Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Kids Count data: Washington ranks in the middle for overall child well-being by state


Washington’s  1.5 million children fare well when it comes to health, but overall, our  children’s well-being ranks close to the middle of the pack, according to the  2014 Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book issued this week.

The annual publication compares key indicators and ranks states. This 2014 edition concludes that there has been gradual, incremental improvement for children of all ages over the past 25 years in the areas of education and health. However, child poverty and a clear opportunity gap for children of color continue.

Washington ranks ninth among states when it comes to health, measured by children without health insurance, low-birth weight babies, child and teen deaths, and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs. Washington's Apple Health for Kids initiative aims to get more children signed up for health care insurance.

When it comes to education, Washington ranks 20th among states, as measured by children not attending preschool, fourth graders not proficient in reading, eighth graders not proficient in math and high school students not graduating on time. State-funded preschool for low-income children in Washington is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, and the Legislature and Governor have made steady progress in increasing enrollment.

In the area of family and community (measured by children in single-parent households, children in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, children living in high-poverty areas and teen births), Washington ranks 17th among states. DEL and partners continue to work on strengthening families and communities through our Strengthening Families Washington initiative, parent support in state-funded preschool, Early Achievers, and home visiting.

Finally, Washington ranks 27th for economic well-being, as measured by children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children living in households with a high housing cost burden, and teens not in school and not working.

"While we are proud of our state's progress in offering high-quality early learning opportunities to all children--especially children at risk of starting school not ready to succeed--there is more to do," said DEL Deputy Director Heather Moss. "With our state Early Learning Plan as our guide, we are working to ensure more families have access to state-funded comprehensive preschool and home visiting services, and that early learning professionals have support through Early Achievers to offer high-quality programs."


KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States. The foundation is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Measles cases are up in Washington: Protect yourself and the children in your life

Measles is a serious and highly contagious disease, and there are more confirmed measles cases in Washington so far this year than in the past five years combined.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is an infectious viral disease that typically begins with a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (pink eye). A rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, then spreads to arms and legs. 

Our partners at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shared steps you can take to protect yourself and the children in your life:

  • The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is recommended for children 12 months and older, health care workers, college students, adults born after 1956, and people who travel internationally. Pregnant women should not get the vaccine until after giving birth.
  • Children should be vaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at 4 to 5 years. Children ages 6 to 11 months who will be travelling internationally should receive one dose of MMR at least two weeks before departure. Adults should have at least one measles vaccination, with some people needing two. Anyone planning to travel should make sure they are immune to measles before leaving the U.S. Vaccine can be found by calling your health care provider or by checking the online vaccine finder for a location near you.
  • People who are unvaccinated, or aren’t sure if they’re immune, and develop an illness with fever and rash should consult a health care professional immediately. Call ahead to your clinic, doctor’s office, or emergency room before arriving to avoid exposing others in waiting rooms.
For more information about measles and vaccinations, visit the DOH's Measles in Washington web page.  

Recent measles cases are confirmed in South King and Pierce counties. The Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department has posted a list of locations and time periods of concerns. If you visited one of these locations during the time period, contact your regular health care provider to let them know. 

Licensed child care providers must notify the local health jurisdiction, their Department of Early Learning licensor, and parents or guardians of children in care when they become aware of a household member, staff person or child in care being diagnosed with measles (or any of the contagious diseases listed in WAC 246-110-010).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New law: DEL background checks may now be used for early learning employees in school settings

Starting on June 12, individuals working in certain early learning settings will no longer have to undergo both the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) background check.

Senate Bill 6093, sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, allows these individuals to meet their background check requirements by providing a copy of their DEL background check results to OSPI. This applies to early learning professionals requiring background checks who work in:
  • School districts
  • Educational service districts
  • The State Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss
  • The State School for the Blind
  • Contractors of the above entities that hire employees

Legislators passed the bill during the 2014 legislative session after recognizing that requiring one individual to undergo two background checks was inefficient. The DEL background check is very comprehensive, and looks at an individual’s criminal history, sexual offender registry and professional licensing history.

Individuals wishing to use their DEL background check to suffice for their OSPI check must request copies of their background check results from DEL, and then send a copy of those results to OSPI. 

To request your background check results, complete a Request for Background Check Results Form and mail it, fax it, or attach a scanned version to an email and send it to the Department of Early Learning.  DEL will mail two copies of the background check results to you and you will need to mail the copy in the sealed envelope to the Fingerprint Records office at OSPI

Federal law does not allow our two agencies to share background results directly, but does allow individuals to share their own background results with other state agencies.


Friday, June 6, 2014

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is accepting applications for Early Learning Advisory Council vacancies

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is filling two vacant seats on our Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC): A representative of a local education agency and a representative of the child care center community.

Members serve two-year terms that expire on June 30 of the second year. ELAC members are expected to attend the majority of the six meetings per year and be prepared to actively participate. Regular ELAC meetings are generally scheduled every other month and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants in subcommittees or work groups should expect to meet outside of the regular meeting dates.

The seats are unpaid positions, although non-governmental members may be eligible for compensation and reimbursement for travel expenses incurred while carrying out ELAC duties.

Interested? Apply online on the Governor’s website by June 30, 2014. Along with your resume, please attach a brief statement that addresses the following:
  • Which vacant seat are you applying for and how do you meet the criteria.
  • How did you hear about ELAC and/or who referred you.
  • What impact do you hope to see ELAC have on early learning in Washington, and how do you want to contribute to that effort.
Questions: elac@del.wa.gov

About ELAC:
Since 2007, ELAC has played a pivotal role in the early learning system as an advisory body to DEL and serves as a connector among the state, local communities and constituencies around Washington.

ELAC’s membership includes parents, child care providers, health/safety experts and legislators, as well as representatives of Tribal Nations, independent schools, the K-12 and higher education systems, and others interested in creating a statewide early learning system that helps all children realize their full potential. Read more about ELAC and its work.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Early learning professionals, scientists share progress on Frontiers of Innovation pilots

Participants in Frontiers of Innovation—an effort to use science to inform early learning practices—came together in Seattle this week to share progress on testing four promising ways to support healthy child development. FOI pairs scientists with early learning professionals to co-design and test new strategies to build executive function and address mental health concerns in parents and children. The focus is on testing ideas on a quick cycle: Strategies that work could be taken to scale around the state; strategies that don’t work can be altered and tested again.

“It’s amazing what happens when you connect people who do this [early learning] work and are passionate about it with the scientists, and give them permission to co-create,” said Department of Early Learning Assistant Director for Quality Practice and Professional Growth Juliet Morrison.

The four intervention models currently being tested are:

Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND)
In this model developed at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) at the University of Oregon, coaches videotape adults interacting with children and then show them clips where they are supporting children’s development.

“We look at the film to identify moments where good things are happening,” said Melanie Berry, an OSLC research associate. She added that the program reinforces and strengthens the naturally occurring supportive interactions between young children and adults, so-called “serve and return” interactions that help shape the brain.

Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHS) is one program testing out FIND with some of the families it serves with home visiting.

“Imagine you’re in a situation where you are under investigation for abuse or neglect, and then someone comes in and says, ‘OK, let’s look at what you’re doing right,’” said Jason Gortney, CHS community manager.

Licensed family home child care provider Lorrie Hope, another FIND pilot participant, was trained and has since coached three of the families in her care using FIND. Because she lives in southeast Washington, her training was all done online.

“I have a much stronger relationship with my parents,” she said. “We are more trusting with each other and we have a common language.”

Attachment Vitamins
University of California San Francisco research Annmarie Hulette developed the Attachment Vitamins curriculum to help improve caregiver knowledge of important child development issues including executive function and toxic stress. It’s currently being tested by Children’s Home Society and Centralia College.

“Attachment Vitamins is giving us the active ingredients we can take out of the child-parent psychotherapy model and plug into home visiting,” said Gortney. At Centralia College, they are piloting the curriculum in the Teens Entering Education Now (TEEN) program for 14 to 21-year-olds who are pregnant or parenting.

Executive Function Games
“Not every parent and child knows how to play together,” said University of California Berkeley Associate Professor Silvia Bunge, who is working with Childhaven and Centralia College to introduce games that caregivers and children can play together to build cognitive flexibility (the capacity to nimbly switch gears and apply different rules in different settings—for example, children using inside and outside voices in different situations.

At Childhaven, researchers are finding improvement in children’s cognitive flexibility after 10 weeks of playing the specially designed games in their classroom.

“It’s accessible, it’s sustainable—it’s not something that’s overly burdensome,” said Childhaven Vice President of Branch Program Operations Bethany Larsen.

Mindfulness Parenting Program (SEA CAP)
University of Washington Professor of Psychology Liliana Lengua has long studied how income impacts parenting and chld development. She developed the Social and Emotional and Academic Success of Children and Parents (SEA CAP), which helps adults cultivate mindfulness and emotional regulation. This promotes warm interactions between adult and child, and helps the adult learn to “scaffold” learning by guiding children in tasks but stepping out to let the child practice autonomy.

Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver is embedding the mindfulness training in its existing weekly parent-child play group.

“When you practice these skills over time, it becomes easier to access, so when you find yourself in a moment of stress, it’s there for you to use,” said Corina McEntire, ESD 112 professional development manager.



Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Preschool yearbook: Washington State making progress in quality, access

Washington held steady in 2013 in access to state-funded preschool, and is making progress in ensuring the program is high-quality, according to a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

NIEER, an independent research organization, issues an annual "yearbook" assessing state-funded preschool around the nation. 

DEL oversees Washington's preschool program (the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP). In the current school year, ECEAP is serving 8,700 low-income 3- and 4-year-olds with high-quality preschool, family support services, and health and nutrition services. The goal is to help children and families get ready for success in kindergarten and beyond.

The state preschool program is undergoing significant changes in the coming years: 

  • The state Legislature invested in 1,350 additional enrollment slots for school year 2014-15 and increased the per-slot funding to $7,579. Of this, about 97 percent goes directly to communities to benefit children and families, at an average of $7,331 per slot. (ECEAP is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, at which time any child who meets eligibility standards will be entitled to a spot in the program.)
  • DEL is using the 1,350 expansion slots to support innovation, such as offering full-day classroom programming, using evidence-based curriculum, and offering family support services tailored to each family's individual strengths and needs. 
  • All ECEAP contractors must join Early Achievers, Washington's quality rating and improvement system, by 2015. This will help ensure we are measuring early care and education programs--child care and state-funded preschool--using a common definition of quality.


Applications for Washington's preschool expansion are due on May 19. DEL received letters of intent from more than 40 organizations interested in offering expansion slots. Read more about DEL's preschool expansion.


Monday, May 12, 2014

DEL Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program announces 2014 Parent Leadership Award winners

Parent leaders can be found all around the state--and at the annual Infant and Early Childhood Conference last week, DEL's Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program honored two woman who have helped their own families and others meet the needs of their children with special needs.
Tracie Winkelman and Jessie Atkins,
2014 ESIT Parent Leadership Award winners

Tracie Winkelman
Parent Leadership Award winner - Eastern Washington
Eight years ago, Tracie and her husband Kevin had their second daughter Mia. Mia was born with Down syndrome. Tracie became aware of the lack of identifiable resources that were available for her family and other families that also had a child with Down syndrome. She and other families diligently worked to secure approval from the Down Syndrome Association for a local charter.  

Tracie now serves on the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia board and has been instrumental in its growth and success. Tracie has used her skills as a teacher to help meet the educational needs of other families that have children with special needs in her position as a teacher at the Children’s Developmental Center in Richland. 

Tracie is always willing to share her own experiences as a parent with other families that are facing similar challenges.

Jessie Atkins 
Parent Leadership Award winner – Western Washington
Jessie and her family had tremendous persistence and love that motivated them through the challenges they faced when their son, Stage, was born six years ago. Stage was born with multiple medical challenges. As a parent of a child with special needs, Jessie and her husband Jeff received birth to three services in Snohomish County.  

As a result of having a child with special needs, Jessie became a parent leader in her community. Jessie worked as a parent-to-parent coordinator and volunteer for the Arc of Snohomish County. She served as the co-chair for the Snohomish County Family Interagency Coordinating Council, bringing parent perspective and advocacy to the council. She is also a member and past president of the Marysville School District’s Special Education PTSA. Jessie has used her advocacy skills to speak to the Legislature about services for children with special needs. 

The word “never” is not in Jessie’s vocabulary. She will find a way to get positive results for her family and any family that she helps.


Congratulations, Tracie and Jessie, and thank you for your contributions to your communities!