Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New ELAC subcommittee focuses on licensed centers

A new subcommittee will advise the Department of Early Learning (DEL) on issues specific to licensed child care centers in Washington state. This Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee (LCAS), a subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC), will address matters ranging from regulation improvement to staffing challenges, as well as region-specific concerns.

“We decided to support you in a different way by forming this subcommittee primarily out of the recognition that centers deliver the vast majority of our quality early learning service, in particular in service of families that are on the Working Connections Child Care system,” said DEL Assistant Director Frank Ordway at the subcommittee’s first meeting. The meeting was held online in November.

“It’s very exciting to finally see this coming together,” Ordway said.

ELAC has been discussing the formation of this subcommittee for at least two years as a way to give licensed centers more input into proposed policies that affect them, according to Lois Martin, a member of both ELAC and LCAS. This will be particularly important as DEL transitions to the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

“We want to make sure that all of our voices are still solicited, as well as heard, as we make this transition,” said Martin, who is the director of the Community Day Center for Children in Seattle. “We want to ensure that no one in any of these subgroups (at DCYF) is left behind.”

The new subcommittee will partner with DEL to have conversations about ongoing regulation improvement, rates and rate structures, staffing and professional development, and specific regional challenges, among other topics.

“Overall availability of [licensed centers] in your communities is critical to community health and to economic opportunity for families and so we need more of you,” Ordway told the committee. In particular, he stressed the importance of supporting an environment that is friendly to child care businesses so more providers stay in the market and new providers join.

“We need advice from [licensed centers] on how to do that better,” Ordway said.

For licensed centers, the new subcommittee will give them the opportunity for regular, focused conversations with DEL staff and leadership.

“I represent a lot of centers as well as my own in the Eastern Washington region and also statewide,” said Luc Jasmin, LCAS member and owner and director of Parkview Early Learning Center in Spokane. “It’s a way to really be able to bring thoughts, comments, and concerns to DEL and have that voice.”

Jasmin, who is also president and founder of the Washington Childcare Centers Association, pushed for the formation of the subcommittee to improve communication between licensed centers and DEL.

“My specific goals are to really be able to effectively communicate with the department and also with our membership base in a way that bridges that communication gap so that we’re streamlined and we’re on the same page,” he said.

At the first meeting of the Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee, members also discussed some of the DEL’s requests for the upcoming 2018 legislative session. Among the DEL’s priorities are to ask for investments in infant and toddler resources and in support for licensed care around the state.

The subcommittee currently has 26 members and 10 unfilled seats. The DEL seeks to find members from underrepresented regions of the state, including north central, southwest, southeast, and Olympic-Kitsap Peninsulas.

The first in-person meeting for the Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee will take place February 20. If you are interested in becoming a member of the subcommittee, contact slc@del.wa.gov

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

DEL begins drafting Child Care Development Fund Plan

Beginning January 2018, DEL began coordinating drafting of the state’s Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Plan with the goal of submitting a Plan by July 1, 2018. So what does all that mean for Washington families and child care providers?

CCDF is a federal and state partnership program administered by states, territories, and Tribal Nations. They use CCDF grant funds to provide access to child care for low-income families so they can work or attend job training or educational programs. They also invest CCDF funds to build the skills and qualifications of providers, support child care programs to achieve higher standards, and provide consumer education to help families select child care that meets their needs. Working Connections Child Care is one example of a CCDF-funded program administered by DEL, but the grant also funds other DEL activities, including licensing, Early Achievers, and provider professional development.

Under federal law, Washington is required to submit a CCDF Plan every three years in order to continue receiving the CCDF grant. The Plan serves as the application for CCDF funds and describes the state’s child care program and all services available to eligible families. The Plan is developed in collaboration with numerous partners, stakeholders, and tribal governments to ensure that the state’s CCDF program period addresses the needs of families, providers and communities. Once approved by the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF), it allows the state to continue receiving the CCDF grant.

Washington’s current CCDF Plan is set to expire in 2018, so a new plan must be submitted to ACF by July 1, 2018 and to be completely finalized by October 1. On December 8, 2017, ACF released a draft preprinted (Preprint) form to collect all of the required Plan information (see here). With the release of the Preprint, the path is now clear for DEL to begin coordinating plan drafting. Here is how the drafting process will work and how you can participate:
  • Starting in January 2018, DEL will convene an Executive Steering Committee (ESC) composed of representatives of early learning focused organizations, community partners, and government agencies.
  • The ESC will review initial Plan drafts, feedback from partners, stakeholders, and tribal governments, and from the general public, and approve a plan for submission by July 1.
  • In between, DEL will provide the Plan Preprint and Plan drafts to the Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) and Indian Policy Early Learning (IPEL) group for their feedback, starting in February and concluding in April.
  • In May and June, DEL will convene one or more public meetings to receive further community Plan input.
  • Then in June, DEL will convene a public hearing, as required by federal law, to receive formal community input on the draft Plan. DEL will then submit the plan to ACF on July 1.
If it all sounds a bit confusing, take heart. DEL maintains a page on its site here where you will find important updates on the status of the Plan as it develops, as well as information on opportunities to give your feedback, and general information on CCDF. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

ELAC holds final meeting of 2017

The Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) held its final meeting of the year on December 5 in Seattle. Regional Advisor Enrica Hampton set an uplifting tone for the meeting by asking attendees what they are looking forward to most with the transition to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). Responses varied, but a reoccurring theme is that many are hopeful about the positive change the transition will bring for families and children.

“What I really appreciate about this transition is that the family is core and central. Research is showing children and families need to be the focal point and I am glad that Washington State agencies are responding to that research appropriately,” said Catherine Duffy, the Developmental Disabilities Community representative.

The meeting progressed with an agenda providing the opportunity for the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to update attendees on topics such as the Early Start Act (ESA) Report, Market Rate and Cost of Quality surveys, regionalization, and general department updates.

Vickie Ybarra, Research Director of DCYF, gave an update about the ESA report and shared how she and her team are using research and data to better understand the various factors that are impacting children, families, and providers in regards to childcare. Some factors that directly link to a shortage in family home providers was the potential impact of Early Achievers requirements, providers retiring, and providers exiting because their child has phased out of the system. 

DEL Director Heather Moss responded to the decline of family home care. “We have not seen a decrease in children served, but a decrease in family home care. Not a decrease in care, but in choice of care.”

Following the ESA report, attendees had the opportunity to review and provide feedback on the Market Rate and Cost of Quality surveys. Although DEL is only required to send out the Market Rate survey, Director Moss highlighted that by providing both surveys, “It will allow us to quantify what the market is bearing, versus what providers are charging and allows comparison for subsidy rate and how we identify them in the future and the costs associated with licensing and regulatory changes.”

With a goal of having a 75 percent response rate, members of ELAC stepped up to say they would commit to helping DEL by sharing information about the survey with providers in their area. 

Director Moss gave a brief overview of possible DCYF Regional Structures and asked attendees how they would like to be involved in conversations about regions. With a final decision being made by the end of December many attendees voiced ideas and recommendations such as ensuring that tribal nations stay intact and perhaps following a structure similar to the Educational Service Districts.

Following lunch, DEL Assistant Director Frank Ordway took questions and touched briefly on general DEL updates regarding the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program Expansion Think Tank, Early Childhood Education Workforce Council, Attendance Project, and Negotiated Rule Making. 

To conclude the meeting, attendees were asked about the development of a reflection report that would highlight all of the work done by ELAC in 2017. The hope is to develop a report that not only captures the accomplishments of the group, but can be shared with those outside of ELAC.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Request for Application for ECEAP Expansion Released

Are you interested in becoming an ECEAP provider? The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has released the Request for Application (RFA) for ECEAP Expansion for 2018-19!

DEL is excited to release this RFA for 1,000 ECEAP slots starting in the 2018-19 school year. ECEAP is Washington's pre-kindergarten program for low income 3- and 4-year-old children and their families. To promote school success, ECEAP provides preschool education, family support, and health and nutrition services. Research shows high-quality early learning programs like ECEAP save states money over the long run by reducing the need for remedial services in schools, social services, and criminal justice.

The RFA has been released on Tuesday, December 19, 2017 and is open to current and potential ECEAP providers. Here are some key pieces of information for this process:

·      When are applications due?
Applications are due Friday, March 2, 2018.

·      Where can I find the application materials?
All RFA materials can be found on DEL's ECEAP website at: https://del.wa.gov/eceap

·      How can I learn more about the RFA for ECEAP Expansion?
Two applicants’ webinars are available to attend in January. These webinars are open to all interested applicants. During the webinar, participants will be oriented to the RFA and be able to ask questions. The two options available are:

o   Friday, January 26 at 6:00 p.m.: Click to Register Here
o   Monday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m.: Click to Register Here

·      Who do I ask if I have questions about the RFA for ECEAP Expansion?
For questions about the RFA process, please email the ECEAP Expansion RFA Coordinator at eceap@del.wa.gov 

Questions will be gathered and responded to weekly. In addition, a Question and Answer (Q&A) document will be uploaded to the DEL ECEAP website and updated weekly throughout the RFA process.

ECEAP is a high-quality preschool option for eligible children and families. You can help 3- and 4-year-old children in your community be ready for kindergarten! If you are interested in learning more about the impact ECEAP makes on children, families, and communities, please read the 2016-17 ECEAP Outcomes Report.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

New Paid Sick Leave Law takes effect January 1

Dear Child Care Providers,

As you may know, the state of Washington has a new Paid Sick Leave Law, which was approved by voters in 2016 as part of the initiative that raised the minimum wage. This new law takes effect on January 1, 2018.

If you are an employer, you will be required to make sure your record keeping systems are ready to track and allow your employees to use sick leave. You also need to make sure your employees know about the new changes. If you are an employer and want more information on the new Paid Sick Leave Law, you can:
  • Register for an employer webinar through the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries here.
  • Read more employer information on the law here.

If you are an employee, you may be entitled to paid sick leave beginning January 1, 2018. Most employees will accrue paid sick leave at a minimum rate of 1 hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Both full-time and part-time workers are entitled to sick leave. If you are an employee and want more information on the new Paid Sick Leave Law, you can:
  • Read more about your rights under the new Paid Sick Leave Law here (espaƱol).
  • Read an overview of all your rights as a worker here.

If you have questions about the new law, please contact the Department of Labor & Industries at (866) 219-7321 or esgeneral@lni.wa.gov.

Heather Moss
Department of Early Learning

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Indian Policy Early Learning members discuss upcoming transition, DEL programs

The Indian Policy Early Learning (IPEL) advisory group met for their most recent meeting on November 16, 2017 to provide input on upcoming changes to early learning in Washington. The meeting, hosted by the Squaxin Island Tribe at the Little Creek Casino and Resort, was attended by representatives from 23 of Washington’s 29 federally recognized tribes and 16 elected tribal leaders.

The meeting began with a joint discussion with the Department of Social and Health Services’ (DSHS) Indian Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC) about future changes at DEL. Notably, the two committees discussed the transition to the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), which DEL will join next summer. Children’s Administration, which is currently a part of DSHS, will also become part of the new department.

DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter engaged with IPAC and IPEL members in a discussion about how DCYF and Washington’s tribes will work together moving forward. Secretary Hunter acknowledged that government policies have had a disproportionate and negative impact on children of color, and particularly tribal children.

“We can’t do this without partnerships with the tribes,” he said of the transition.

Tribal representatives expressed a hope to see a deeper understanding from DCYF of what tribal sovereignty is and how tribal governments function. Some also sought stronger government-to-government relations, in part through the hiring of staff members at DCYF who understand and have empathy for tribal communities and children.

With the new DCYF, “we have an opportunity to create a durable working relationship” with the tribes, Secretary Hunter said.

After the joint DCYF discussion, IPEL members remained to conduct their regular meeting. They heard updates from several DEL programs and offered input on proposals from DEL staff. Some of these programs seek to work collaboratively with tribal nations through the hiring of people to work specifically with tribal communities.

Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), which offers free early learning programs to low-income families across the state, hopes to expand access to the program to more tribal communities. Currently, ECEAP serves 225 tribal children in 8 programs. Through the creation of an IPEL workgroup, DEL hopes to build an ECEAP program that works for more tribal families.

The tribes’ input was also sought on how to do consultation for an upcoming deadline for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), a federal and state partnership program that funds child care programs for low-income families.

The next IPEL meeting has not been scheduled but will take place in early 2018. To keep up to date on IPEL activities, visit DEL’s Tribal Nations webpage. Contact DEL Tribal Liaison Tleena Ives at tleena.ives@del.wa.gov to be added to the IPEL e-mail list.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

How DEL manages and maintains records

Lately, there have been a number of records issues in both the state and national news. Elected and appointed officials have received attention for everything from failing to disclose records to poor records management policies and procedures.

The Department of Early Learning takes document management very seriously and works hard to ensure that our records are well maintained. There are a number of ways to make sure that our records are kept in a manner consistent with the guidelines set forth in RCW 40.14. The office of the Secretary of State gives state and local agencies guidelines on proper record keeping as well.

There are two ways in which records are classified: the first way is through the State Government Records Retention Schedule – Version 6.0, which classifies a number of commonly used records that span throughout the entire state government. The second is through agency-specific retention schedules. Depending on the type of record, DEL maintains records for between 6 months and 25 years before destroying them. Records Retention Schedules for the State of Washington are held on the Washington Secretary of State website

One way records are maintained by the state is the State Records Center, which is operated of the Office of the Secretary of State. To find more information on the State Records Center please visit the Secretary of State's website

Another way the agencies’ records are kept is via in-house file cabinets and internal electronic records management systems. We are currently undergoing a large records management project in which we are working to move as many records to the State Records Center as is possible. This is in anticipation of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) merger between DEL and certain offices of DSHS per HB 1661.

In the upcoming months, DEL will work with our counterparts at DSHS to ensure that all records and retention schedules are seamlessly merged and transferred over to the new DCYF on July 1, 2018.