Four federal agencies - the Office of Child Care, the Office of Head Start, the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, and the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) - have been collaboratively sponsoring Expanding Opportunities since 2005. Each year cross-agency teams from three or four states participate to develop and implement plans with the goal of increasing inclusive opportunities for young children with disabilities to quality early care and education programs and services in their communities, and to make their findings and resources available to other states. The federal partners support the state Expanding Opportunities teams through their technical assistance projects. A brief overview of the Initiative is available: Expanding Opportunities: An Interagency Inclusion Initiative (2010).
Evaluation Summary of the Expanding Opportunities Interagency Inclusion Initiative: Increasing and Enhancing Access, Participation and Supports for All Children in High Quality Inclusive Programs and Services (2011) describes achievements to date in identifying and implementing effective and efficient inclusion strategies in the participating states.
Research has shown that both young children with disabilities and their peers benefit from participating together in programs and community activities. While there has been much progress to assure that children have these opportunities, challenges still exist. Given the complexity of federal, state and local programs and services that touch the lives of children with disabilities, cross-agency planning is an effective mechanism for identifying strategies to address these challenges
Two federal policy forums were held in Washington, DC in 2004 to focus on strategies for including young children with disabilities in community-based settings and activities. These forums included parents, service providers, researchers, federal, state and local administrators, and technical assistance providers. Recommendations from the forums included the creation of a comprehensive, cross-systems approach to inclusion and the bringing together of national-level stakeholders to create and implement a shared vision. Two proceedings documents are available. High Quality Inclusion Opportunities for Preschool-Age Children with Disabilities (2004) and Inclusive Early Care and Education Forum Synthesis (2005).