Tuesday, January 17, 2017

DEL Releases Plan to Improve Services for Infants, Toddlers

The 2016 Legislature passed (SB) 5879 which required the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to develop and submit a plan to the Washington Legislature on comprehensive and coordinated services for all children eligible for the early support for infants and toddlers (ESIT) program in accordance with part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). If implemented, this plan would create efficiency that will direct more resources to infants and toddlers with special needs and their families.

This plan:
  • Improves financial oversight and transparency within early intervention programs,
  • Simplifies administrative processes and provides greater technical support to early intervention providers, and
  • Ensures the State is maximizing resources for infants and toddlers by significantly increasing usage of both Medicaid and private insurance funding.
DEL received significant feedback from stakeholders during the development of the plan and made substantial changes to the final version in response.

We recognize that some of the administrative costs described in this report are being used by school districts for necessary special education services for preschool (age 3-4) and school age children. Immediate change would be disruptive and we recommend that changes to the program only become effective upon passage of the state’s plan to fund public education (in response to McCleary v. State of Washington Supreme Court Case Number 84362-7) and no earlier than July 1, 2018.

In addition, there is currently a proposal from a Governor-appointed commission to revise how Washington serves children and families. The proposal suggests restructuring existing services to create the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families. If this proposal is implemented by the Legislature, then this early intervention plan should be implemented in a coordinated way on July 1, 2018. DEL is committed to maintaining an effective system that serves all Washington children and families in need of these essential services and working with our partners to do so.

For the last ten months, DEL staff members have engaged more than 1,000 stakeholders across 46 separate events as well as responded to more than 50 pieces of written feedback in order to meet their legislative charge (see appendix A in the report linked below). DEL leadership and ESIT staff have been gathering stakeholder feedback through surveys and facilitated discussions with local lead agency (LLA) staff,
school district contacts, the State Interagency Coordinating Council (SICC), stakeholders from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), as well as receiving support from national technical assistance providers and Part C leadership in other states.

To read the entire plan, click here: 2016 ESIT Plan.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Comprehensive Pre-K Program Shows Positive Child Outcomes

Children enrolled in ECEAP (state-funded preschool) are assessed three times during the school year to track their social-emotional, physical, language, and cognitive development and their early literacy and math skills. English language acquisition is tracked for children who speak a different language at home.

Photo taken at Tacoma Day (ECEAP site) 
in Tacoma, Washington.

How Washington measures kindergarten readiness

In Washington State, we rely on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) for kindergarten readiness data.

WaKIDS is a process for:
  • Welcoming students and their families to kindergarten.
  • Assessing students’ strengths.
  • Discussing the characteristics of children’s development and learning what will enable them to be successful in school.
In the 2015‒16 school year, WaKIDS reached approximately 59,000 kindergartners and determined their skill set development in the six areas highlighted below.

While we can see that few children start their Pre-K year in ECEAP with kindergarten entry skills, at the end of one year of ECEAP, the percentage of ECEAP children with kindergarten entry skills exceeds the rate for all WaKIDS children and for low-income WaKIDS children. For the 124 children with two years of ECEAP, the results are remarkably higher.

Our state’s most at-risk children made progress in all six areas of development.

The following percentages of ECEAP children moved from “below age level” to “at or above age level” during their time in the state-funded program.
  • Social-emotional development – 41% 
    • Meaning the child can regulate his or her own emotions, establish and sustain positive relationships, participate cooperatively and constructively in group situations.
  • Physical development – 35% 
    • Children are measured on traveling, balancing, motor manipulative skills (e.g. reach with your hands) and fine-motor strength and coordination.
  • Language development – 35% 
    • The child listens to and understands increasingly complex information, uses language to express thoughts and needs and uses appropriate conversational and communication skills.
  • Cognitive development – 39%
    • Children demonstrate positive approaches to learning and use classification skills and understand the use of symbols or images to represent something not present.
  • Literacy development - 43%
    • The child shows phonetical awareness, knowledge of the alphabet and print, and comprehends and responds to books and other texts. This category also measures the child’s ability to explore writing.
  • Mathematics - 53%
    • Children use number concepts and operations, explore spatial relationships and shapes, compare and measure and demonstrate knowledge of patterns.
Beyond the six areas of skill and development, ECEAP offers an integrated pre-K experience, including support with health care and family engagement.

Healthy children are learning children

ECEAP staff work closely with families to establish medical and dental coverage and care.and mental health consultation (if needed).
  • At the time of enrollment only 56 percent of ECEAP children were up to date on their annual well-child medical exams. By the end of the year, 91 percent were on schedule.
  • When they enrolled in fall 2015, only 39 percent of ECEAP children were up to date with dental screenings. For children who attended ECEAP all school year, 94 percent had dental screenings and necessary follow-up treatment. Dental cavities are the single most common disease of childhood.
ECEAP parent voice:
“One of my girls is a darling special needs kiddo and with that comes some big frustrations for me. One area that was difficult for years was brushing her teeth. When she started ECEAP, the teachers were focused on health and nutrition and made time every day to practice brushing teeth with all the kids. It did not take long before she was tolerating a brush in her mouth and now she actually enjoys having them brushed.”

Family first

Family engagement is an essential component of ECEAP comprehensive services. It includes individualized family support services: working with families to increase their economic security as well as providing referrals and community resources, opportunities to volunteer in the classroom, parent education, and parent leadership development activities.

One ECEAP site had a “Daddy and Me” event for the families. The Family Support Specialist recaps:
“I got home about a half hour ago from an amazing night. There were so many dads and papas who came with their kiddos. One teacher volunteered for the whole event. I asked boys to introduce me to their dads and gave them the words to say. Every dad who was introduced just beamed. Quite possibly the most heartwarming thing was that an elderly man came with the boy he’s been bringing to school every day. He brought the boy’s dad who is blind, and none of us were aware of this. They are friends from their church. The elderly man gently guided the dad in, helped the little boy with activities while dad was by his side, and brought the dad his dinner. ECEAP is truly a community program!”
In the 2015-16 school year, ECEAP implemented two new initiatives geared toward family support. Please look for more information about Families Moving Forward or check out the Family Support Pilot blogpost here: ECEAP Family Support Pilot.

To read the entire report, go here: 2015-16 ECEAP Outcomes Report. For more information about ECEAP, visit https://del.wa.gov/ECEAP.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meet Colton: Early Intervention Success

The following is a guest blog post authored by a Pierce County mom:

Colton was the kid everyone looked at in public. At 24 months, he still couldn't speak. Colton would yell, scream, hit, kick, and bite his message across. He hated the smell of strong foods – they made him gag or vomit. He hated anything on his hands and would scream until we wiped them, but he hated the wet wipes as well and would scream even more. Good luck getting anything off his face without a wrestling match! His face was off limits: no wiping, no touching, not even a kiss goodnight.

Colton was constantly on the move. Jumping here and there, crashing into things. We had him evaluated for Autism Spectrum Disorder, but that was ruled out. 

We knew he had a speech delay and a sensory processing disorder. I was an exhausted mom. I was a frustrated mom. It's hard to admit, but I was also a mom who was embarrassed by his behavior. 

One of the biggest blessings of Children's Therapy Center Early Intervention program was having someone explain why our son was acting like this and giving us the encouragement and knowledge to support him. 

Picture Exchange Communication example.
I was surprised when his first therapist was a special education teacher, considering he had been referred for speech. But Stephanie was exactly what Colton needed. He couldn't practice speech until we helped him regulate himself. She taught us how to parent him with love and logic. She taught him sign language (“more,” “all done,” “help,” and “please”) so that he could request his needs. She gave us PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) so that meals, snacks, and activities were no longer a guessing game ending in fights and tears. She saw his body and knew a SPIO® would help him gain control. She was right! He was like a different kid with it on. Stephanie saw that music helped him learn and calm himself, and she utilized it. She led a play group where he flourished and was motivated by his peers. Within 6 months, Colton went from speaking four to 60 words. He began tolerating wiping. 
The first person my son ever blew a kiss to was Stephanie. I think that's a bold expression of the amazing staff that CTC employs. 
The amazing, Colton!
Colton’s speech therapist, Alyssa, had participated in his playgroup and I think this familiarity made a huge difference. Her enthusiasm really drew Colton in. Alyssa was great at taking Stephanie's observations and utilizing games and songs to get him to enunciate. She showed us how to break words apart, target sounds, and practice repetition in positive ways. 

Colton also received occupational therapy with Marge. Marge really took the time to understand Colton. She observed his reactions and the environmental input and explained all of this to me in a way I could understand. She helped us see how his lack of speech was causing his aggressive behavior. Marge helped us make daily struggles (teeth brushing, hair washing, eating, bedtime) into tolerable and fun routines. She also noticed his weak muscles (hypotonia) and how they negatively impacted the simplest tasks. She taught us how to help him gain strength utilizing household items and games.
I was extremely nervous knowing that Colton would be leaving Early Intervention. All of his therapists and teachers were unconditionally supportive. They worked with me to review notes, prep for the evaluations, and calm any fears I had. With their help, we were able to get Colton the support he needs for the future via developmental preschool. 

Colton doesn't need to yell, scream, hit, kick, or bite to get his messages across anymore. He can use one of the 120 words he now has in his vocabulary. Colton can play with clay or paint with his sisters and wipe his hands calmly. Colton is still on the move but he is not crashing into things. He has much better control over his body and his emotions. 

Every night now, I can tuck him in and give him a kiss – something that would never have been possible without Early Intervention and his teacher and therapists at CTC. 

For more information about Early Support for Infants and Toddlers in Washington State, go to www.del.wa.gov/ESIT

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Statement from DEL, Proposed Expansion of Early Learning

On Wednesday, Dec. 14, Gov. Inslee unveiled his proposed 2017–19 operating, transportation and capital budgets. The budget roll-out follows the governor’s announcement Tuesday of his plan to fully fund basic education — and more to support kids, families, and teachers.
“This year’s proposed budget supports a vision for Washington’s future,” said Ross Hunter, DEL Director. “The investment our Governor has made will ensure children have the supports they need to succeed in the classroom, while parents and caregivers have the resources necessary to support their families outside of school.”
The governor’s operating budget:
  • Fully funds basic education
  • Invests in high-quality teachers and closing the opportunity gap
  • Begins transformative restructuring of services for children and families
  • Provides a modest pay increase to support a stronger state workforce
In regard to investment in early childhood education, the governor’s proposed budget:
  • Enhances rates for child care and preschool programs and providers 
  • Increases slots for children to enroll in Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP - State-funded preschool)
  • Includes funding for ECEAP additional facilities
  • Provides more slots for home visiting services
  • Expands summer learning opportunities in our state-funded preschool program
“We are excited to expand the capacity of our completely integrated state-funded preschool program, ECEAP and to increase capacity for our state’s smallest learners after the minimum wage increases for providers,” said Hunter. “Washington’s most at-risk children and families need access to preventative services and high quality early learning in order for this investment to yield a better future for our state.”
The Department of Early Learning was allotted approximately $75.5 million over the next two years (2017-2019). More details about the proposed budget and what that means for early learning in Washington State will be released. For more information about DEL’s budget requests, go to www.del.wa.gov/budget.

For more details about Gov. Inslee's proposed 2017-19 budget, please go here: Gov's Budget.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Director's Message: Minimum Wage Increase

Dear early learning professional,

As you know, Initiative 1433 to increase Washington State’s minimum wage passed this year with pretty large margins. This initiative provides for an increase in the minimum wage to $11.00 on January 1, and incremental increases until the wage rises to $13.50 in 2020. The initiative also requires paid sick leave for many employees.

We recognize that this wage increase can be seen as a two-sided coin. Wages for some of our lowest-paid educational workers and for some of the families you serve will rise to get a lot closer to a liveable wage. However, child care providers as business owners will face a significant financial pressure to raise rates to cover the cost of these increases.

We are aware that this initiative will present fresh challenges for some providers, and we are trying to better understand these implications from both an individual and systems level. The Department of Early Learning is generating a cost model for the Legislature to help them understand the constraints that private pay and subsidy childcare providers face with this new financial reality. While we do not have any shareable details at this time, we intend to make this analysis available to the public in December.

I would not normally write to all providers until we had more details to share, but many of you have written or called with concerns about this and I want you to know we’re hearing you and taking the steps available to us to provide you with more information.

Please look out for more information in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here are some resources that may help explain the new law: 


Sincerely,




Ross Hunter
Director

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Recognize Your Hero: Celebrate Washington Parents

The Department of Early Learning’s (DEL) Strengthening Families Washington division, with the help of Seattle’s Child will recognized 28 parents in February 2017 at the State’s annual Unsung Heroes event.

The initiative is meant to honor “Unsung Heroes” or parents or caregivers who demonstrate strength, courage and empathy in their communities.

This year’s honorees from all over the State will be invited to western Washington for the 2017 Unsung Heroes event where family, friends and nominators can share inspirational stories about what it means to be an Unsung Hero in their communities.

DEL Director Hunter and Assistant Director Williamson
congratulate an Unsung Hero and parent at last year's event.
Last year, DEL Director, Ross Hunter as well as DEL Assistant Director, Greg Williamson awarded 29 Unsung Heroes and their families with a plaque and inspirational children’s book, The Dot after sharing dinner and playing with children attendees at Olympia’s Mobile Hands On Children’s Museum.

Each Unsung Hero’s story will also be available online at www.seattleschild.com/Parenting/ and will be shared on DEL’s Facebook page.

More about Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes has celebrated parents and caregivers in Washington State since 2011. Nominees are selected based on their ability to utilize five “protective factors,” in their work and/or personal life such as:

·         Knowledge of parenting and child development
·         Social connections
·         Parental resiliency
·         Concrete support in times of need
·         Social and emotional competence of children

If you are interested in nominating someone for a 2017 Unsung Hero award, please fill out the Unsung Hero Award Form and send it to strengtheningfamilies@del.wa.gov or by mail to SFWA, 1110 Jefferson St. SE, Olympia Washington, 98501.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

ACH Payments Accepted Now for Background Check Fees

New this fall, an electronic payment option is available to individuals and providers who are paying the Department of Early Learning’s background check application fee of $12.

For a Spanish or Somali version of this message, please go here: Background Checks - Soomaali or here: Background Checks - EspaƱol.

Automated Clearing House (ACH) is an electronic withdrawal directly from your checking or savings account. A bank account (checking or savings) and bank routing number are required for ACH electronic payments.

DEL will continue to accept check, money order or cashier’s checks through the mail. Purchase
orders are not an acceptable method of payment.

DEL will continue to work toward developing systems to allow for debit and credit card transactions in the near future, please look for further communication about this.

Frequently asked questions:
  • What is ACH? 
    • Automated Clearing House (ACH) is an electronic network for financial transactions in the United States. ACH processes large volumes of credit and debit transactions in batches. ACH credit transfers include direct deposit, payroll and vendor payments.
  • Why is it a secure way to pay? 
    • If you're concerned about security, ACH is a safe way to pay. You only need to expose your bank account information once – when you sign up for electronic payments – as opposed to every month if you write checks monthly. Unlike wire transfers, ACH payments are not immediate and irrevocable. 
  • When will DEL allow credit card payments? 
    • DEL fiscal and background check unit staff members are working on developing a system that will allow for secure and verified credit card payments. Please look for more communication regarding this in the future. 
  • Does DEL allow purchase orders? 
    • Not at this time. The approved ways to pay the background check fee are by check, money order, cashier’s check or via ACH. 
  • Where can I find my routing and account numbers? 
    • At the bottom of a check, you will see three groups of numbers. The first group is your routing number, the second is your account number and the third is your check number. See the image for reference. 
Do you have additional questions? Please refer all background check questions to the background check mailbox BackgroundCheck@del.wa.gov or 1.866.482.4325 #4.