HDC Spotlight: Maria Blanco, M.Ed.

Maria Blanco, M.Ed. has worked at HDC for 15-years. She designs projects that increase access to quality early learning experiences for young children and families; she supports early childhood staff to implement projects with a high level of excellence; and she represents HDC’s interests, and those of children and families, on state and local policymaking bodies. Maria is currently the Director for the Early Head Start Child Care Partnership (EHS-CCP) and the Director for HDC’s newest program, Inclusive Practices in Early Childhood (IPEC).

IPEC’s primary goal is to build the capacity of early childhood programs to meet the needs of children with disabilities. Maria states, “This can only happen if families and early childhood professionals are inspired to believe that ALL children can and should have access to quality early childhood experiences in their community.” The program was conceived out of the growing need in early childhood programs to effectively include young children with disabilities, as evidenced by the many training and consultation requests HDC received from childcare centers and families. Thus, Maria and Early Childhood Specialist, Katie Rambeau, M. Ed., designed a program to provide professional development, consultation, intensive coaching, and parent education to support the effective inclusion of children with disabilities in early childhood environments. IPEC also supports early childhood programs to implement robust developmental screening procedures, utilize early intervention, and understand early childhood special education systems.

Maria envisions IPEC serving as an inclusion training and technical assistance provider for Ready Start Networks across Louisiana. Her goal for IPEC is to build the capacity of early childhood providers and parents to feel confident and exhibit competence in including all young children in natural environments where they can learn.

Change can be difficult, but it is necessary for growth. In order for us to serve all children well, we need to figure out what needs to change, identity the best tools, and make it happen.

– Maria Blanco, M.Ed.

In fact, HDC early childhood initiatives are making a big impact in our community. This year, Maria and IPEC staff will be monitoring developmental screening and referral for over 400 children and providing disability supports in 23 early learning centers. Combined with EHS-CCP’s robust developmental screening and referral program for infants and toddlers, Maria and her staff will collectively screen more than 600 children this year. Accurate and timely developmental screening is critical to ensure children, families, and providers receive services and supports that are proven to positively impact a young child’s trajectory for a lifetime.

IPEC is also working with private schools in Jefferson Parish and other agencies that work with families, such as TrainingGrounds, to develop screening programs that work for their organization. If you are a parent or work in a school or agency and want additional information, please email earlychildhood@lsuhsc.edu.

Watch Maria talk about your rights in navigating your child’s transition through school

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