Relationship-Based Care

Primary Caregiving, Continuity of Care, Small Group Care, Individualized Care, Culturally Responsive Care, and Inclusive Care are the six essential program practices for Relationship-based care

Research tells us that early relationships are key to healthy brain development. These relationships lay the foundation for all future learning and are at the core of quality care for infants and toddlers in group care settings (Sosinsky et al., 2016, p. 3). Anyone involved in providing care to infants and toddlers in group care settings is faced with two primary questions:

1.    How can we develop and strengthen relationships within programs?
2.    How can we design and support child care programs to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for infants and toddlers?

The evidence-based program practices developed by the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) offer a cohesive approach to high-quality care and education for children under age 3 (Program for Infant/Toddler Care, n.d.).  The six essential program practices are primary caregiving, continuity of care, inclusive care, culturally responsive care, small group care, and individualized care. Together they provide a framework for promoting strong relationships that support positive early learning and development outcomes for infants and toddlers.




Relationship-Based Care Microlearning Elements:

How to Use the Relationship-Based Care Recorded Learning Series

States, territories, and Tribes can use these recordings in a variety of ways that best fit within their professional development systems.

  • Build knowledge: Individuals—whether they are technical assistance specialists, coaches, or child care providers in center-based or home-based programs—can view the recordings on demand and engage in the reflection activities.
  • Build understanding: Individuals can view the recordings on demand, engage in the reflection activities, and participate in a state-led discussion group to share their perspectives and reflections.
  • Build implementation skills: Individuals can view the recordings on demand and engage in the reflection activities. The Child Care State Capacity Building Center’s (SCBC) Infant/Toddler Specialist Network (ITSN) can facilitate a peer learning group to share reflections and explore strategies to implement the concepts into their work.
  • Build a professional development system: SCBC’s ITSN can work with your state, territory, or Tribe to consider the best way to embed this series into your existing professional development system.


  • Offer a visual representation of information connected to the Relationship-Based Care topics.

Rationale Papers

  • Offer brief written explanations of information and research connected to the Relationship-Based Care topics.

Child Care Videos and Reflective Questions

  • Filmed in family child care homes and infant/toddler care centers, these video clips give viewers a glimpse into high-quality care in well-planned environments. Reflective questions and comments invite viewers to consider important learning and development that occur through interactions and play, and the role of the caregiver-teacher, who intentionally promotes relationship-based care.

Recorded Learning Series

  • The recorded learning series was developed to introduce anyone working with infants, toddlers, and their families to the relationship-based care practices. These recordings also connect the relationship-based care practices with the Pyramid Model and show how the Infant/Toddler Environment Rating Scales (ITERS) and the Family Child Care Environment Rating Scales (FCCERS) measure relationship-based care practices. States, territories, and Tribes that use all three elements can use these recordings to begin a dialogue and support a basic understanding of the relationship-based care practices, including connections between these concepts, the Pyramid Model, and the ITERS and FCCERS tools. The eight recorded sessions located in this section are designed to be used together. However, you can also use them as stand-alone learning sessions.


Introduction to the Six Essential Program Practices

Social Emotional Development

Primary Caregiving

Small Group Care

Continuity of Care

Individualized Care

Inclusive Care

Culturally Responsive Care


To connect with an Infant Toddler Specialist from the Child Care State Capacity Building Center’s Infant/Toddler Specialist Network please email [email protected]