Thursday, July 30, 2015

Join DEL's Professional Development Community

Professional development is an important part of having an effective early childhood workforce in programs that serve young children and families. The Department of Early Learning's Professional Development team is dedicated to supporting people who are passionate about early education and wish to find ways to enhance their training, attend informational, educational and/or networking events and more. 

This team helps Washington's early childhood education workforce become as prepared and knowledgeable as possible for the development of our state's children during some of their most formative years.

With a growing need for educators, DEL's Professional Development (PD) team is using new ways to reach out and grow the PD community. One of those ways is through the launch of their new Facebook page, which already has a community of over 1200 people who get up-to-date announcements about training, tips for career enhancement and more.

According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 
"The professional development of all early childhood educators—at all levels of expertise—should be an ongoing process: All professionals need to continue to update their knowledge and skills—through a coherent and systematic program of learning experiences." 
If you care for and teach young children professionally or you’re interested in a career working with children and families, Washington’s professional development system can help you:
  • Learn what you need to know and be able to do when caring for children.
  • Manage your training and education record.
  • Find opportunities for training and education.
  • Find resources and financial support for your professional development.
DEL's PD team is involved with the maintenance of MERIT. MERIT (Managed Education and Registry Information Tool) is an online portal that helps professionals in the field of early care and education in Washington:
  • Keep track of their education and training experience
  • Find training opportunities by state-approved trainers
  • Share their qualifications with current and future employers
  • Complete a portable background check application
  • Be recognized and receive awards for their professional achievements
MERIT is for anyone who works in early care and education, including facilities and programs such as:
  • Family home child care
  • Child care centers
  • Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)
  • Head Start
  • School-age child care
MERIT is also for those who support early care and education:
  • Administrators, including facility directors and program supervisors
  • Coaches and trainers
  • K–12 educators and higher education faculty
DEL's PD team is also currently in the process of restructuring its resources in a way that makes sense for early learning professionals. Check out their Resource Gallery online to find a collection of resources for state approved trainers and professionals to use when offering classes or learning more about early care and education. The Resource Gallery is organized by the following Core Competencies which are essential to early learning:
  • Child Growth and Development
  • Curriculum and Learning Environment
  • Ongoing Measurement of Child Progress
  • Families and Community Partnerships
  • Health, Safety and Nutrition
  • Interactions
  • Program Planning and Development
  • Professional Development and Leadership
You can find great information if you browse the Professional Development pages of DEL's website such as financial or educational award information, training info and more. Join the PD community and enhance your learning today!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Preventing Years of Damage: Sun Safety at the Height of Summer

While the Pacific Northwest is often known for clouds and rain, this summer has been one of the hottest and sunniest to date. While you are out and about, taking advantage of these fair-weather days, think about safety--especially if you are responsible for children during outings. 

In a press release last summer, the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) stated, 
"Puget Sound, if it were a state by itself, would rank fourth in the nation for skin cancer rates. That’s because of a misconception that cloudy weather means people don’t have to protect themselves from the sun."
It is important to note that there doesn't necessarily have to be direct sunlight to cause damage to skin. DOH advises that protecting you and your family from skin cancer is something that must be done all year, regardless of whether it’s sunny or cloudy. According to DOH, Ultra Violet (UV) light exposure (the most preventable cause of skin cancer) occurs even on cloudy days.

Even though it is not common for children to be diagnosed with skin cancers, sun damage that occurs while children are young can have lasting effects, commonly, melanoma later in life.

One terrifying event recently made national news headlines. Two young boys were on an outdoor field trip while attending child care ended up in serious condition after being exposed to sun without sunscreen or protective clothing. To read more about that story, go here.

You can help prevent skin cancer by:
  • using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher; 
  • staying in the shade, especially during midday hours; 
  • covering skin with clothing that covers your arms and legs or a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
Most importantly, plan ahead for you and your family. If your children are in licensed child care, work with your provider to ensure your kids have proper clothing and sunscreen. 

You can learn more important facts about skin cancer and how to prevent it on the Washington Cares about Cancer partnership page and on the Department of Health website about comprehensive cancer control

DOH also published a fact sheet for quick and easy tips to stay safe in warm weather. For tips on how to stay safe in warm weather for all of your family members, even pets, visit DOH's page dedicated to hot weather safety.

If you have a sun burn or someone in your family does, refer to the Skin Cancer Foundation's "Five Tips to Treat Sunburn" article. The article mentions that most sunburns are treatable at home, but 
"...If a blistering burn covers 20% or more of the body (a child's whole back), seek medical attention..." 
Anyone who has had a bad sun burn knows the time and pain it takes to heal. Do yourself and your kids a great service and prevent those harmful UV rays from causing damage now and in the future!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Get Involved: A Resource List for Children with Special Needs

Washington State offers various resources to support infants and toddlers with disabilities and their needs. Some of the following organizations or groups advocate for the rights and services of the developmentally disabled.

WEE CARE (Washington Early Education Coordinate All Resources Early)
WEE CARE is a broad coalition of families and individuals whose mission is to advocate for access to quality services for infants and toddlers birth to three with special needs, developmental delays, disabilities or children at risk for learning delays.

WEE CARE believes families with infants and toddlers with delays, disabilities, or children at risk for learning delays need a fair start in Washington State and have a right to:
  • Equal access to resources and information
  • Improved family support services
  • Consistent statewide public policy
  • Seamless transitions to care
  • Adequate funding
WEE CARE believes equal access to birth to three services is essential for infants and toddlers with disabilities in all communities in our state. If you need help or want to get more involved, visit them online.

The Arc of Washington

The Arc of Washington State's mission is to advocate for the rights and full participation of all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Along with our network of members and chapters, we support and empower individuals and families; connect and inform individuals and families; improve support and service systems; influence public policy; increase public awareness; and inspire inclusive communities. Find your local chapter.
www.arcwa.org

Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC)

It is the mission of the Washington State Developmental Disabilities Council to work collaboratively with people with developmental disabilities, families and guardians, service providers, advocates and policy makers to:
  • assure that individuals with developmental disabilities and their families have access to culturally competent, consumer/family-centered supports and other assistance that promote independence, productivity, integration and inclusion into the community of their choice; and to
  • promote this vision in the public policy and planning arena through system change, community capacity building and advocacy at the local, state and national level.
www.ddc.wa.gov

Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT)

Early intervention services during the first three years can make a big difference in a child's life. The Department of Early Learning's (DEL) Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program provides services to children birth to age 3 who have disabilities or developmental delays. Eligible infants and toddlers and their families are entitled to individualized, quality early intervention services in accordance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part C.
http://www.del.wa.gov/development/esit/Default.aspx

Informing Families Building Trust (IFBT)

Good information leads to good choices and decisions for people with developmental disabilities, yet survey data in Washington shows many families say they do not get enough information to effectively participate in planning services for their family members. This is of grave concern to many advocacy and support organizations that believe clear, concise information from trusted sources is critical to every family's ability to access resources and care for individuals with developmental disabilities. That's why the Developmental Disabilities Council and the Division of Developmental Disabilities have formed a partnership with other key state and local organizations to improve the communication families receive. The project's original goal was to share information about changes in the DD delivery service system before those changes occurred, in an easy to understand format. It quickly became apparent that families needed to get information about other issues as well. In 2009, the Informing Families project increased its scope to better provide access to more information for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

IDEA Infant and Toddler Coordinators Association (ITCA)

ITCA is your online link to the resources that are helping to improve the lives of infants and toddlers with special needs. Every successful early childhood intervention is the result of a cooperative spirit - the coordination and collaboration of many individuals who share a goal to help infants and toddlers with developmental challenges. This site is all about making the right connections, and here, you will find the core information to assist you. . . Our mission is carefully structured to support the Early Intervention System for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities of the IDEA Part C.
http://www.ideainfanttoddler.org/

Parent to Parent

Parent to Parent programs provide emotional support and information to families of children with special needs and or disabilities. Through implementation of the Parent to Parent model: utilizing trained veteran parents of children with disabilities, called Helping Parents, who provide one to one emotional and informational support to new or referred parents who have a child with a similar need.
www.arcwa.org(Parent to parent)

Washington Statewide Parent Coalition

There are currently 14 active parent coalitions in Washington State serving 19 counties. The Parent Coalition Coordinators have contact with thousands of families across the state and strive to identify the needs of people with developmental disabilities and their families and work toward solutions to meet those needs. Parent Coalitions throughout Washington State help parents, family members, and guardians become effective advocates for their family members and others who have developmental disabilities.

www.washingtonparentcoalitions.org

For more information on developmental screening, read DEL's previous blog about "Help Me Grow."

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Look Ahead, Be Prepared: Immunization Update

Summer isn't quite over yet, but consider thinking ahead to fall when it comes to immunizing your kids. 

According to the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), now is the time to get kids in to see their health care providers for required immunizations, yearly well-child checks, and sports physicals. 

Families can cut down on back-to-school stress by getting the right immunizations for their students well before school starts. Students who aren’t in compliance with required vaccines may be kept out of school if a disease epidemic occurs. 


Parents can find the immunization requirements to start school and attend child care online. There are new changes to the requirements this year for the chicken pox vaccine. It’s also important that kids are current on their whooping cough shots. The disease is spreading in Washington and everyone can play a part in stopping it.
"Now is the time to make sure you and your kids are fully vaccinated," said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy. "Immunizations are the best tool we have to protect students from serious diseases that can spread quickly through schools."
Due to the recent outbreak of whooping cough cases, State Communicable Disease Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist reiterated the importance of getting kids vaccinated against the preventable disease. 
"Whooping cough can be very dangerous for babies and young children. When school starts, whooping cough can spread easily from the classroom to the home. Making sure that all kids and pregnant moms are up to date with the right shots to prevent whooping cough can protect babies and families."
For more information about whooping cough in Washington, read DEL's previous blog post about it.
 
For a detailed update and sound advice on various kinds of vaccinations, check out the Department of Health's "Immunization and Child Profile Update". This is seasonal information about the flu, hepatitis, chicken pox requirement updates and more--including an informative Q & A with nurses.

Make educated choices about you and your family's health, consult your health care provider if you have questions. 

DOH notes on their vaccination page
"You research which car seat has the highest safety ratings, you read food labels, and you talk to your friends and family about how to find quality child care. Your choice to immunize is no different. Making an educated choice about immunization is critical to protecting you and your family’s health." 
No-cost vaccines are available for all kids up to age 19 through health care providers taking part in the state’s Childhood Vaccine Program. Participating providers may charge for the office visit and an administration fee to give the vaccine. People who can’t afford the administration fee can ask for it to be waived.

For help finding a health care provider or an immunization clinic, call your local health agency or the WithinReach Family Health Hotline at 1-800-322-2588.

For up-to-date information on vaccinations and more, visit the Department of Health's website: www.doh.wa.gov. For general information about children's health visit DEL's health and nutrition page.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

DEL's Safe Sleep Update: Ways to Give Feedback

On Tuesday July 14, DEL released it's plan to update current licensing regulations regarding infant safe sleep practices in licensed child care settings.

At the beginning of February,  DEL filed a pre-proposal statement of inquiry requesting consideration of changes  needed to update licensing rules related to infant safe sleep practices for licensed family home child care providers and child care centers. 

DEL is able to consult the American Academy of Pediatrics as they have developed several recommendations for safe sleep guides. The latest research and best practices have identified the need for:

• additional licensee and staff training,
• changes to record-keeping documentation and violation notification requirements,
• updates to program policy handbooks and
• new rules for infant sleeping equipment and bedding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics refers parents to healthychildren.org, specifically this article, last updated in May, regarding safe sleep.

DEL is proposing rule changes to update health and safety standards related to infant safe sleep practices for licensed family home child care providers (WAC 170-296A) and child care centers (WAC 170-295). Click the previous links to see the suggested changes to the Washington Administrative Code (WAC)--the standard by which licensors monitor providers in Washington State.

Ways to Give Feedback 

Below are the methods available to the public for comment on proposed rules. 

1. Attend a Public Hearing: 

For: Licensed Family Home Child Care Providers 
When: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. 
Where:Department of Early Learning - State Office 1110 Jefferson Street SE Olympia, WA 98501 

For: Licensed Child Care Centers 
When: Wednesday, August 5, 2015 at 12:00 p.m. 
Where:Department of Early Learning - State Office 1110 Jefferson Street SE Olympia, WA 98501 

2. Give your input in writing by midnight Wednesday, August 5, 2015: 

Online: DEL Rules Comment Webpage 
Email: Rules@del.wa.gov Fax: 360-725-4925 
Mail: DEL Rules Coordinator PO Box 40970 Olympia, WA 98504-0970 

Only input received at the public hearings or in writing as noted above will become part of the official record. Everyone who provides input on this proposal will receive the DEL’s combined written response known as the Concise Explanatory Statement. The statement will also be posted on the DEL website and is available to anyone who asks for it by writing to the DEL.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

DEL to Issue Updated Safe Sleep Guidelines

The Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) is in the process of updating safe sleep guidelines, policies and procedures for licensors to use when licensing child care centers and family home providers.
“We are happy to revisit our current policy and procedures regarding safe sleep, and to consistently apply the most effective guidelines possible to our licensing work,” said Mary Kay Quinlan, DEL’s Early Learning and Child Care Statewide Licensing Administrator. “We want licensed care providers, parents and the public to have access to training and to continually practice safe sleep guidelines to promote the safety of children throughout Washington.”
DEL’s website was recently updated with safe sleep training modules (in both English and Spanish), and new Washington Administrative Code (WAC) sections regarding safe sleep in child care have been drafted  and filed to reflect the most up-to-date guidelines for safe sleep. After public input, the new WAC regarding safe sleep should be approved by the end of the summer.
DEL’s training explains the importance of protecting infants during a crucial time of their development, and also allows providers, parents and the public to learn about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and what you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS with recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics, focusing on a safe sleep environment. Resources to print out are included in these training modules.

The updated guidelines will state that infant safe sleep practices must be followed when infants are napping or sleeping. In child care (either at a center or at a family home setting), staff must do the following when practicing safe sleep in accordance with the updated WAC:

• Place an infant to sleep on his or her back. If the infant has turned over while sleeping, the infant does not need to be returned to his or her back;
• Not allow blankets, stuffed toys, pillows, crib bumpers and similar items in the infant sleeping equipment, or allow a blanket to cover or drape over the sleeping equipment;
• Not cover an infant’s head and face during sleep;
• Take steps so infants do not get too warm during sleep with the infant’s arms free; and
• Not place the infant in another sleeping position other than on their back, or use a sleep positioning device unless required by a written directive or medical order from the infant’s health care provider. This directive or medical order must be in the infant’s file.


In the proposed WAC update, child care staff at a licensed facility who work with infants must complete annual safe sleep training and document this training annually. If a violation occurs, the provider must post notice of the violation in the licensed space and within five working days of receiving the notice, provide parents and guardians of the enrolled child with a letter describing the sleep violation and written information on safe sleep practices.  

To read the full listing of current child care licensing requirements, click here. To view the portion of DEL's site dedicated to public commentary on safe sleep policy update, click here.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Family Home Child Care Licensor

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is responsible for licensing and monitoring child care facilities around the state to ensure  providers meet the health and safety requirements necessary for children to receive safe, healthy and quality care while parents are working or away.

DEL's licensing work is guided by state laws, state rules, which are also called WACs (Washington Administrative Codes), and internal DEL policies and procedures

Enforcing Washington's laws in child care across the state is a demanding and challenging job--it is practiced by many DEL employees each day. The following post was written after spending a full day shadowing a DEL licensor while she worked in the field. 

The average day for a licensor begins like any other state employee's--coffee, checking email, answering phone calls. For a licensor, however, much of their job occurs "in the field." Many people in this position spend a large percent of their work day driving to various provider homes. Licensors may work from one's car or in a coffee shop when not in the field office. Using a provider's kitchen table or the roof of a playhouse as a desk while on a visit is not uncommon.

Play space at a family home child care setting.
All DEL licensors are currently equipped with tablets that can connect to the Internet when needed to ensure open and consistent dialogue with supervisors, licensees and colleagues. Tablets are also used so licensors have constant access to WAC documents and guidelines, as well as the electronic forms used for inspections. 
"No day is the same because a big part of my job is spent out and about, visiting licensees," said Cindy Anstiss, Tacoma licensor. "We [family home licensors] have between approximately 80 and 120 providers in each of our case load."
Being a licensor means building relationships with child care providers. This allows for a level of trust to develop that both the provider and the licensor have the best interests of children at heart.

In any home visit, Cindy starts by noting the outside of the family home. She raises questions about the general first impressions of the home business. Questions like: Does it have new paint? How are the doors and windows? Is the lawn mowed? (Just to name a few).

DEL licensing visits are generally unannounced so licensors can get a feel for what an average day looks like at a home. Cindy maintains a positive, welcoming attitude and stresses that she wants to simply observe the house, the children's behavior and activities on an average day. The care and needs of the children come first.

Nap space at family home child care setting.
The initial part of her time is spent surveying the kitchen, living, play and nap areas--licensed areas of the home. She takes notes on the status of lighting fixtures and bulbs, checks that there are smoke alarms and fire extinguishers, pays attention to the layout of the play areas (both indoor and outdoor) and asks questions like: is there enough space around outdoor play equipment for a "fall zone" and does it have ground cover? Are there locks and alarms on doors? Are wading pools empty when not in use? Questions vary depending on the setting and/or visit.
"It doesn't necessarily worry me to see a little messy play area with toys on the floor," said Cindy. "It usually means the kids are active or busy."
Licensors are required to conduct monitoring visits each year using an in-depth checklist of requirements. 

If a licensor finds that certain areas of the checklist are not up to code (according to the WACs), the provider and the licensor develop a compliance agreement with a plan of correction stating that they will fix the issues in a certain amount of time. Providers are required to make the checklists available to parents upon request.

Violations are available for anyone to view online at DEL's Child Care Check. These violations range in severity. A violation could be failure of reporting or record keeping - failure to keep record of a child's vaccination history, or a violation could involve lack of supervision). Parents should take note of violations, but keep an open dialogue with their provider as some citations may not be serious health and safety issues.

After Cindy surveys the active play spaces, kitchen and nap areas, she spends time observing the children while they participate in every-day activities like playing or eating lunch. She also spends time talking with the provider--getting a sense for how the home life is going outside of business hours. 

Working with people who own a business in their homes is unique and it can be challenging to regulate. Licensors need to know if changes affect the home or household members. For example, if someone moves in to a provider's home, accurate background checks of the new individual must be obtained and the licensor must be notified. 

Licensors take the health and safety of children seriously--and are fast to act if they feel a provider is putting children at risk. Summary suspensions are served to providers who have allegations that pose imminent risk to children.
"Families who choose child care in a home setting usually choose providers with similar ideals," said Cindy. "Children in child care homes have the opportunity to build strong, lasting bonds with their provider."
Cindy's day usually ends after she has surveyed provider's homes thoroughly and come away with next steps  to ensure a home is up-to-code and safe for kids.

Homes can be warm, comforting places for children to learn and grow when parents are away. For example, it is common to find pets at family homes--this may be an opportunity for children to bond and learn to interact with animals, if done safely and in accordance with WAC.

Cindy is a good example of a licensor that values providers' time, is open for questions and supports family home providers to ensure they maintain quality care. She provides technical assistance and can act as an important resource for licensees. 

If you are looking for child care, don't be afraid to ask questions of potential providers or to visit. All of DEL's WACs and policies and procedures are available online, and their subject matter ranges from safe outdoor play equipment to safe sleeping practices in child care settings. A good place to start learning about licensed child care in WA is here.