Monday, August 31, 2015

DEL Welcomes Ross Hunter as New Director

Gov. Jay Inslee today appointed state Rep. Ross Hunter as director of the Department of Early Learning, saying the veteran lawmaker and former Microsoft executive has a strong mix of skills and passion for the job.
“With landmark investments this year, Washington state is poised to be a world leader in early learning,” Inslee said. “Ross will ensure that those investments bring returns for our children, making sure every family has access to quality early learning opportunities.”
Hunter said it was a difficult decision to leave the Legislature after 13 years. But he said he was drawn by the opportunity to help build on earlier successes at the Department of Early Learning, which under the state’s new two-year budget received an additional $137 million in total funds.
“The opportunity to improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of at-risk children is incredibly compelling,” Hunter said. “I cannot wait to get started. My first task is to get to know the department’s dedicated staff and connect with the dedicated and passionate stakeholders who have done so much to bring world-class early learning to Washington children.”
State Rep. Ruth Kagi said she was very pleased with the appointment.
“Ross Hunter has demonstrated a deep commitment to high-quality early learning opportunities for young children,” Kagi said. “He fully understands the promise and the challenges of implementing the comprehensive early learning legislation we passed and he helped author last session.”
State Sen. Steve Litzow, chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, said Hunter’s leadership will be especially important given the major new investments made by the Legislature and passage of the Early Start Act.
“Ross Hunter offers a unique mix of passion for early childhood education, knowledge of early learning policy and the legislative process, and management experience at Microsoft that we hope will take the Department of Early Learning to the next level for Washington children,” Litzow said.
Hunter replaces Dr. Bette Hyde, who announced her retirement in March after six years leading the department.
“I want to thank Bette again for all she’s done for the state,” Inslee said. “We wouldn’t be in the position we’re in today if it weren’t for her dedication.”
Hunter will start Sept. 8. The job will pay $150,000 annually.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

National Breastfeeding Month: Benefits and Resources

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers. For infants, breastfeeding decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. 

Breastfeeding may also decrease infants’ risk of becoming obese later in childhood. Short- and long-term benefits to mothers who breastfeed include decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and more rapid maternal weight loss after birth. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics makes the benefits of breastfeeding easy for parents and children to understand:

Why is breastfeeding so good for my baby?

1. Breastfeeding provides warmth and closeness. The physical contact helps create a special bond between you and your baby.

2. Human milk has many benefits.
  • It's easier for your baby to digest.
  • It doesn't need to be prepared.
  • It's always available.
  • It has all the nutrients, calories, and fluids your baby needs to be healthy.
  • It has growth factors that ensure the best development of your baby's organs.
  • It has many substances that formulas don't have that protect your baby from many diseases and infections. In fact, breastfed babies are less likely to have:
    • Ear infections
    • Diarrhea
    • Pneumonia, wheezing, and bronchiolitis
    • Other bacterial and viral infections, such as meningitis
  • Research also suggests that breastfeeding may help to protect against obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, eczema, colitis, and some cancers.

Why is breastfeeding good for me?

Breastfeeding is good for you because it helps:
  • Release hormones in your body that promote mothering behavior.
  • Return your uterus to the size it was before pregnancy more quickly.
  • Burn more calories, which may help you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy.
  • Delay the return of your menstrual period to help keep iron in your body.
  • Provide contraception, but only if these 3 conditions are met:
    • You are exclusively breastfeeding and not giving your baby any other supplements
    • It is within the first 6 months after birth
    • Your period has not returned
  • Reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
  • Keep bones strong, which helps protect against bone fractures in older age.
According to the CDC 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, 79% of US infants started breastfeeding in 2011. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, with continued breastfeeding through at least the first year. 

In the United States, 49% of infants are breastfeeding at six months, yet only 19% are exclusively breastfeeding. A closer look at the rates reveals substantial geographic and racial/ethnic disparities. These rates are far from meeting some of Healthy People 2020’s established targets: Increase the proportion of infants who are ever breastfed to 82%, increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed at 6 months to 61%, and increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed exclusively through 6 months to 26%. 

Resources for you:

Check out the recent DEL blog post about Breastfeeding Friendly Washington to get up-to-date information about positive changes happening in this state. 

A great resource for mothers or women considering being mothers in Washington State is the Department of Health's Healthiest Next Generation page dedicated to breastfeeding. Check it out here: Breastfeeding in WA.

Earlier this summer, news stories surrounding the controversy of breastfeeding in public surfaced. If you aren't confident breastfeeding in public, check out this helpful article with tips on how to go about it: A Guide to Breastfeeding in Public with Confidence.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) Tips for Expecting Moms and Young Kids

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and the Washington State Department of Health (Health) has spent time educating the public on the benefits of vaccinating your children and members of your family before the start of the 2015/2016 school year. Especially when this past year boasted some of Washington's highest cases of Whooping Cough.

Now that most of Washington is at the "final countdown" stage of summer--and almost everyone in the education world is prepping for the school year, here are some quick tips on vaccinations. Hopefully, you have already crossed this off of your "back-to-school to-do list," but in case you haven't, check these out:

If you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant--

Before becoming pregnant, a woman should be up-to-date on routine adult vaccines to help protect her and her child from vaccine-preventable diseases like rubella.
  • Live vaccines should be given at least one month before pregnancy; vaccines received during pregnancy should be inactivated.
  • It is very important for women to be up to date on their measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine before becoming pregnant. Rubella infection in pregnant women can cause unborn babies to have serious birth defects with devastating, life-long consequences, or death.
  • You can have a pre-pregnancy blood test to see if you are immune to the disease. You probably received the MMR vaccine as a child, but you should confirm this with your doctor.
  • If you need to get an MMR vaccine, you should avoid becoming pregnant until one month after receiving the MMR vaccine and, ideally, not until your immunity is confirmed by a blood test.
Tip: There are two vaccines routinely recommended during pregnancy: flu (to protect against influenza) and Tdap (to protect against whooping cough).

It is safe, and very important, for a pregnant woman to receive the inactivated flu vaccine, commonly known as the flu shot. Pregnant women can receive the flu shot at any time during their pregnancy.

Flu season typically occurs from October through May. Pregnant women should get the vaccine soon after it becomes available. A pregnant woman who gets the flu is at risk for serious complications and hospitalization.

Women should get the adult tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine (Tdap) during each pregnancy. Ideally, the vaccine should be given between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy for the most whooping cough protection to be passed on to the unborn child.

This vaccine is important to help protect young babies from whooping cough until they are able to receive their own vaccines at 2 months old.

If you care for a child ages birth to 6--

Vaccines give parents the safe, proven power to protect their children from 14 serious diseases before they turn 2 years old.
  • Vaccinating your children according to the recommended schedule is one of the best ways you can protect them from 14 harmful and potentially deadly disease like measles and whooping cough (pertussis) before their second birthday. 
  • Children who don’t receive recommended vaccines are at risk of 1) getting the disease or illness, and 2) having a severe case of the disease or illness. You can’t predict or know in advance if an unvaccinated child will get a vaccine-preventable disease, nor can you predict or know how severe the illness will be or become. 
  • Vaccines don’t just protect your child. Immunization is a shared responsibility. Families, health care professionals and public health officials must work together to help protect the entire community – especially babies who are too young to be vaccinated themselves. 
  • Most parents choose the safe, proven protection of vaccines and are vaccinating their children according to the recommended immunization schedule. Estimates from a CDC nationally representative childhood vaccine communications poll (July 2014 online poll) suggest that most people are vaccinating according to schedule or are intending to do so. 
Stat: In fact, 88.9% of parents reported that they are vaccinating according to schedule or are intending to do so.
  • Most young parents in the U.S. have never seen the devastating effects that diseases like measles or whooping cough (pertussis) can have on a family or community. It's easy to think of these as diseases of the past. 
  • Many vaccine preventable diseases are only a plane ride away. For example, measles is still common in many parts of the world. The disease is brought into the United States by unvaccinated travelers who are infected while in other countries. When measles gets into communities of unvaccinated people in the U.S. (such as people who refuse vaccines for religious, philosophical or personal reasons), outbreaks are more likely to occur. 
    • Since measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000, the annual number of people reported to have measles ranged from a low of 37 people in 2004 to a high of 668 people in 2014. In 2014 there were 23 outbreaks affecting 668 people from 27 states.
    • This year, measles continues to affect the United States with over 178 cases reported as of June 26, 2015. Most of the reported measles cases occurred in people who were not vaccinated or who did not know whether they were vaccinated. 
  • Outbreaks of whooping cough (pertussis) have also occurred in the United States over the past few years. There are many factors contributing to the recent increase in whooping cough, but getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent whooping cough and its complications.
While immunizations have significantly reduced the incidence of many serious infectious diseases, vaccination rates for some diseases are not meeting national public health goals. During National Immunization Awareness Month, it is important to remind the people you care for that immunizations aren’t just for children. They are needed throughout our lifetime.

For more information, check out the Department of Health's page dedicated to immunizations, complete with an easy-to-read ebook:

Statistics and data in this article are courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

DEL Restructures Leadership

As of August 19, the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) has implemented a department-wide organization plan to maximize partnerships and accelerate their work. 
Dr. Bette Hyde
“We have many new and important assignments as part of the Early Start Act as well as the Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) reauthorization,” said DEL Director, Dr. Bette Hyde. “In order to get this considerable workload moving forward, we are setting up an organizational structure that encourages work across all programs and individuals.  By pulling together, we can achieve our goals for early learning in Washington.”
Dr. Hyde has assigned three directors to lead early learning programs moving forward (this is in addition to the leadership and guidance of DEL's Deputy Director, Heather Moss and Dr. Bette Hyde):
Luba Bezborodnikova
  • The Assistant Director for the Early Start Act, Luba Bezborodnikova, is now also the Assistant Director for Licensing.  Luba will work closely with Mary Kay Quinlan, the current Statewide Licensing Administrator. 
“By combining Early Start Act initiatives and licensing, we mean to emphasize that licensing is paramount in all this exciting and important work.  The regional administrators and licensing supervisors will continue to report to the Statewide Licensing Administrator,” said Dr. Hyde.

Nicole Rose
  • Nicole Rose (former PreK-3/ ECEAP Administrator) is now acting Assistant Director for Quality Practice & Professional Growth (QPPG), and will lead the Early Start Act work on preschool initiatives.  This will include closer partnerships with ECEAP (state-funded preschool) and Head Start (federally funded preschool) as well as working to develop pathways with child care providers to become ECEAP providers or Early Head Start providers. This position will work closely with the Seattle Schools and their preschool implementation and will be our primary contact with OSPI for WAKIDS and other P-3 initiatives. 
  • Greg Williamson
  • The Assistant Director for Partnerships & Collaboration, Greg Williamson, will continue his leadership in emphasizing the importance of the very crucial infant and toddler years.  He will continue to serve as our lead for the Healthiest Next Generation, Essentials for Childhood, ACE’s Public Private Initiative (APPI), Developmental Screenings, and Frontiers of Innovation. 
“We want to emphasize providing quality professional development for our DEL staff,” said Dr. Hyde. “This is something that we need to do better.  All of our work is done under the umbrella or ‘roof’ of the Early Start Act and CCDF reauthorization.  The peak of this roof and the peak of all that we are looking for is the highest quality for children and families.”

Dr. Hyde is set to retire on August 31, 2015. DEL’s new director will be named and announced in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Breastfeeding Friendly Washington Hospitals Supports the Healthiest Next Generation

In partnership with the Washington State Hospital Association, the Washington State Department of Health launched Breastfeeding Friendly Washington Hospitals on August 3. This voluntary program recognizes birthing hospitals that support breastfeeding and is part of Governor Jay Inslee’s Healthiest Next Generation Initiative.

Recognizing that Washington's future depends on the health of our children, Gov. Inslee launched the Healthiest Next Generation Initiative to help our next generation be the healthiest ever. Supporting breastfeeding is one of the initiative’s three areas of focus.

This program is based on the World Health Organization’s Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The steps were adapted for birthing hospitals in Washington, using three tiers of recognition (bronze, silver and gold). Successful applicants will receive window decals, a letter and certificate of achievement from Secretary of Health John Wiesman, and a CD with logo files and a sample press release. Hospitals that qualify for the Gold Recognition Level will also receive a plaque. 

This program is not only about recognition for hospitals, but it is also a vehicle for families to learn about how hospitals are supporting breastfeeding. The promotional package hospitals receive will help with this awareness. Prospective parents can also search our website for a Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital nearby.
"The Governor declared the Healthiest Next Generation initiative, and breastfeeding was one of the key areas he wanted to focus on," said Michele Lord, Department of Health Breastfeeding Coordinator. "Through research, we have noted that Washington has a good breastfeeding initiation rate among moms. However this number declines, and by six months we have a low number of moms that are still breastfeeding. Putting the pieces together, we realized that there is something happening from the moment the mom leaves the hospital that can shape her success in continuing to breastfeed. So we decided to begin with hospitals to promote breastfeeding across the state, to get new moms off to a great start."

Ten Steps to the Breastfeeding Friendly Washington program:

1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff.
2. Train all healthcare staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
4. Place babies skin-to-skin with their mothers for 60 minutes immediately after birth and help mothers recognize and respond to feeding cues.
5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants.
6. Give infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated.
7. Practice rooming-in to allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand. Teach mothers cue-based feeding regardless of feeding method.
9. Give no artificial nipples or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants.
10. Establish a system for referring mothers to out-patient and community support. 

The Benefits of Breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding helps protect and maintain the health of both mothers and babies. Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses such as diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia and breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma. Research also shows that breastfeeding a baby for nine months reduces a baby’s risk of becoming overweight by more than 30 percent. Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and post-partum depression.

Supporting breastfeeding is also good for business– big and small. Businesses that support breastfeeding employees are better at retaining valued employees. When employees breastfeed, businesses see less sick time taken by both moms and dads for doctor visits and hospitalizations. Because breastfeeding protects the health of both moms and babies, businesses experience lower health care and insurance costs.

To learn more about the program, contact Michele Lord, Department of Health Breastfeeding Coordinator at or (360) 236-3625. To share how you are creating the healthiest next generation, use the hashtag: #HealthiestNextGen on social media!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Community Approach to Tribal Early Learning in WA

In order to remain tightly focused on early learning, and to promote shared supports within the tribal nations, the Indian Policy Early Learning (IPEL) work group was established in 2013 to advise the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and assure quality, comprehensive delivery of early learning services to American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington State.

DEL enlists the help of IPEL to provide guidance regarding
early learning initiatives that affect children statewide.
The committee is modeled after the Department of Social and Health Services’ Indian Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC), and guides DEL’s implementation of the Centennial Accord and DEL’s policies that impact tribes. Each of the 29 Federally Recognized Tribes of Washington are entitled to appoint one delegate and alternates to participate as members. IPEL meets quarterly and has recently provided guidance to DEL on the state’s Child Care Development Fund plan and the roles and responsibilities of DEL’s new Tribal Liaison position.

In a recent IPEL meeting on the Tulalip Reservation, committee chair (Patty Eningowok of the Suquamish Tribe) lead a detailed discussion around emergent and ongoing issues associated with tribal early learning. Topics included:
  • recent federal changes in critical funding streams, 
  • state level changes outlined in the recently passed Early Start Act, and 
  • a tour of a newly constructed tribal early learning facility. 
Eningowok has served as the Chair of IPEL since its inception. Between discussions, she had a moment to talk about the value of IPEL and the successes of the group. 
“IPEL has created more opportunity for resource sharing among the tribes and has given an opportunity for equal representation of all the tribes in broader early learning discussions.” Further, Eningowok acknowledged the importance of family engagement in tribal early learning, recognizing that “each tribe is focused on family preservation, but is faced with a unique sense of history and culture that is specific to the tribe, IPEL has created a venue where we can talk about our common goal and recognize that each of us has a unique set of challenges as we pursue that goal.”
Also in attendance was Jacki Haight of the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe. Jacki is thankful for IPEL because, as she states, “our voices need to be heard.” Jacki has been a part of tribal early learning for decades and brings a great sense of history and purpose to the work.
 “IPEL has allowed tribes to deepen their understanding of not only their own unique challenges in providing quality early learning, but also the challenges faced by other tribes as well.”
A strong relationship between the Department of Early Learning and the tribes is important as the state makes bold steps towards ensuring quality early learning opportunities for all kids in Washington. Bette Hyde, DEL’s director, has served as the liaison between the tribes and the agency.
“Quality for all truly means quality for ALL, regardless of where you live or your ethnic or national identity,” Hyde said. “My time with the tribes has help me to understand what it means to be a tribal provider of quality early learning and the unique circumstances faced by each tribe.”
Moving forward, the agency will soon designate a dedicated full time staff person to the role of tribal liaison.
“While I have enjoyed my time as the agency liaison, there is so much work to be done that a dedicated full time staff person is needed to continue to build cooperative relationships with each of the 29 federally recognized tribes in our state,” Hyde said.
To view DEL's web pages on tribal relations, go here: Tribal Nations

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Planning for the Future of Early Learning in WA: ELAC's Latest Meeting

Yesterday, DEL's Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) met in Lacey to discuss the future of early learning programs in Washington state. To learn more about ELAC, refer to June's blog post about their last meeting.

Agenda items included but were not limited to:

  • The Parent Advisory Group (PAG)
    • DEL is currently in the review process after receiving 87 applications following the July 15 deadline. More information will be released in the coming weeks regarding the final members of this group. For more information about PAG, click here: Parent Advisory Group.
  • The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF)
    • The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) is a federal grant that supports low-income working families by providing access to affordable, high-quality early care and after-school programs. 
    • As CCDF is a federal grant, the federal government updates and issues new requirements to it's recipients. Some of the requirements that DEL is currently working on with advisement from ELAC are:
      • support family engagement in child care settings to promote healthy child development
      • social/emotional development and preschool expulsion policies
      • child care subsidy policies (e.g. allowing homeless families to receive subsidy before submitting required documentation such as immunization records).
  • Advancing Racial Equity
    • As stated in June's blog post, ELAC will advise DEL on early learning policies and incorporate the Racial Equity Theory of Change (link courtesy of Thrive Washington) into the Council's feedback when considering early learning programs.With that in mind, ELAC members discussed doing the following moving forward:
      • develop an annual reflection on progress made in racial equity
      • DEL collects data regarding the successes and barriers that people face in their communities
      • promote specific training and/or presentations regarding racial equity around the state
      • construct a Racial Equity Toolkit with data as a main component
        • data includes indicators like "number of Washington children participating in home visiting and preschool dis-aggregated by race and ethnicity" or "number of early learning professionals that take training on culturally or linguistically responsive services."
  • The Early Start Act
  • DEL staff presents about the Early Start Act at yesterday's ELAC meeting.
    • DEL staff presented on their hope for implementation of the Early Start Act as it was signed into law on July 6. To read more about the Early Start Act, check out last week's post about the Early Start Act Q&A panel at Starting Strong.
    • Early Start Act topics at this ELAC meeting included Early Achievers and standards alignment. For up-to-date information on the Act's requirements and supports, go here: DEL's Early Start Act pages
ELAC meetings are generally held six times per year and host a variety of early learning advocates (regional coalitions like Child Strive of Pierce County, the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance, Investing in Children: Coalition Central, North Central, Northwest, Olympic-Kitsap Peninsulas coalitions, SOAR of King County, Southeast and Southwest coalitions, and Visions for Early Learning of West Central Washington). ELAC also welcomes government agency representatives from the Department of Social and Health Services, the Department of Health, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive Washington. Legislators also attend regularly. For  more information about ELAC, check out DEL's page dedicated to this group.