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It is difficult to imagine that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers would be excluded or expelled from a program because of their behavior. But there is growing evidence that young children are asked to leave child care and preschool settings three times as often as school-age children.

Families can be asked to remove their child from a child care program (or reduce their child’s hours) for many reasons. Here are a few examples:

  • The program or the schedule for the day is not a good fit for the child.

  • The teachers may not have the knowledge to assist the child.

  • A teacher may not know what is going on in the family.

  • The child is coping with experiences that they need help to understand.

Providers and families can work together to prevent expulsion by building strong relationships and talking about the child's culture, social, emotional, and behavioral strengths and concerns, approaches to learning, and strategies that work at home and in child care.

How can families work with providers to help prevent expulsion?

  • Read your child care provider's policy about expelling children or excluding them from school. Ask questions about the policy if there is something you don't understand.
  • Tell the provider about your child’s needs, interests, and preferences for routines like sleeping and eating.

  • If you find your child’s behavior challenging, share with the teacher and discuss possible responses.

  • Talk to your child’s teacher every day.

  • When you have time, visit the program, have lunch, and stay awhile.

  • Welcome teachers into your home for home visits.

  • Talk to your child’s teacher about the best way to respond to challenging behaviors at home and at child care.

  • Follow through on getting a screening or assessment if your child’s teacher suggests it.

What can my child care provider do to help prevent expulsion?Two Children Drawing and Coloring

  • Develop and share guidance and discipline practices that are developmentally appropriate and promote your child’s social, emotional, and behavioral health.

  • Work with you to use these practices consistently and without bias or discrimination.

  • Work with you to use these practices as learning opportunities to guide your child’s behavioral development and set appropriate consequences for challenging behavior.

  • Work with you to set goals to support your child’s social, emotional, and behavioral development.

  • Communicate with you about how your child is doing and make changes, if needed, to help your child.

  • Build their skills to support your child’s social, emotional, and behavioral development. If needed, seek support from specialists, such as early childhood mental health consultants, behavioral coaches, school counselors, or special educators.

  • Attend to their own health and wellness. Work reasonable hours and access social services, health and wellness services as needed.

What can I do if my child is asked to leave a program?

  • Read your child care provider’s policy about expelling children or excluding them from school. In addition, learn about your state’s policies on suspension, expulsion, and exclusionary discipline:

    • Early childhood programs are strongly encouraged to establish policies to eliminate or severely limit expulsion, suspension, and other exclusionary discipline practices. All discipline policies must comply with federal civil rights laws.

    • Some states have laws or regulations that prohibit or limit expulsion or suspension. Contact your state’s child care licensing agency for more information.

  • Ask if the provider works with an early childhood mental health specialist. If not, is one available?

  • If you suspect your child may have a developmental delay, disability, or mental health issue, ask where your child can get an evaluation. This page has more information about what do to if you have concerns about your child’s development.

  • If you agree that it is best for your child to attend another program, focus on creating a smooth transition.

  • If your child has a disability, work with an early intervention specialist to make sure your child gets the support needed. Your early intervention specialist can also help your provider support your child more effectively.

  • Let your child’s doctor know about the transition in case your child can benefit from screenings or evaluations.

  • Ask your child’s doctor if a referral to a specialist could help. Your child’s doctor may recommend someone who can do an in-depth evaluation of your child.


All states are working on strategies to prevent exclusion of children from early childhood programs. In many states, the work is just beginning, so resources may vary depending on where you live. Here are some possible resources you might want to ask your child care provider, doctor, or child care resource and referral agency about:

  • Referrals to early childhood mental health agencies, behavioral health organizations, and community mental health centers

  • Your local early intervention office

The following organizations also have some helpful resources: