Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meet the Lymans: Early Intervention Services in Washington State

Meet the Lymans!

The Lymans are a Washington family that benefits from Early Intervention Services for their daughter, Phoebe. Hear their story and find out about the kind of high-quality early learning the Lymans experience. Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) is a Washington State program that serves thousands of children each year.

Early intervention services during the first three years can make a big difference in a child’s life. According to the Lymans, their daughter Pheobe has had consistent support and has made developmental progress since her birth!

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.

Early intervention services are designed to enable young children to be active, independent and successful participants in a variety of settings—in their homes*, in child care, in preschool programs and in their communities--*you can see this in Phoebe's play time with her parents and with her dog, Pepper :). 

Fast Facts about ESIT:
  • 6,529 infants/toddlers and their families served at any one time 
  • 13,686 eligible infants/toddlers and their families received services 
  • 29% of toddlers exiting early intervention did not qualify for special education at age 3 
  • 94% of infants/toddlers and families received services in the natural environment 
  • 82% of families surveyed reported knowing their rights to the program 
  • 89% of families surveyed reported early intervention helped them effectively communicate their child’s needs 
  • 86% of families surveyed reported early intervention helped them to help their child develop and learn
Statistics based on early intervention service delivery in Washington, July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

For more information about Early Intervention in Washington State, go here:

Special thanks to the Lymans for letting DEL share your inspirational story and optimism!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

State Welcomes New Statewide Licensing Administrator

The Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) is pleased to announce that Travis Hansen has accepted the Early Learning Statewide Licensing Administrator position. Hansen is currently the Regional Administrator for DEL’s North Central region, which includes counties from Okanogan in the north to southern Klickitat.

Travis comes to this position with a wealth of experience and dedication to early learning. He has devoted his passion and energy to Washington State social and early learning services for over 10 years. Travis’s professional history and his vision for licensing services as a foundation to a quality early learning system will be a great asset to the DEL administration team. 

Travis Hansen, Statewide Licensing Administrator
“I believe quality child care starts with a healthy and safe child,” said Hansen. “It is a true honor to be able to work in such a great early learning system in Washington State.”
For the last four years Travis has successfully lead licensing services in 13 counties of the North Central region, supporting children, families, early learning providers, and communities from the Canada to Oregon borders.

Prior to that, Hansen was DEL’s Licensing Supervisor for the Yakima Office, Travis also worked as a program manager, therapist, and a supervisor for various agencies, including the Department of Social and Health Services, Crest Counseling Services and EPIC Youth Services. 
“Travis brings many skills and talents that are transferrable and highly desirable to this new role,” said Luba Bezborodnikova, DEL Assistant Director.
More about Travis: 
Travis earned his Master’s degree in Social Work with a specialization in Counseling as well as Public Administration from Eastern Washington University. Hansen and his wife have five children of their own, Riley, Cooper, Chase, Brady, and Hunter—all boys.

Favorite children's book: Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Best childhood memory: spending the summers at Priest Lake in Idaho. 
"I remember running around all over the lake as a kid. We would camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, and have campfires every night."

Thursday, May 12, 2016

WA Makes Gains in Pre-K Funding and Enrollment

Many 3- and 4-year olds across the nation still lack access to high-quality preschool education despite modest gains in enrollment, quality, and funding, according to an annual report by the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University.

In Washington, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) enrolled 10,091 children, up 1350 in 2014-2015, serving eight percent of the state’s 4-year-olds. Washington maintained consistent progress in terms of quality standards– meeting nine of NIEER’s minimum quality standards benchmarks. As of 2014-2015, ECEAP was required to participate in the state’ quality rating and improvement system, called Early Achievers. In 2014-2105, the state invested a total of $83 million in ECEAP, with approximately $76 million of these funds coming from state dollars from the state general fund and the “opportunity pathways account,” which is derived from lottery revenue.
“NIEER’s findings support our need for more high-quality programs and importantly, the inclusion of full-day models into our early learning settings,” said Department of Early Learning Director, Ross Hunter. “As we near our state’s milestone of making preschool an entitlement for low-income families, we need to ensure expansion of programs that prove success in child outcomes.”
More about ECEAP:
  • 60% of ECEAP children are ready the spring before entering Kindergarten.
  • There are 11,955 children eligible for ECEAP who are not served by ECEAP or Head Start. According to the February 2016 Caseload Forecast Council, 6,260 of these would likely participate if space were available. 
  • By fall 2020’s entitlement milestone*, Washington will need 7,377 more slots for children than Washington currently has, based on the children likely to participate. 
    • This requires adding 1,844 more slots each year for the next four years, beginning with the 2017-18 school years. 
    Inside an ECEAP classroom.
  • To add the 7,377 by fall 2020, Washington will need 266 more classrooms, 266 more trained lead teachers, and 266 more assistant teachers.
*The Legislature has made preschool a statutory entitlement for families with incomes at or below 110% of federal poverty level, or FPL, by fall 2020.

The State of Preschool report for the 2014-2015 school year, which includes objective state-by-state profiles and rankings, indicates that urgent action is needed from lawmakers at all levels of government to ensure that every child – particularly those from low-income families – have access to high-quality early education. For the first year, NIEER also analyzed states’ early education workforce and Dual Language Learner policies, which reveal that Washington is one of 14 states that can report the home language of every pre-K student. However, Washington does not require pre-K teachers to have a Bachelor’s degree, nor does it provide salary parity between pre-K and K-3 teachers.

The report finds that total state spending on pre-K programs for the nation as a whole increased by 10 percent, or $553 million, since the previous year, bringing state spending in 2014-2015 to over $6.2 billion. The number of children served by state-funded pre-K served increased by 37,167 in 2014-2015, bringing the total to almost 1.4 million children – the largest number of children ever served by state-funded pre-K. With an average rate of $4,489, states also made one of the most significant increases in spending per child in recent history.

For more information on The State of Preschool 2015 yearbook and detailed state-by-state breakdowns on quality benchmarks, enrollment, and funding, please click here.

More about DEL and NIEER:The Department of Early Learning was created in 2006 to help all Washington children reach their full potential. DEL oversees the state-funded preschool program, child care licensing and subsidies, early intervention services, and other initiatives and programs to support parents as children’s first and most important teachers. For more information, go to

The National Institute for Early Education Research ( at the Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, supports early childhood education policy and practice through independent, objective research.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Community Cafe

Have you heard about something called, Community Café, and wondered what the heck “it” is?  Here’s your primer. 

At its core, Community Café is a prescribed format for hosting large group discussions.  Based on the World Café Method, the Community Café is a smaller scale forum for group discussions that maintain the seven design principles of the World Café Method.  These seven principles lay out the “rules” for these constructed conversations:

1.       Set the context: for successful conversations, you must have a clear purpose and parameters to enable constructive discussions.
2.       Create hospitable space: you need to create a safe, comfortable and inviting space for open and honest conversations.
3.       Explore questions that matter: construct questions that are relevant and that will explore the objectives you wanted to achieve.
4.       Encourage everyone’s contribution: café conversations need full participation even if someone only feels comfortable listening to the conversation.  
5.       Connect diverse perspectives: mix up small group discussions with other groups to share differing perspectives and common themes.
6.       Listen together for patterns and insights: just as important to sharing your ideas it is equally as important to actively listen.  Make connections between ideas.
7.       Share collective discoveries: sometimes called “harvest” share small group conversations with the larger group to capture similar themes, patterns and insight.

Community Cafés are planned, led and monitored by individuals and community members who go through an orientation to learn the components of this approach.  They learn the World Café principles for hosting can relate to the participants and build on the assets of their neighborhood, group-building traditions, customs, visuals, foods and music from the cultures represented in each café to help to ensure cultural relevance.  Meaningful relationships develop as individuals and community partners participate as equals in a café series that sustains a value of reciprocity. 

The Community Café model has been used by Strengthening Families organizations to empower participants; many of which are parents.  Families are strengthened when communities support the building of social capital.  Reciprocity, or opportunities for families to contribute to their community, is essential to a supportive and healthy community; residents have the opportunity to contribute and a culture of reciprocity develops.  (

Strengthening Families organizations using the Community Café model construct conversations as they relate to the Strengthening Families Protective factor framework, published by the Center for the Study of Social Policy.  The five protective factors at the foundation of Strengthening Families are characteristics that have been shown to make positive outcomes more likely for young children and their families, and to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect.   

The Community Café works well for Strengthening Families organizations because it builds on the foundation that parents and communities want to do right by their children.  The framework builds on individuals’ strengths and empowers participants to support each other and build stronger communities in the process. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Suquamish Museum Features Children's Art

In recent years, school curricula in the United States have shifted heavily toward common core subjects of reading and math, but where does that leave the arts? 

The Suquamish Museum in Suquamish, Washington has found a way to make a lasting impression in its community and to a group of children learning the importance of artistic expression. 

Joanna Sharphead, a visitor services representative, worked with children and staff at the Marion Forsman-Boushie Early Learning Center to showcase artwork for the featured artist series at Suquamish Museum. 
Suquamish family celebrates their child's art
at the Suquamish Museum.
"While I was trying to decide which direction to go with our next artist for the Suquamish Museum's Featured Artist Series, Larry McGrady who is a child care teacher at the ELC pitched the idea of showcasing the ELC kids," said Sharphead. "He spoke passionately of their talent and what having their artwork displayed at the museum could do for their self-esteem. I was sold! We contacted Jeffrey Veregge who was the very first artist featured in this series and he offered to do an art workshop with the kids, which went great. Our main goal in having their artwork showcased is to let every child know how much their community, families, and guests of the museum appreciate their talent and creativity."
Children were invited to work with Veregge to create art for a special display. This exhibit will run through the end of June. For more information, check out the Suquamish Museum online or contact them here: (360) 394-8499.

All of our state's little learners can benefit from art in the classroom! The subject lends itself to cultural awareness and more. According to PBS, here is how:

Developmental Benefits of Art
  • Motor Skills: Many of the motions involved in making art, such as holding a paintbrush or scribbling with a crayon, are essential to the growth of fine motor skills in young children. 
  • Language Development: For very young children, making art—or just talking about it—provides opportunities to learn words for colors, shapes and actions. 
  • Decision Making: According to a report by Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. 
    Children's art featured at the Suquamish Museum.
  • Visual Learning: Drawing, sculpting with clay and threading beads on a string all develop visual-spatial skills, which are more important than ever. 
  • Inventiveness: When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives. 
  • Cultural Awareness: As we live in an increasingly diverse society, the images of different groups in the media may also present mixed messages. Teaching children to recognize the choices an artist or designer makes in portraying a subject helps kids understand the concept that what they see may be someone’s interpretation of reality.
  • Improved Academic Performance: Studies show that there is a correlation between art and other achievement. A report by Americans for the Arts states that young people who participate regularly in the arts (three hours a day on three days each week through one full year) are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Director Visits Children's Therapy Center

Last week, DEL Director Ross Hunter took a tour of Children’s Therapy Center in Burien. He got an opportunity to see first-hand some of the therapies for children with disabilities, and hear about the extensive home-based early intervention services they provide. CTC serves about 3,400 children each year, providing everything from speech-language, physical, and occupational therapies to parent education and community playgroups. Many of these services are provided through DEL’s Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program (ESIT).

At a glance: Washington families served by CTC.

We know that children with disabilities or developmental delays can have a wildly improved quality of life with early intervention services. About 85 percent of a person’s brain development happens in the first three years of life – children in this stage are forming more than 700 new neural connections every second. The services delivered through ESIT are designed to enable young children to be active, independent and successful participants in a variety of settings—in their homes, in preschool programs, and in their communities.

DEL Director Ross Hunter with CTC CEO Jon Botten (left) and staff in front of a river-themed mural at CTC’s Burien center.
While the evidence is clear on what works for children who need early interventions, the system in Washington State needs to become more sophisticated and be more coordinated with the other birth to age three services available. Luckily, the Legislature passed a law this year, Senate Bill 5879, which will help DEL do just that. It gives DEL the opportunity to take a critical look at the current service delivery process and to create a more efficient and expanded system. In the end, we want to get more money going directly to services that support our state’s children.

Look out for more information on this system plan design process throughout 2016 from our ESIT team. We continue to be inspired by the work of incredible partners like Children’s Therapy Center, and we look forward to a day when every child in our state gets the high-quality care they need to live full, rich lives.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Week of the Young Child Emphasizes Play, Health

The second week of April is an exciting time for early learning communities in Washington State, as April 10-16 is honored nation-wide as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) “Week of the Young Child™.”
“Today, we know more than ever about the importance of a child’s first years. For this reason, we are excited to celebrate the significant impact that early learning has on our state’s youth,” said DEL Director, Ross Hunter. “The recognition week also gives us the opportunity to highlight the critical need for state agencies to work together so that all children are ready for Kindergarten, regardless of their zip code.”
The purpose of the Week of the Young Child is to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. In Washington State, the Department of Early Learning (DEL), the Department of Health (Health) and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) partner to encourage healthy development from birth and beyond.

Partners have recently set out to achieve the goals that:
·         All children are Kindergarten-ready by 2020
·         Race is no longer a predictor of Kindergarten readiness and academic success

These ambitious objectives come after data was released in DEL’s Early Start Act Report which determined that in the 2013-2014 school year, only 41 percent of children were Kindergarten-ready.

Another partner initiative is the Healthiest Next Generation—a Governor-launched program that helps children maintain a healthy weight, enjoy active lives and eat and drink healthfully by making changes in early learning settings, schools and communities.
“We are most effective in serving children when we work together,” said Hunter. “There is not one solution to improving child outcomes, but many solutions, by many people, in the places where children spend their time--in early learning settings, schools, and communities. Our partnerships are key in achieving progress for all these kids.”
The Week of the Young Child is celebrated by partner programs throughout the state. State agencies will be promoting the recognition week on social media, blogs and agency heads from Health and DEL are set to tour a Washington child care program dedicated to child health and development.