CITRUS COLLEGE


Citrus College is located in Glendora, about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. It is the oldest community college in Los Angeles County and the fifth oldest in the state, serving the communities of Azusa, Bradbury, Claremont, Duarte, Glendora and Monrovia.

The largest of the original PITC Demonstration Programs, Citrus Children’s Center cares for over 400 children from 6 months to 5 years of age, approximately 90 of them in the Infant Center. The center began caring for infants in the 1970’s and became a PITC Demonstration Program in 1999. The majority of parents are college students, and about one-third of them are college faculty, center staff, or community members.  

A priority at the Children’s Center is to serve low-income college families, promoting access to higher education for the parents by providing safe nurturing care for their children.

A tour of the Citrus Infant Care Center gives an overview of the program and shows that it’s the relationships that matter!

THE LAYOUT
In becoming a PITC Demonstration Program, Citrus sought to create a more intimate care setting for the infants and toddlers. As a large program, it had to rethink how children were grouped and how they moved through the program. The indoor and outdoor environments had to change and so did some program policies and practices.

Prior to changes in the environment the old floor plan consisted of four infant toddler classrooms and their adjacent napping areas. Room 1 served the youngest infants, Room 2 the next age level, Room 3 the next age level, and Room 4 the oldest group. Children moved from room to room about every six to nine months.

The first priority in changing the environment was to create rooms that served children for longer periods of time, to minimize the number of changes they experienced. The new space made it possible to implement the PITC policy of Continuity of Care. There are now 6 rooms total: two rooms are for infants 0-18 months, four for children 18-36 months (2 of the rooms for the older children are located in the “cottage” not shown in this floor plan).

As part of the physical changes, some of the napping space behind rooms 2 and 3 was converted to add the observation room, which is used by students, staff, and visitors to the PITC demonstration program. In order for children to be in small groups both indoors and outdoors, the yard was divided into separate and protected play areas for each group. As the new floor plan shows, an administrative office was added. An existing relocatable classroom was also incorporated into the Infant Center and called “the Cottage.” For intimacy, a wall was built to divide the cottage space into two smaller groups of children rather than one large shared space.

In the redesigned Center, children have space where they can feel safe, comfortable, and connected with a small number of adults and children. Staying together in a small group is a critical part of the PITC philosophy that this program has worked to demonstrate.  

THE NEW OBSERVATION ROOM
Staff training, observation, and documentation are important parts of the PITC philosophy and the program at Citrus. To support ongoing staff training and observation without interrupting children, an observation room with cameras and monitors was added during the renovation. There are regularly scheduled staff meetings to discuss topics such as observations of children, curriculum plans, and professional growth.

“It (the observation room) has been a wonderful addition for both students and staff. Students come into the classroom as knowledgeable infant/toddler care teachers, familiar with the environment and staff. Students are also required to attend on going training once a month that staff also participates in, which give the whole team a chance to be together and receive the same training”
Center Director

PITC POLICIES IN ACTION

In addition to changes to the physical environment, several core PITC program policies were implemented. Putting into action the policies of primary care assignments, continuity of care, small groups, and individualized schedules and routines helped create a climate for care that reinforces a responsive, relationship-based approach. The policies allow relationships to develop and deepen over time between infant/toddler care teachers and the children as well as between infant/toddler care teachers and the children’s families. The policies also enable staff to form strong work partnerships. The benefits of the close relationships can be seen in the day-to-day interactions between the infant/toddler care teachers and children.

INCLUSION
About 5% of the children enrolled in the Infant Center have been identified as having or at risk of a developmental delay. The Infant Center has worked in partnership with the local San Gabriel Valley Regional Center to provide support services to children with disabilities and their families. A speech and language therapist and an occupational therapist are on staff at the program each week to provide consultation. Primary infant/toddler care teachers attend appointments at the Regional Center with families to provide support as well as learn about a child’s service plan. Including infants with special needs and creating a healthy environment in which all children belong reflects both the PITC and the Citrus Infant Care Center Philosophy.

PRIMARY CARE & SMALL GROUPS
When children are enrolled in the program, they are assigned to primary infant/toddler care teachers, a process that begins with a parent-teacher intake meeting. During this initial interview with the parent, the teacher gathers information on the child’s routines, home language, temperament, and other pertinent family information. The family is then encouraged to visit the program several times before the child starts. These visits give the child, infant/toddler care teacher, and parent a chance to become familiar with one another. The teacher determines the best primary infant/toddler care teacher match for each child based on family needs, home language(s), the child’s temperament, and staff schedules. Each primary infant/toddler care teacher is matched with a small group of children with whom they will create a special relationship. This infant/toddler care teacher will be primarily responsible for the care of all of the children in the small group, carrying out daily routines, documenting their development, and communicating with the parents. Because the rooms accommodate slightly more children than recommended by PITC, the infant/toddler care teacher teams actively look for ways to reduce the total group size, including allowing an indoor outdoor flow that helps divide the group.

CONTINUITY OF CARE
The children and primary infant/toddler care teachers stay together from enrollment in the infant program until the child is 3 years old. A primary group of children and a infant/toddler care teacher moves only one time to a classroom for older children during their enrollment in the infant/toddler program. As the oldest children in the Center transition to the preschool program, along with one or two familiar infant/toddler care teachers, their classroom becomes available for a group of children who are ready to move from one of the rooms for younger infants to the 18-36 month old room. This transition opens up an empty classroom for newly enrolled young infants. If for any reason a child leaves the infant program, the space is filled with a child of a similar age. This practice maintains the age groupings in each room and allows for continuity of care.

CULTURE & FAMILY
A goal shared by the PITC and the Citrus Infant Center is to create an environment that is as close to home as possible for the children in the program. Families at the Center represent many different cultures. Roughly 60% of them are single parent families, primarily headed by a female. infant/toddler care teachers help make meaningful connections between the child care program and the child’s family and culture. Making home visits, communicating in the home language, inviting parents into the program for special events and everyday routines, and bringing in photos and artifacts from the families are some of the ways that culture and family are honored at Citrus. Staff training and self-awareness are also important ways that Citrus explores the impact of culture and family in their practices. The PITC forms the core of the training on strategies to strengthen each child’s developing family and cultural identity.

INDIVIDUALIZED CARE
Each child’s routine and individual schedule is based upon cues from the child and communication with the parent. Each room is conveniently arranged with a separate eating area as well as a separate adjacent nap area. As recommended by PITC, this design helps infant/toddler care teachers be responsive to the schedules and routines of individual children, so each child can nap when tired and eat when hungry. The primary infant/toddler care teacher tunes into the subtle cues of each child and, through observing, decides how to respond to the child’s unique interests and needs.

TOUR THE ROOMS

THE INFANT ROOMS
The next series of photos show different views of the two rooms for 0-18 month old children, each designed for 9 infants and 3 infant/toddler care teachers. The rooms illustrate many of the PITC recommendations for high quality environments. The full glass windows provide plenty of natural light, and the rooms feel cozy and create a sense of calm with their muted earth tone colors and soft textures.

Books and toys are easily accessible to the infants, and the room provides a lot of choices. In the PITC approach, the environment is designed to give children a place where they can feel comfortable and secure, and at the same time feel free to move, explore, and make choices.

This view of the infant room shows the sliding double doors leading directly out to the play yard. This easy access to the outdoors allows the infants to move freely between the indoor and outdoor environments. The children and infant/toddler care teachers benefit from the fresh air and natural light. Indoors, the flexible furniture and well defined play spaces give children a wonderful variety of choices for play and exploration.

In the infant rooms, carpeted risers are used to create smaller protected play areas. Dividers along the back part of the room cut down on traffic. (The staff room is through the door with the round window at the back.) The soft pillow area is an inviting place for reading books or quiet play. Places to go to relax and slow down are important especially for children who spend so much of their day in a group.  

THE TODDLER ROOMS
Each toddler room is designed for 12 children, 18-36 months of age. Since children remain in the room for up to two years, the environment is flexible. It can be easily changed to reflect the children’s newly developing skills. Teachers observe carefully to know when the children are ready for new challenges appropriate to their emerging skills and interests.

The environment is designed to fit the children. For example, child size sinks allow children to participate fully in their care. Here, two children are working together to wash their hands.

THE “COTTAGE”
The “Cottage” contains two rooms, each designed for 12 toddlers, 18-36 months of age, and four infant/toddler care teachers. As part of implementing the PITC policy of small groups, a new wall was installed to divide the Cottage into two separate rooms. Both rooms have convenient storage, child sized, accessible furniture, defined play areas, places for quiet play, and places for active movement. Carpeted risers add flexibility, allowing the staff to adapt the environment when children develop and show interest in new challenges.

Providing sheltered cozy nooks or quiet areas help children feel comfortable and secure. It gives them a special place to be alone or with a smaller number of children, to read a book, or simply take a break from the larger group.

A peaceful place to go after active play.

Sliding glass doors in the Cottage provide direct access to the outdoor play area. The doors let in a lot of natural light, create a feeling of openness, and facilitate supervision between indoor and outdoor areas.  

THE OUTDOOR PLAY AREAS
Separate outdoor play areas are directly accessible from each of the classrooms. This design makes possible an easy flow between the indoor and outdoor environments. The covered porches offer a place to go outdoors on rare rainy days and provide a good place for messy activities.

The outdoor environment is for everyone. Even the youngest children at Citrus enjoy exploring things outside.

As these photos show, the opportunities for learning and exploration are as rich outdoors as indoors. The program offers sand, water, and many other exciting choices for active or quiet play. Just as the PITC recommends, everything that happens inside also happens outside—and more!

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