Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DEL seeking comments on proposed aligned licensing rules

DEL is soliciting comments on its proposed aligned licensing rules. The purpose of the proposed rules is to:
  • align foundational standards of care for early learning programs administered by family home and center child care providers while accommodating unique differences between their environments;
  • better equip early learning providers with the necessary skills and knowledge to administer programs that fully protect the health and safety of children in their care while delivering the best possible care;
  • address critical health and safety needs of children enrolled in early learning programs;
  • promote cultural diversity; and
  • meet federal requirements.

The proposed rules and small business economic impact statement are available at https://del.wa.gov/providers-educators/laws-rules-and-performance-standards/del-rules-under-development/early-start-act.

DEL will accept comments through June 27. Comments may be made online at https://del.wa.gov/PolicyProposalComment/Detail.aspx, by email to rules@del.wa.gov, or in person at one of these hearings:

June 26
6:00 – 7:30
Everett Library Auditorium
2702 Hoyt Avenue, Everett
June 26
7:00 – 8:00
Chehalis Library Meeting Room
400 N Market Blvd., Chehalis
June 27
5:00 – 7:30
Yakima Room, Greenough Conference Center
33 S. 2nd Ave., Yakima

This is the first of three rule making phases under which DEL will adopt the rules negotiated by family home, center, and Head Start/ECEAP providers, families, and DEL Licensors. The three phases are:
  1. Proposed new sections in chapter 170-300 WAC and amended WAC 170-300-0005 Definitions filed in May 2019 with a planned adoption at the end of the comment period. Final rules will be filed with a delayed effective date of Summer 2019;
  2. Proposed amendments to current WACs 170-300-0148 Gardens in outdoor early learning program space, 170-300-0235 Safe water sources, 170-300-0291 Infant and toddler safe sleep practices, 170-300-0400 Application materials, 170-300-0410 License and program location, and 170-300-0465 Retaining facility and program records expected to be filed in February 2019 with a planned effective date of Summer 2019 to coincide with the new rules adopted in Phase 1; and
  3. In 2020, amend chapter 170-300 WAC to insert weights after a weight validated study is conducted.

Monday, May 14, 2018

DEL and the Dept. of Commerce Partner to Support Early Learning Facility Development

In 2018 the legislature invested in the Early Learning Facilities Fund to help providers “expand, remodel, purchase, or construct early learning facilities and classrooms necessary to support state-funded early learning opportunities for low-income children.” The Departments of Early Learning and Commerce are charged with developing the criteria for funding projects through this fund.

Many of you have been waiting anxiously for news about this program, and we are pleased to be able to share with you initial information about eligibility and funding opportunities. Capital grants will be available to eligible organizations including ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care providers, as well as licensed early learning centers not currently participating in ECEAP, but who intend to do so. Grants will cover facility pre-design, renovations, and major construction or facility purchase.

To learn more, visit http://www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/capital-facilities/early-learning-program/. This page will be your go-to resource for funding applications, technical assistance, and program guidelines. You can also sign up there to receive email updates when new information is available.

We look forward to the exciting projects this new resource will help fund!

Friday, May 11, 2018

May 11, 2018 is Provider Appreciation Day!

Friday, May 11 is Provider Appreciation Day! Today, DEL recognizes the invaluable role that child care providers and early learning professionals play for our children.

Started in 1996 by a group of volunteers in New Jersey, Provider Appreciation Day is appropriately celebrated each year on the Friday before Mother’s Day. The founding organizers saw the need to recognize the tireless efforts of providers who care for children of working parents.

Parents are children’s first and most important teachers but regular caregivers, child care providers and early learning teachers are a close second. It takes a dedicated, energetic and giving person to guide, play, redirect, comfort and teach our littlest learners…not to mention, the immune system of a super hero!  

Thank you for your commitment, your love for the children in your care, and for the positive impact you have on our children.

Click here to learn more about Provider Appreciation Day. Share your stories of great child care providers with us on Facebook or on Twitter @DEL_wa! #ProviderAppreciationDay

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Parent Advisory Group gathers for April meeting

At the most recent Parent Advisory Group (PAG), the Department of Early Learning (DEL) sought input from its parent advisers about budget priorities and long-term early learning goals. The meeting was held April 4 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tukwila following the meeting of the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) on April 3.

The day began with a discussion with Chris Stanley, DEL budget director. Stanley provided PAG members with an introduction to the budget process and sought input on DEL’s budget priorities. Parents praised DEL’s home visiting programs, Head Start and ECEAP programs, and parent engagement initiatives. They said they would like to see more funding to support behavioral health and provider training, for extended ECEAP services such as full-year, full-day, and extended-day services, and for subsidy rate increases, especially for infant and toddler care.

At lunch, Vickie Ybarra, director of the Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability at the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), discussed the early learning goals of the new department. DCYF will focus on three areas of child outcomes: education, health, and resilience. Ybarra sought ideas on specific goals and the measurement of those goals. PAG members emphasized the need to focus on reducing trauma and measuring family stability. Ybarra said she would return to the group at a future date to continue the conversation about DCYF’s goals and measurements.

PAG members also discussed the ELAC meeting the day before and heard from one member on her experience with the negotiated rulemaking process. The parents also participated in a focus group as part of DEL’s ongoing Parent Needs Assessment.

PAG members participated in a team-building exercise and closing questions before ending their day. They will reconvene for their next meeting this summer.
The next meeting may include some new faces: PAG is currently recruiting new members from across the state.

“This is such an opportunity for parents to engage,” said longtime PAG member Natasha Fecteau, who is also a member of ELAC.

For more information on the open PAG positions, visit the DEL website at: https://del.wa.gov/parents-family/parent-advisory-group.

The Parent Advisory Group serves as a sounding board for decisions, ideas and questions that shape the future of early learning in Washington. PAG is made up of parents and family caregivers of children in communities across Washington state. To find out more about PAG, visit http://del.wa.gov/parents-family/parent-advisory-group.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

DEL explores outdoor preschool through pilot project

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has begun exploring the possibility of licensing outdoor, nature-based preschool programs. Through a pilot project with more than a dozen of the state’s outdoor preschools, DEL seeks to collect and analyze data about child safety in outdoor settings.

Currently, there are more than 40 outdoor preschools operating in the state. Because these preschools are part-day programs, they are not subject to child care licensing regulations, but many of these programs seek to create full-day programs. DEL’s outdoor preschool pilot was established by the Washington State Legislature in spring of 2017 to investigate how outdoor preschools currently operate and how to adapt licensing rules to allow for the operation of full-day outdoor programs.

“For me the motivation is really about ensuring the health and safety of children and helping to promote the model as a whole and gain credibility for the field,” said Kit Harrington, pilot participant and director of the Fiddleheads Forest School at the University of Washington in Seattle. “I hope that it provides the opportunity for more families to access outdoor preschool programming.”

The pilot project began in July 2017 with the recruitment of 16 programs to be pilot participants who will advise DEL on the creation of licensing rules especially for outdoor programs. Participants will test out full-day services and aid in the ongoing collection and analysis of data. In the fourth year of the pilot, beginning July 2020, DEL will conduct its final data collection and analysis and submit pilot recommendations to the legislature.

The participants met for their first in-person meeting of 2018 on March 12. At the meeting, pilot participants learned the basic procedures for becoming licensed, including signing up for MERIT, Washington’s professional development registry, and beginning the portable background check process for the programs’ staff members. DEL staff and pilot participants also discussed some of the licensing challenges associated with outdoor preschools, including appropriate staff-to-child ratios and the assessment and use of outdoor spaces.

The pilot participants represent an array of outdoor-based learning environments. Some participants have indoor classrooms but emphasize outdoor time. Others are fully immersed in forests or other outdoor environments without any indoor space. Regardless of the environment, though, outdoor preschools feel they offer unique experiences to early learners.

“We let what’s going on around us shape our curriculum. That’s what nature-based means to us,” said pilot participant Caroline Cook, the early childhood education coordinator at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center in Bellevue. “One of the most important things I hope kids get out of their time here is a strong connection to and love for nature that will stay with them throughout their lives.”

The outdoor environment allows children to engage in learning in hands-on ways, many participants agree.

“They get to have learning in context, so they’re learning not only what dirt feels like but also what it feels like when it’s wet or slippery,” said Sarah Salazar-Tipton, a pilot participant from Olympic Nature Experience in Sequim. “There are so many layers of learning.”

For some pilot participants, the benefits of participation extend beyond informing the creation of licensing standards.

“Our greatest goal is just to increase that network of support for nature preschools everywhere and to make sure nature preschool is something all children can access,” Harrington said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to live and learn in an outdoor classroom.”

The pilot participants will continue to meet regularly with DEL staff in-person and over the phone throughout the four years of the project.

“I hope that everybody who is participating is excited with the outcome and that we feel like we’ve created opportunities for schools and programs to get involved,” Salazar-Tipton said. “It’s been great working with the Department of Early Learning. They’ve been very responsive and collaborative.”

For more information about the outdoor preschool pilot project or to read the 2018 legislative report on the pilot, visit http://del.wa.gov/Outdoor-Preschool.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

ELAC discusses future early learning investments, DCYF transition

Members of the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) met for their second meeting of 2018 on April 3 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tukwila. The day-long meeting had a full agenda that included discussions on negotiated rulemaking, early learning policy development, and the transition to the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

DEL Assistant Director Luba Bezborodnikova provided an update on the negotiated rulemaking process. The negotiated rule makers have reached consensus on 110 out of 116 sections of regulation and have received and reviewed more than 1,500 public comments as part of the process. ELAC members provided input on possible partnerships for trainings on the new licensing rules. Training and communication about the new rules will take place between August 2018 and August 2019, when the rules will go into effect.

Vickie Ybarra, director of DCYF’s Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability (OIAA), discussed the mission of OIAA, which is to develop and present a plan for DCYF to achieve the best possible results for Washington’s children and families. To do that, Ybarra’s six-member team is crafting stakeholder engagement plans to aid in the development of child outcome goals and measurements. ELAC members emphasized the need to measure behavioral and mental health and to consider new approaches to early learning and measurements of child outcomes.

ELAC members also provided their input on excerpts from the 2018 Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plan, which will be submitted to the federal government on July 1. The CCDF is the primary source of federal funding for Washington’s child care subsidies. DEL is required to draft plans and present them for public comment every three years.

Assistant Director Frank Ordway ended the day seeking input from ELAC on future early learning investments. Governor Jay Inslee requested proposals for increasing investments in the education of 3- and 4-year-olds in Washington state. DEL is working to put together a recommendation for Governor Inslee by June and sought initial input from ELAC. Ordway stressed his hope that ELAC play a large role in the development of policy recommendations for the governor.

“I am committed to public engagement, and it’s critical that we get your support,” Ordway said. “We need the support of the advocacy community and providers across the state.”

ELAC members offered some initial thoughts on early learning investments, including the need for better data and close collaboration with other state agencies. Some members also suggested greater investment in wrap-around services such as mental health and dental care. The topic will be on the agenda for further discussion at the next ELAC meeting.

Ordway and State Representative Tom Dent, an ELAC member, also took a moment to honor Representative Ruth Kagi, who announced she would not seek re-election this fall after serving 20 years in the state legislature. Kagi has been an advocate for children since her election to the House of Representatives in 1998 and served as chair of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee since 2002. Kagi co-sponsored the 2015 Early Start Act and the 2017 bill that established the new DCYF.

Representative Dent praised Kagi in remarks he made to ELAC members.

“It was a great experience for me and I’m personally going to miss her,” he said. “She was so open to my ideas.”

ELAC was created by the state legislature in 2007 to provide input and recommendations to DEL to ensure that the department’s strategies are well-informed and broadly supported. Meetings are held six times a year and are open to the public. The next meeting will be held June 5. To keep updated on meeting agendas and locations, visit: https://del.wa.gov/partnerships/elac/meetings.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

There’s no one solution to keeping kids safe. There’s no one agency, no one organization and no one person that can protect all our children. It takes a village to raise a child. It takes all of us to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Here at Strengthening Families Washington, we support communities that work with families to build Protective Factors and support parents. Parenting is hard and there is no one way to parent.

There are, however, best practices to support all families. Wrapping parents in support using the Protective Factors is both promotive and protective. We encourage programs across the state to support families and help them grow and realize their full potential, just like the children we endeavor to help.

Each year, in April, we highlight our prevention work as part of the national Child Abuse Prevention Month. The pinwheel represents the happy, healthy childhood every child deserves. We will join with organizations across the country to highlight our commitment to happy childhoods and our ongoing prevention work.

In addition to our pinwheels, we also want to invite everyone in Washington to participate in Wear Blue Day on April 6th to stand in solidarity against child abuse. It’s easy – just wear blue!

We work closely with our partners because we cannot do this alone. No one can do this alone. From our family to yours, thanks for your support.