our work has had an impact, but it’s also benefited from being in this moment in time, nationally and in our state. I’m really curious to see how the momentum of this moment moves forward because we have a lot of efforts right now in Vermont to advance early childhood as a profession, to talk about having a workforce that is well-qualified, well-compensated, and why that is so important. And that directly intersects with what we are talking about in this report, right? And so if we’re going to pass a policy that and update it to say you can’t suspend or expel children, well, great, research tells us that teacher wellbeing is key to that, teacher compensation, key to that, teacher preparation and knowledge, key to that. So we can’t really do one thing without really fixing that system as a whole. And so I think we’ve had an impact and I’m excited to see it continue to have an impact in those ripple effects.

How about you?

Wood: Yeah, thank you for sharing. I wanna go back to the piece about defining the terms suspension and expulsion. So that was kind of how we oriented our goal of this research project, was to understand and provide requisitions to the state around suspension and expulsion of young children to ultimately eliminate, but at least to prevent it, right? And in my both literature review and then in conversations with parents that are sharing, their very personal experiences of their child based system itself, the majority told me or wrote in their survey information, nobody ever used the term suspended or expelled.

So there’s actually a term for that in the literature.

It’s called a soft suspension.

And so what that looks like, right? All right, context setting: most of these families are enrolling their child in an ECE setting because of work considerations, right? But then you’re getting call. Little Johnny did this. Or Little Janie did that, right? And like you said: they are having trouble getting through the day. They’re having trouble maybe self-regulating. We need you to come pick up Little Johnny or Little Janie.

And then you get a call again two days later.

And you get a call again the next day.

It just becomes this pattern where, as the parents, you can no longer rely on your child making it through the day.

When it starts to be disruptive to your ability to fulfill your other responsibilities, whether they’re work-related or again, other life considerations, that’s when actually, most of these conversations around self-suspension is the parents just recognizing, “This particular center or this particular setting, they can’t meet my child’s needs. I’m withdrawing them from care.”

It feels like this gray area that the state’s really going to have to grapple with.

Because on the one hand, the parent isn’t being asked to remove the child, and as someone who went through this, you get the sense that it’s gonna happen and it’s in some ways less painful for you as the parent to be the decider and the agent of change than almost giving that power to someone else to say. Right?

There’s power dynamics there. And who has agency to make those decisions? Is the parent or the provider?

And the child’s kind of caught in the middle.

Northey: Yeah. I wanna add onto that a little bit. I think it’s important that you name those power dynamics, but also just, I imagine as a parent, you wanna drop your child off at a place that can meet their needs and where you feel they’re safe and they’re not just safe, but maybe having a great experience in developing friendships and meaningful relationships with adults and children, and learning about the world.

And you might not feel safe doing that, or you might feel like your child is misunderstood or not valued to the same extent.

Wood: Yes, thank you for naming that. And there definitely was some parents who shared some of that emotionality in their stories with me as part of the project as well.And then we were talking a little bit under challenges, right? The pandemic and that being part of the temporal context for this along with it is a very exciting time in Vermont as Vermont’s kinda asking these questions about where do they situate early childhood education within their state governance system. And I just wanna recognize that when schools, when the K to 12 system went virtual in Vermont, and you’re absolutely right, like many early childhood education settings temporarily shut down.

I was one of those parents that was like, “What am I supposed to do?”

And my kids, they’re all in the public education system now, but I felt the angst of parents of young children so much, and I understood those unfair pressures to our early childhood educators and providers to reopen.

But as a working parent, it was like how am I supposed to get my work done and be all the things. Be parent, be teacher, be special education teacher, be an occupational therapist — I’m gonna name all the things — the physical therapist, the speech language pathologist, the behavior analyst, the therapist.

And then, oh wait, what if somebody in your family actually gets COVID on top?

The pressure that everybody was feeling. But here we’re centering the experiences of parents with young children with special health needs. And children with special health needs, many of them have an underlying condition, so that the risk of getting COVID is scary in a different way than people that do not have an underlying health condition.

So all of these, this is all of the social milieu of what was happening at the time of our study.

So when I think about the real-world impact, I think all of these thoughts lead into, I am grateful that the state of Vermont is paying attention, not just to this issue of suspension and expulsion, but early childhood education more globally, and really trying to figure out what is going to be a better system. And by better, I mean that better meets the needs of Vermonters, of all Vermonters that are seeking to place their child in a safe, fulfilling, nurturing early childhood education system. So yes, it is a really exciting time for the state to be grappling with this question.

We had talked a little bit, earlier, about one part of this study that was looking at how other states are addressing this issue. And so obviously, some of our learnings and recommendations to the state of Vermont drew from these other states, Colorado, Arkansas. Thinking about that, what could Vermont be doing differently?

Northey: Well, I think our recommendations are really strong. I think they reflect a lot of our findings from the data we collected. I think what impressed me about Arkansas and Colorado, just from a philosophical perspective, was that both adopted these adult change models, right? Where they recognized that adults were the people that were choosing to suspend or expel a child. And so they recognized that the adults were actually kind of the lever of change that could make a difference in the children’s lives.

So what they did is they invested in supporting those adults. And so they invested resources and support for educators and families. Like making early childhood mental health consultants more available, having them work with teachers for their own kind of needs as well. Recognizing that that teacher wellbeing is part of how all children in the classroom are going to experience their learning opportunities. It again reinforces why it’s so important to have a well-qualified and well-compensated workforce, but also a well-supported and well-resourced one, right? Like, we need an early childhood system that is well-resourced. We need to know that there are supports available for children that do need them or families that need them.

And I think just what they were doing in terms of their focus, of focusing on the adult really reflected what we had seen in the research about educator stress being related to higher rates of suspension and expulsion.

And it just was very powerful in thinking about we invest in early childhood opportunities kind of as a country and as states because we want these positive long-term outcomes for individuals, for families, for society. We want parents to be able to work. That being said, we placed a lot of emphasis on teachers and educators and early childhood personnel and professionals in making that investment actually produce those outcomes? And I don’t think we’ve actually invested in the way that we need to. We’ve invested a lot of money thinking about making spots available. Right? We also need to think about investing money into teacher compensation. We need to think about investing in the resources that children and educators might need access to. We need to think about making investments in state capacity, right? Our state leaders are doing incredible work. They are understaffed as well, right? Like we’ve had this expansion of early childhood without really this expansion of these other sections of our system.

And so when Colorado and Arkansas talked about really emphasizing the adults and supporting the adults, it made a lot of sense to me. I think it aligned with the research that we found. And I think we can learn a lot from that.

In particular, I think also about, we have this fragmented system in Vermont.

That means that those teachers have access to different professional development opportunities. That means that those teachers have access to or experienced different requirements about what it takes to work in those settings. And so thinking about how we can support the early child workforce overall and help streamline some of those regulations. If we know that it’s important for a teacher to have a bachelor’s degree and experience in early childhood, shouldn’t all children get a teacher with a bachelor’s degree, right? Like, don’t we want that? So thinking about what it will take to make this system work and to really prevent and maybe even do away with suspension and expulsion entirely is a well-resourced, well-supported system with well-compensated and well-qualified teachers.

So yeah, I would say that Arkansas and Colorado, just the philosophy at which they brought to it, that really was evident in all the policies and things that they were doing.

Wood: That’s great. And the phrase I’ve heard you use is adult change models, right? That adults are kinda the drivers of these decisions. And I just wanna add a little bit to what you shared that every time I hear you talk about these concepts,I’m reminded of one of the basic tools I was taught. I’m a social psychologist, and so this comes from child development literature, the idea of co-regulation, right?

My child is losing his cool because he isn’t getting what he wants or for any number of reasons, right? The best way to calm him
down and meet his needs is if I’m calm myself and co-regulate with my child.

And when teachers are in the classroom, they’re obviously not the parent to the child, but they are in a parent-like role, right? We’re asking them to role model for children all these different things around socialization and interpersonal connection. And so this child is  having those experiences that are emotionally hard and leading to what we would call unexpected behaviors. We’re asking the teachers really to step in and co-regulate, but it just goes to your point, like they need to be in a place where they can be calm and feel well-supported if we’re going to make that ask of them.

Northey: And that co-regulation also needs to happen with the parents, right? So those supports going from family and early care setting, like thinking about how you can have one professional or multiple telling you one set of strategies. This is our team and this is how we’re gonna approach it. We’re gonna give you. Here’s how to become a little less reactive. Here’s how to do this. Like what are the great opportunity to help support that child.

And I just wanna say, one of the tensions that’s present in early childhood education is, you said in many ways that the educators are almost acting like parents. Yeah, in a lot of cases, for a lot of children in America, those children’s waking hours are spent with adults outside of their home, right? That’s the reality for a lot of children in America.

Wood: Their days are long, right? Like if I’m working nine to five and I have to commute, pre pandemic, I would be dropping off my kids at their early childhood center as early as 7:30 in the morning. I know people that they needed support and childcare as early as 6:00 AM, right? And then I’m picking them at 5:30 or 6:00 at night.

So their day is actually bigger than my day.

Northey: And you work a traditional day, right? There’s also a whole segment of early care that actually meets parents needs for working overnight shifts. Everybody needs support, but this system needs a little bit more support to get it where we want it to go.

Wood: Yeah, great. So I’m gonna move us into our last question. If we could talk pie in the sky, what would love to happen as a result of this study?

Northey: *sighs deeply* I would like everyone to have a deeper understanding of how policies affect children and families. I think policies can be wonderful. I love policy. But thinking about how it actually gets implemented?

  • How does it get interpreted?
  • How does it get supported and resourced?
  • And how is it experienced?

And that idea that early childhood education plays such an important role in a child’s life that we meet in the functioning of our society, as you have said, now and in the future. When we think about the positive societal returns that are expected we need more data. We need researchers to look at this policy implementation. What is working for which children? You could take a certain lens and really come up with different understandings of how a policy is working, right?

If you’re just saying, “Hey, we invested money. These are the child outcome on their third grade test score.”

You get one slice of understanding.

But if you actually start looking at what’s happening, are all families experiencing that same quality? Are they all experiencing access? Then all of a sudden you start to realize the different perspectives that got missed in that original study, right? And I think that’s something that I really took away from this work. I think especially that idea, we’ve talked a lot in the past few years as a country about how our systems are oppressive. They’re racist. They are designed to maintain and sustain privilege. And the idea that if we wanna disrupt and dismantle those so that we can actually have an equitable system, then we need to look at the people that didn’t make it through the door, or the children that didn’t get to stay in those care situations.

And so my takeaway, I would want people to be thinking about, yeah, let’s invest in the workforce and supporting children. And then also, wow, these policies really matter, and how they’re implemented really matter. So we also need to invest in getting more data and getting more research.

One of the points that I don’t think I made earlier when we were talking about our recommendation for a data system, the other states that I spoke to, they really talked about how difficult it is to get access to data. Because if you are a pre-K in an elementary school and the state says to you, “Please report your suspension and expulsion numbers.” First of all, you need to have a clear definition. But it is likely that you already have access to whatever that system to report those numbers is because you’re part of the elementary public school system.

If you are in a family childcare center, how do you get access to that system? How do you report your numbers? Like are you putting it on a paper airplane and flying it? Like are you emailing it? Who are you emailing it to? What incentive do you have to do so? So the data matters and we need better data and more research.

Wood: Absolutely, and I just wanna go back to the piece you’re raising about equity, because I do think there are so many equity issues that are part of this conversation. So I just wanna take a moment to name that my limited understanding of the history of early education and childcare is that one of the reasons people in those fields are under-compensated is because it’s women’s work, right? It’s a field that women gravitate to because stereotypically, women are seen as a nurturer. I thought about going and becoming a teacher, right? Because I do like being around kids. But it has nothing to do with my gender, it’s about who I am as a person, right?

But this idea that, oh, well, and then you get into some of the other isms, right? Heterosexism: the idea that, oh, well, a woman. She’s probably married to a man, the man’s the primary breadwinner. So she can, quote, afford to make less money, because she’s not the one that the family’s relying on, this is like secondary income.

And that’s just like: a) unfair, and b), that’s part of the dismantling of the system that we’re partly in the throws of.

Northey: And I think another, yeah, you said you’re hinting that, women are born with an innate caretaking skill set, we come in knowing how to do it. I think asking anyone with a newborn baby, and they’ll tell you that it’s not the case. But that idea that it might not be something that people associate with needing specific training for. And that’s the other part that we’re trying to say like,”No, actually you do. You need to understand child development. You need to understand how to build a curriculum. You need to.”

And that just gets to another part of equity in the system and thinking about, “Okay, we want teachers to have bachelor’s degrees.” Which is something we’ve already committed to in the K-12 system, right? We know that it’s associated with outcomes. That’s what we want. How are we going to get our workforce enrolled in programs that work for them, support them to pursue their, advancing their education if they don’t have it, or getting the training they need, there are equity issues built in almost every part of this system.

And I think our quality improvement project hits right in the middle. And it kind of shows, yeah, there’s a lot of things that need attention, but the great news is if you invest here and invest here and invest here, everything will start to get better and then you can invest over. Like there are these — I see it as very hopeful. So I’m hopeful.

Wood: I am too, especially given some of the recent moves that have been made regarding policy in Vermont. I will say, from my perspective, if I’m thinking what would I like to see happen as a result of this study, one of the points I alluded to earlier, but I’ll make it more clearly now, is for me this issue as a working parent, so it’s the hat that I’m wearing right now, of a child with a special health need, this sits at a child with a special health needs’ right to a free and appropriate education and a parent’s right to work.

I said earlier, working or not, it should be a choice. It shouldn’t be something that, because of a flawed system, that choice is taken away from you. So when I think about that, so these systems have been at the societal level or answer to that question. If a single parent wants to work or dual parent scenario, they both want to work, so we’ve created these early education and childcare systems. So in order to center the equity of those two groups of people where their needs overlap and intersect, then we need a system where every childcare and early educator specialist feels like they have the confidence, knowledge, and support they need to care for a young child with any kind of special health need.

So that’s a system I wanna see us building towards too. And that’s when we’ll know we have a system that’s truly inclusive.

Northey: Agree with you, kudos.

Wood: Great, well, thank you so much for your time today, Dr. Northey. A shout out to our colleague, Dr. Lori Meyer. And as we said, this is an exciting time. So hopefully more to come in this area based on hopefully some joint, additional joint research together.

Northey: Yes, I hope so. And if people are wanting to make a difference, Vermont is a state where our legislature right now really would love to hear from you. Contact your elected officials and tell them that this matters.

Wood: Fabulous.


Green Mountain Disability Stories is the monthly podcast of the UVM Center on Disability and Community Inclusion (CDCI). Each episode features a conversation on some aspect of disability, by and with people with disabilities and their families and advocates. The views of guests on the podcast do not necessarily reflect those of the CDCI.

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