Friday, December 17, 2010

Changes to Working Connections Child Care subsidy eligibility

Additional reductions are being made to the WorkFirst budget (which includes child care subsidies) to balance it for the current fiscal year (which ends June 30, 2011) and the 2011-2013 biennium. This is in addition to $51 million in cuts to WorkFirst announced last August, which at that time included moving from 200 to 175 percent federal poverty level for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies eligibility.

These new reductions are needed in part because assumed emergency Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding was not appropriated by the federal government, and in part because of increased caseloads.

Here is what the new reductions mean for WCCC (information clarified on Jan. 10). 
  • Families who currently pay a monthly copayment of $50 or more will see a $10 increase in their copayment. 
  • All new families applying for WCCC must also receive a TANF grant or be determined eligible for TANF to be eligible for WCCC.  
  • All eligible families who currently receive WCCC are income eligible until their income is more than 175 percent of federal poverty guidelines. For example, a family of three can’t earn more than $2,671 a month.
Please note: Families must reapply for WCCC before their current eligibility period ends or they will need to meet the new WCCC eligibility requirement.

As part of the August 2010 cuts, on Jan. 1, anyone receiving WCCC subsidies who is above 175 percent FPL will no longer receive the benefit. The 1,112 families affected by this, and the child care providers who serve them, have been notified.

All the WorkFirst reductions will be posted online next week at
We at DEL know that these are tough messages for families and providers. We must keep working to come out of this economic situation stronger than before, and smarter about leveraging every available resource. DEL is participating in an effort to put forward to Gov. Chris Gregoire a set of recommendations around redesigning WorkFirst, and will share more information about that when it is available.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Early learning in the Governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget

When releasing her proposed 2011-2013 budget this morning, Governor Chris Gregoire said the single most common denominator of individuals in state prisons is not drugs or alcohol, but lack of education. Her proposed budget tries to protect education, she said, especially in children’s earliest years.

Still, Washington faces a $4.6 billion shortfall in the coming biennium due to the national economic downturn. The Governor’s proposed 2011-2013 budget includes many difficult choices. It is one that reflects the fact that demands and costs for state services are up when revenues are down.

You can find the Governor’s entire budget proposal here. This is the budget for the biennium that begins on July 1, 2011. Her proposal goes to the Legislature as a “blueprint” for budget deliberations during legislative session.

Specific to our state’s youngest learners, the proposed budget:
  • Increases enrollment slots for 4-year-olds in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, while reducing slots for 3-year-olds. (Total of 460 slots cut from ECEAP, and a proportional cut to DEL ECEAP administration, for $9 million savings)
  • Eliminates the Career and Wage Ladder program ($3 million savings)
  • Reduces funding for administration for Seasonal Child Care subsidies ($2 million savings)
  • Does not carry forward Reach Out and Read literacy funding, and does not fund Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS)
  • Suspends planned increase of state-funded all-day kindergarten—continuing to fund the program for lowest income schools ($57 million savings)
  • Suspends the smaller class size and employee salary increase initiatives under Initiatives 728 ($860.2 million savings) and 732 ($253.3 million savings).
  • Eliminates K-4 class-size reduction funds ($216 million savings)
  • Eliminates the Children’s Health Program, which provides medical coverage for 27,000 children whose citizenship has not been documented ($59 million savings) and eliminates the Basic Health Plan ($230.2 million state fund savings; $117.3 million federal savings)
  • Proposes a new public/private partnership focused on reducing the impact of toxic stress and trauma (adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs), building on the success of the Family Policy Council and the Community Public Health and Safety Networks.
We at DEL are still looking at the entire proposed budget and will provide more information as we have it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Legislature wraps up assembly days: What was the early learning conversation?

The Legislature finished up a week of committee meetings today. During these “assembly days,” lawmakers get updates on key issues that they’ll likely focus on during the upcoming legislative session (the 2011 session starts Jan. 10).
Our state’s youngest learners continued to be a hot topic on Capitol Campus. DEL updated legislators on several initiatives:
  • On Monday, we and our partners at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction updated the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) pilot, currently under way in 115 classrooms around the state. Click here to watch that presentation, which includes a “real world” view from a kindergarten teacher participating in the WaKIDS pilot.
  • On Thursday, we shared information with the House Education Appropriations Committee on the progress of the preschool work group established in Senate Bill 6759. The work group is charged with creating a plan that looks at what a “voluntary program of early learning” might look like in Washington. (You can read more about this on the preschool work group web page.) Click here to watch that presentation.
  • And earlier today, DEL Director Bette Hyde updated the House Early Learning & Children’s Services Committee on DEL’s accomplishments and next steps. Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn and Thrive by Five Washington President & CEO Nina Auerbach joined Bette to talk about our strong Early Learning Joint Resolution Partnership, and the key priorities from the Early Learning plan we are focused on implementing in 2011. Video of that work session will be online at soon.
Thrive by Five Washington President & CEO Nina Auerbach, DEL Director Bette Hyde and Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn present to the House Early Learning & Children's Services Committee on Friday, Dec. 10.

Also this week: Both House and Senate committees heard updates on an effort to create recommendations to redesign WorkFirst, Washington’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The WorkFirst program includes Working Connections Child Care subsidies.
Recommendations for how to redesign WorkFirst as a sustainable program that helps vulnerable residents on the path to self-sufficiency are expected to be delivered to the Governor in January. Watch the Senate Human Services & Corrections Committee work session here and the House Health & Human Services Appropriations Committee work session here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Resources from early learning symposium now available online

Earlier this month, scientists, early learning leaders and others met together in Seattle for a symposium highlighting the newest research on children’s brains and development and how to use that knowledge across Washington. Participants heard from:
  • Dr. Jack Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University 
  • Dr. Robert Anda, consultant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Dr. Patricia Kuhl, the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington
The event was sponsored by Casey Family Programs, who made the symposium resources and presentations available online. Click here to check them out.

The first video includes Department of Social and Health Services Secretary Susan Dreyfus, Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde and Department of Health Secretary Mary Selecky who have committed to working together to improve outcomes for Washington children.

“The three of us put our hands on the table together, and we made a pledge,” Dreyfus said. “We made a pledge of a commitment to early childhood in the state of Washington.”

The three agencies recognize early childhood spans physical health, mental health and every development milestone, Dreyfus said. The new state Early Learning Plan aims to tie together all these efforts into a cohesive approach to support children and families, said Hyde, who followed Dreyfus at the podium.

“We are looking at partnerships in a whole new way,” she said.

Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large also attended the symposium, and you can read what he took away.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

DEL boosts child care licensing performance, earns applause from Governor

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) child care licensing team got kudos and applause this morning during the Government Management Accountability and Performance (GMAP) forum on vulnerable children.

GMAP is Governor Chris Gregoire’s tool to hold government accountable for performance. DEL is involved in two GMAP areas: vulnerable children (for our child care licensing) and education (for our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP).

We are proud of the incredible effort our team has made to improve timely monitoring visits, licensing complaint inspections and inspections involving allegations of abuse or neglect. These GMAP measures are tied to child health and safety in licensed child care. We had work to do to make sure we were focusing on and meeting these measures.

Our entire agency, especially our licensing team, worked together over the past months to:

• Increase our performance on timely monitoring visits of licensed facilities by 33 percent
• Exceed our target for closing complaints that do not involve allegations of child abuse or neglect.
• Decrease the average time it takes to close licensing complaints involving allegations of child abuse or neglect.

You can watch the forum shortly on by going to “Media Archives.” More information on DEL’s GMAP measures can be found at Learn more about DEL’s child care licensing work and why it matters by reading You Have a Choice! A Guide to Finding Quality Child Care.

We are proud of this hard work to make sure licensed child care facilities are safe, healthy, nurturing places for children in Washington!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Give your input on the draft policy recommendations for Washington's Birth to 3 Plan

The Legislature passed a bill last session (House Bill 2687) asking DEL to create a plan for how to ensure a "robust continuum of services" for parents and caregivers of children birth to 3. The plan is to look at education and support around healthy child development.

DEL and Thrive by Five Washington have led the drafting of the plan, which will be delivered to the Governor and Legislature in December. We need your input on the draft policy recommendations in the plan!

Click here to read the draft policy recommendations, and then click here to take a brief survey to give your input.

Monday, November 1, 2010

DEL's agency strategic plan now online

So what exactly is the Department of Early Learning's mission, and how do we know whether our work is having a positive impact on outcomes for children in Washington?

Our 2011-2014 Agency Strategic Plan is now online. Click here to read about our work and how it aligns with our state's Early Learning Plan.

Our vision: Our state offers world-class, developmentally and culturally appropriate early learning opportunities for all of Washington’s youngest learners, so each child enters kindergarten with a solid foundation for success in school and life.

Our mission: The Department of Early Learning develops, implements and coordinates system oversight to early learning policy and programs that create safe, healthy, nurturing learning experiences for all Washington children.

Our strategic goals:
  • Provide high-quality, safe, and healthy early care and education opportunities for all children.
  • Partner with and inform parents, families and communities about early learning.
  • Support early learning professionals with professional development and technical assistance.
  • Promote excellence and hold the system accountable for results.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Core competencies mailed to licensed child care providers

Licensed child care providers should be receiving a copy of a new publication, Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals, in the mail shortly.
In 2009, the Legislature asked DEL and the Professional Development Consortium (PDC) to create a set of core competencies for early learning and child care professionals. This set of guidelines defines what professionals need to know and be able to do to provide quality education and care. Spanish versions have not yet been developed.
The core competencies can be used in many ways. For example:
  • Providers and teachers might use them to decide where they should seek more training or education.
  • Trainers might use them to plan professional development.
  • College staff might use them to design course content.

Accompanying school-age core competencies developed by School’s Out Washington were developed simultaneously with the early care core competencies. These competencies delve more deeply into specific core knowledge and skills needed of school-age professionals who specialize in the care and education of children in kindergarten through high school. DEL and the PDC have worked with School’s Out Washington to ensure that the school-age core competencies and these early care and education core competencies are aligned. These will be available shortly.
DEL used federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to create, print and distribute the Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

School-age programs: Encouraging our state’s budding artists!

Recycled material masterpiece!
One of the best parts of working at the Department of Early Learning is getting to see children’s works of art when we’re out and about in child care facilities, preschools and other early learning settings.

A child care licensor in our Spokane DEL office recently noticed this beauty (see right) while visiting the licensed afterschool program at Discovery School Center. A sixth-grader named Brevin made this creative bird last month using only recycled materials.

Licensed school-age child care programs are a great way for children to have structured before- and afterschool time to learn, make friends and build important social skills. Learn more about what to look for when seeking school-age care for your child by visiting the school-age care section of our website.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

DEL postpones filing proposed family home child care rules

DEL will not be filing family home child care rules today and making them available for public comment, as had been planned. We are postponing filing to allow for more discussion time for DEL and other members of the family home child care negotiated rulemaking team (NRMT).

It is DEL’s responsibility to ensure safe, healthy licensed child care settings. Our goal with updating the family home child care rules is to make sure they are child-focused, research-based, consensus-driven rules that promote safety, health, and quality in licensed family home child care settings.

Members of the NRMT met for nearly three years to discuss current rules, review research and make recommendations on the proposed rules. As the regulatory agency, DEL then reviewed the team’s recommendations and prepared the proposed rules for formal filing.

DEL believes the proposed rules would support healthy, safe, high-quality family home care. We also want to honor the process and the work of the NRMT and ensure that team members feel their voices are heard and opinions considered before filing the proposed rules.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Working Connections Child Care eligibility changes to take effect Oct. 1

Eligibility for the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy program will be reduced to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level effective Oct. 1. This program helps low-income families pay for child care while adults work, look for work or attend training.

The new level (a monthly income of less than $2,670 for a family of three) is reduced from 200 percent of the poverty level and is expected to affect about 2,500 families using the program.

"These are real parents and kids who depend on this program to provide safe places for their children during the workday," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "The Governor made a very tough decision in order to balance the budget and still protect the most vulnerable families."

The change is part of $51 million in cuts to the WorkFirst program for the rest of state fiscal year 2011. WorkFirst is our state’s “welfare to work” program, which helps low-income families become self-sufficient through training and support services. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the cuts in August, as a result of increased WorkFirst demand and decreased state resources. Cuts to WCCC are expected to save about $16.8 million.

Families will not immediately lose benefits but will be reevaluated against the new level when the time comes to renew. Eligibility for the Seasonal Child Care (SCC) program also will be reduced to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Click here for more information and for ways to give input on these changes.

Families who are looking for child care can contact their local Child Care Resource & Referral agency. There are also resources for children cared for by family, friends or neighbors.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last “Learning for Life” segment features WaKIDS

For more than a year, our private nonprofit partner Thrive by Five Washington worked with KING 5 News to produce weekly segments about early learning topics here in our state. Today was the last in the series and featured our exciting kindergarten readiness pilot project.

Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) began this year in 120 classrooms around the state. It involves people important in helping kids achieve school readiness: parents, kindergarten teachers, child care providers and other early learning professionals. They meet together throughout the year and share information about a child’s strengths and needs.

As the kindergarten teacher in the KING 5 clip explains, it’s important to learn about the family, such as what language is spoken in the home and if books are available.

These discussions are about more than just if a child knows her letters and numbers, but how she learns, plays with others and uses her body. This assessment process becomes a baseline to help show what kids know when they enter kindergarten and how to support them through their education.

DEL, Thrive and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction worked together to design this pilot to support school readiness in both schools and communities. For more information about WaKIDS, including which schools are participating, visit

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DEL signs agreement with federally recognized Tribes

DEL Director Bette Hyde recently joined leaders from several of Washington’s 29 federally recognized Tribes in Spokane to sign communication and consultation protocols. These agreements guide how DEL communicates with and seeks input from each of the tribes as sovereign governments.

Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman
and DEL Director Bette Hyde sign the agreement.

Tribes have long been leaders in early childhood development and education, and DEL has worked hard to build strong partnerships that support culturally relevant early learning opportunities for all children, including Tribal children.

Both protocols are aligned with the Centennial Accord and New Millenium Agreement—agreements between Tribes and the State of Washington to ensure productive government-to-government relationships.

Read the consultation and communication protocols—and learn more about the way DEL supports and collaborates with Tribes—by visiting our Tribal Nations page.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Benefits of pre-k-3rd grade continuum featured at House committee work session

State officials and local school districts are working hard to “bridge the gap” between early learning and K-12. That was the message Wednesday during a House Education Committee work session on the importance of building a strong learning continuum for children pre-k through third grade.

DEL Director Bette Hyde opened the session by making the case for eliminating—not just reducing—the education achievement gap.

When Washington kindergarten teachers say about half of children enter kindergarten not ready, that doesn’t bode well for further success in the K-12 education system, Hyde said.

“Get rid of an achievement gap by never letting it start,” she said.

Hyde also talked about reducing the “fade-out” effect, which occurs when benefits gained in high-quality early childhood programs weaken over time. We can mitigate “fade-out” by helping ensure children have high-quality early learning opportunities and smooth, intentional transitions into kindergarten through 3rd grade, she said.

Also at the hearing, Annie Pennucci from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy presented preliminary research on how preschool opportunities impact test scores, graduation rates and other factors for low-income students.

DEL Deputy Director Bob Hamilton and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction WaKIDS Coordinator Dana Ziemba shared an update on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), being piloted this school year in 120 classrooms around the state.

A key component of the WaKIDS pilot is creating connections among the child care and preschool programs, parents, kindergarten teachers and school districts. Listen to Katherine Cove, preschool cooperative director, discuss what success can look like from the Toppenish School District.

To view the entire work session, click here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Seattle Times helps spread the word about Early Learning Plan

Here at DEL, we couldn’t help but be excited that local Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large shared the good news about the statewide Early Learning Plan with his thousands and thousands of regular readers.

You can check out his column “Getting kids off to good start” here, which ran in today’s paper.

The Early Learning Plan was released Sept. 1 after more than a year of work with partner agencies and stakeholders and feedback from Washington residents. It is our state’s roadmap for early learning.

We couldn’t have said it better than Mr. Large, who wrote:

“Washington state is putting what we know about building a strong foundation for children into practice in a more organized, coordinated way with a new early-education plan. The plan will get parents, day-care providers, educators and myriad social organizations talking to each other and working together.”

He further continues:

“All this is being done because brain-development research has made us increasingly aware of how important those early years are for children, and how important it is for the rest of us that children get on a good path early.”

You can see the plan and an executive summary at

The plan may be finished, but the work is just beginning. Keep watching for more updates!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Statewide toll-free number experiencing difficulties

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) reports that its statewide toll-free number, 1-877-501-2233, is experiencing major technical difficulties. This is the phone number for clients to call about public assistance benefits, such as cash, food, medical and Working Connections Child Care subsidies.

Callers are reporting being dropped from the call before they hear menu options. A temporary fix is in place; however, the state is expecting very high call volumes during the Labor Day weekend. DSHS is encouraging customers to delay calling if possible or be prepared for long waits.

In Eastern Washington, callers are experiencing poor sound quality and disconnected calls. Please be prepared to share your phone number at the beginning of the call so DSHS staff can call you back.

DSHS is working to fix these issues as quickly as possible.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Washington State Early Learning Plan is born!

After more than a year of work and extensive outreach, the Washington State Early Learning Plan is now available. Visit to read the plan and learn more about our state’s 10-year roadmap for helping ensure all children start school ready to succeed.

We at DEL want to thank the Early Learning Advisory Council for leading this work, and to the staff at DEL, Thrive by Five Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and other partners for their incredible work on making this plan a reality.

DEL, Thrive, OSPI and others worked hard to make sure Washington residents were able to weigh in on the plan as it was drafted—through online surveys, town hall meetings, meetings with key policymakers, ethnic groups and stakeholders, and other community gatherings. We are also proud that the plan was reviewed by a cultural competency expert to help ensure it reflects and honors the rich diversity of our state.

Keep watching for more information on how our state will begin implementing the plan—and how YOU can help!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Updated national standards to prevent childhood obesity in early learning settings

Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs is a new set of national standards on best practices in nutrition, physical activity, and screen time for early care and education programs.
"Preventing Childhood Obesity in Early Care and Education Programs contains practical intervention strategies to prevent excessive weight gain in young children. The standards detail opportunities for facilities and caregivers/teachers to work with families beginning on day one of an infant’s enrollment to prevent childhood obesity by promoting a healthy and active lifestyle.
These updated standards will be a part of the comprehensive Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards; Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, Third Edition (CFOC, 3rd Ed.) to be released in 2011. The standards are for all types of early care and education settings – centers and family child care homes.
Areas of coverage:
  • General Nutrition Requirements
  • Meal and Snack Patterns
  • Requirements for Infants and Support Breastfeeding of Infants
  • Requirements for Toddlers and Preschoolers
  • Meal Service and Supervision
  • Food Brought from Home
  • Nutrition Education
  • Active Opportunities for Physical Activity 
  • Outdoor and Indoor Play Time 
  • Caregivers/Teachers’ Encouragement of Physical Activity
  • Screen Time Limits
  • Policies on Infant Feeding, Food and Nutrition Services, and Physical Activity
Caring for Our Children standards are developed through a public-private partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB)."

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Working Connections Child Care 12-month eligibility form, information available

Beginning September 1, families that have a child in Head Start, Early Head Start or an Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) and are eligible for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) benefits may qualify for 12 months of eligibility before having to reapply for WCCC. These families must still meet all WCCC requirements during their eligibility period. You can learn more about 12-month eligibility here.

How do parents apply for WCCC and the 12-month eligibility?
  • The first step is to apply for WCCC. Call the DSHS Customer Service Call Center at 1.877.507.2233 or apply online. DSHS will determine your eligibility based on your completed application within 30 days. You can learn more about WCCC here.
  • You must also complete this verification form that states your child is enrolled in Head Start, Early Head Start or ECEAP when you apply or re-apply for WCCC benefits. This form is also available at local Head Start, Early Head Start or ECEAP programs, and at local CSO offices. DSHS needs the information on this form in order to verify your child’s enrollment in Head Start, Early Head Start or ECEAP before authorizing 12 months of eligibility.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cuts to WorkFirst services ordered for rest of state fiscal year

Today, Gov. Chris Gregoire announced cuts of $51 million to the WorkFirst program for the rest of state fiscal year 2011 (which ends June 30, 2011). WorkFirst is our state’s “welfare to work” program, which helps low-income families become self-sufficient through training and support services. WorkFirst includes the Working Connections Child Care program, which offers child care subsidies to low-income families who are working, looking for work or in job training.
Cuts to WCCC for the rest of this fiscal year are expected to save about $16.8 million and include:
  • Reducing WCCC eligibility to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (a monthly income of less than $2,670 for a family of three). This will be effective October 1, and will be phased in as families using WCCC come up for reauthorization.
  • Requiring only one parent in two-parent families to participate in work activities to reduce child care costs for an expected 1,900 WorkFirst families.
These cuts are due to increased WorkFirst caseloads and a decrease in state revenue collection. Click here to read more about WCCC and other cuts to WorkFirst.
The Governor has challenged the five state agencies involved in WorkFirst—the Department of Social and Health Services, DEL, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the Employment Security Department and the Higher Education Coordinating Board—to redesign the WorkFirst program to focus on cost-effective, sustainable, evidence-based best practices. That proposal will be delivered to the Governor this December. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Give input on the draft Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals!

Now is your chance to give input on a draft document that will define what early care and education professionals in our state need to know and be able to do to provide quality care and education. Click here to read the draft Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals and take a short survey. The survey is available until August 20.

The core competencies were developed by the Department of Early Learning in partnership with the Professional Development Consortium, at the direction of the Legislature. They include standards around eight areas:

• Child growth and development

• Curriculum and learning environment

• Ongoing measurement of child progress

• Family and community partnerships

• Health, safety and nutrition

• Interactions

• Program planning and development

• Professional development and leadership

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Child care providers: New resources to help build children's early language/literacy skills!

We were excited to see some new research-based resources for child care providers with easy ideas for supporting early language and literacy development. Both were issued this summer by the federal National Institute for Literacy.

First, the Make Time to Talk tip sheets have simple, fun ideas for center-based and family home child care providers to help build early language skills that last a lifetime. Among the tips:

• Two-way conversations are best. The child should be doing at least half the talking.
• Tell stories to the children and ask them to tell you stories about their families and lives.
• Act out stories with the children, re-using words from the book you read aloud with the children.
• Kneel or squat to be able to have eye contact with the child.

Second, Learning to Talk and Listen: An oral language resource for early childhood caregivers, is a short booklet with information about why adult-child conversations matter and how to talk with young children.

For more information on early literacy, visit

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Early Learning Advisory Council recommends approval of Early Learning Plan

During a special meeting on July 26, the state Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) reviewed the Early Learning Plan and recommended approval by the three partner agencies (Department of Early Learning, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive by Five Washington).

ELAC members—many of whom were closely involved with creating the plan—discussed changes made to the plan since it was first released in draft form on Dec. 1, 2009. Those changes were based on feedback from hundreds of Washington residents through public hearings, an online survey, and targeted outreach to hard-to-reach communities.

DEL, Thrive and OSPI also contracted with a national expert to review the plan and offer suggestions about how to ensure the plan is culturally competent and reflects the rich diversity of our state.

The adopted plan — along with a three-year action plan for beginning its implementation — will be available online at on Sept. 1. Hard copies will be printed this fall in partnership with The Boeing Company.

Be sure to check online Sept. 1 to see this roadmap for building a world-class early learning system that supports all children in Washington in growing up healthy and ready for school!

Monday, July 26, 2010

DEL assistant director speaks at congressional early learning briefing on Tuesday

On Tuesday, July 27, DEL Assistant Director for Outcomes & Accountability Bonnie Beukema will be part of a congressional briefing on strengthening state early learning systems. Click here to watch a webcast of the Strengthening State Systems of Early Care and Education briefing—moderated by Cornelia Grumman, executive director of the First Five Years Fund. The briefing is in Washington, D.C., and starts at 4 p.m. ET.

Bonnie will talk about Washington’s efforts to build an early learning system that prepares all children for school through high-quality early learning programs—and our focus on better data so that we know we’re supporting successful child outcomes.

Other panelists include Holly A. Robinson, commissioner of Bright from the Start at the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, and Anne Bryan, senior policy advisory to North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue on early childhood issues.

Be sure to tune in!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

MERIT now available to search for STARS-approved trainings

The new tool to search for State Training and Registry System (STARS)-approved trainings and trainers is now available for child care providers and other early learning professionals.

In April, DEL took the STARS database off-line to create a new, more robust tool. DEL is introducing the new tool, called the Managed Education Registry and Information Tool (MERIT), in phases.

Last month, approved trainers and training organizations were able to add and edit available early learning trainings. Beginning today, child care providers and other professionals can search for those trainings. To start, click “Search MERIT” in the upper tab.

Searching for trainings does not require a user name or password. In a future phase of MERIT, all early learning professionals will receive login information to enter information about their training history. At this time, only currently STARS-approved trainers or training organizations have user names. If you have questions or concerns, e-mail

STARS forms are available on the bottom of the MERIT home page or at Watch for more information about future phases of this new and exciting tool!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Reminder: Child care providers must report abuse and neglect

This morning DEL is sending out a phone message reminder to all licensed child care providers that they and their staff members are mandated reporters. Mandated reporters must report suspected child abuse or neglect. This obligation is an important part of keeping all children in Washington safe and healthy.

Our partner agency, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), has collected valuable information about who is a mandatory reporter and resources to help them understand their role. Click here to check out the site.

To report, call 1-866-ENDHARM (1-866-363-4276), Washington State's toll-free hotline that will connect you directly to the appropriate local office. We at DEL appreciate the work you do.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

DEL Director meets with NACCRRA Executive Director

We had the pleasure this week of hosting the leader of the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies at the DEL state office in Lacey. NACCRRA is a national organization that works with more than 700 state and local child care resource and referral agencies in ensuring families have access to child care options in their community.

NACCRRA Executive Director Linda Smith met with DEL Director Bette Hyde and other members of the DEL team for a rich, wide-ranging discussion on early learning issues, including child care licensing, quality rating and improvement systems and military child care. We were happy to hear Linda’s thoughts on our own licensing rules, which NACCRRA has ranked among the top in the nation.

One of the most fascinating parts of the conversation was Linda’s thoughts on the importance of how we talk about early learning issues: Does the average person know what “quality” means? What does professional development for early learning professionals look like? Linda talked about how sharing just a few examples of what we mean can help paint the picture. For example:

“Child care quality child care facilities are safe and healthy places, such as those that have lots of age- and culture-appropriate books, parent involvement and time for children to play in and outside.”

“Professional development includes training in such areas as physical development of toddlers or how to use songs and music to support early literacy skills.”

Linda is in Washington for the NACCRRA Leadership and Management Institute in Seattle today. Our thanks to her for visiting DEL and sharing her knowledge, energy and ideas with us!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Seeds to Success: Stories from the field

Earlier this month, DEL and Thrive by Five Washington began the second year of field testing Seeds to Success, our state’s quality rating and improvement system. This voluntary system is designed to support licensed child care providers in improving the quality of child care they offer children and families. The quality standards being measured in Seeds have been modified based on what we learned in the first year of the field test. Five communities – Thrive demonstration communities East Yakima and White Center; and Spokane, Clark and Kitsap counties – are participating in the pilot.

Check out the good things that are happening at two Seeds sites.

White Center:
One family home child care provider has worked with her Seeds to Success coach to involve families more in her child care program. Early in the Seeds program she hosted her first “Family Night,” which included information about her programming, a presentation by the children and a family/child mural painting activity. The success of family night prompted the provider to look for other opportunities to engage families. She created a monthly parent packet of resources related to her lesson plans, including vocabulary words in English and Spanish, lyrics for songs and poems, child goals and activity ideas for families to use at home. She set a goal to hold parent conferences for the first time and looked to her coach for ideas and support. Together they brainstormed the relevant topics to include, talked about how to bring up challenging situations and worked on incorporating information from child developmental observations into the conferences. The coach and provider role-played the conference experience to increase the provider’s confidence level.

One program site is seeing the impact of Seeds to Success on all of their preschool classrooms. If one teacher receives training and coaching, she eagerly shares the information with her colleagues. And parents are noticing the enthusiasm! One parent commented to the child care director that interactions between staff and children had changed. What had happened? The director was able to share her center’s involvement with Seeds to Success and all that her staff had learned.

Visit to see the updated Seeds quality standards and to learn more about the second year of the field test.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

MERIT available for trainers and training organizations

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is excited to announce that trainers and training organizations are now able to use the new Managed Education and Registry Information Tool (MERIT).

MERIT replaces the State Training and Registry System (STARS) database as the place to house information on STARS-approved training, training organizations and early learning professionals. DEL took the STARS database offline on April 1 to create a stronger, more user-friendly tool.
Starting today, current STARS-approved trainers and training organizations can:
  • Add present and future training offers to MERIT; and
  • Create, modify and delete trainings from MERIT
To sign in to MERIT for the first time, trainers and organizations will need the username and temporary password that DEL sent you. If you had problems receiving this information, contact Only current STARS-approved trainers and training organizations have access to MERIT at this time.
DEL hosted a webinar today to introduce trainers to the tool. Information will be made available after the training for those who missed the webinar at

Early learning professionals, including child care providers, will get access to MERIT at a later date to record training history and search available trainings. Child care providers must still follow licensing rules and take required STARS-approved trainings.

For STARS information, visit

Friday, June 18, 2010

DEL, OSPI announce WaKIDS pilot sites

Incoming kindergarteners from Anacortes to Quincy will be part of the pilot of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) during school year 2010-2011! Click to see a list of all participating school districts and schools and learn more about the pilot. Districts were notified earlier this week.

UPDATE (5:10 p.m. June 18): A little Friday afternoon brain fog caused us to post the applicant list, not the selected pilot site list. The current, final list is what's now available at the above link.

We are excited that so many school districts chose to apply. It shows the real and deep commitment in our state to our youngest learners. In the end, each of the 54 districts that applied are represented in the pilot. By being part of the pilot, districts have the opportunity to help inform the WaKIDS process. We are piloting WaKIDS to learn more about how best to support a smooth transition for children from the first five years of life into kindergarten and beyond!

The Department of Early Learning and Office of Superintendent chose the pilot participants using a sample plan to ensure the pilot represents the diversity of our state. DEL and OSPI are leading this work, in consultation with Thrive by Five Washington. Thrive, along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, have contributed private funding to support the pilot.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You have until Friday to give input on the draft Early Learning Plan!

This Friday, June 18, is the last day to share your thoughts on the draft Early Learning Plan. After that, the public comment period will close and all comments will be reviewed and considered for the plan. need convincing? Check out the video of Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde talking about the plan and why your voice needs to be heard!

The plan will be adopted this fall. Go to to read the draft and take a short survey.

Why should you share your input on the draft plan? Because this is the roadmap for building an early learning system in Washington in the coming years. It will affect children, families, and all those who care for children or work on issues related to early learning. DEL is leading the effort to create this plan, along with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Thrive by Five Washington, and other partners.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Child care centers to see fee increase on July 1

Beginning July 1, the Legislature has directed DEL to increase the yearly licensing fee for centers and school-age centers to $100 for the first 12 children, plus $8 per child up to your licensed capacity.

This increase will go into the state’s general fund, and will not go directly to DEL. For more information and to view the emergency rules, visit the DEL Rules Under Development section.

DEL plans to adopt permanent rules for this rate change by late 2010. There will be future opportunities for public input.

For questions, e-mail

Friday, June 11, 2010

WaKIDS school districts to be announced next week!

With more than 50 school districts applying for the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) pilot this fall, we need just a few more days to finalize the selection of participating districts.

The final application count represented 5,700 kindergarten students and 253 classrooms! The pilot will include 120 kindergarten classrooms and 3,000 incoming kindergarten students.

You can expect the list of WaKIDS pilot participants to be online early next week. In the meantime, visit to learn more about this exciting work that will help us better support a smooth transition from early learning into the K-12 system for our youngest learners!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Add your voice to the “licensing reboot”

This week licensed child care providers should be receiving a letter from DEL explaining a new project we’re calling the “licensing reboot.”

DEL Director Bette Hyde has spent much of the last year traveling around the state meeting with DEL licensing staff and with licensed providers. Some things are working very well in licensed child care, and some things can be improved. The “licensing reboot” is a simple but structured way for us to hear from providers and make improvements as needed.

Check out to learn about the project, then take the survey in:


The survey is optional and anonymous. We want to hear your voice!

Friday, June 4, 2010

ECEAP success stories: We love 'em!

We hear so many wonderful stories about how a child has flourished in our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), and are excited that this state-funded preschool program will be available to all eligible children by 2018, thanks to House Bill 2731 sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman. Here’s a recent success story from an ECEAP site in southwest Washington about a 3-year-old boy:

The boy had been demonstrating angry and aggressive behaviors at home and in the community. Both his pediatrician and the worker at WIC had recommended mental health services for the child. He exhibited extreme anxiety and anger arriving at school, hitting mom, his brother and the teacher. For several months the child refused to extend himself in the environment—he would not grasp anything in his hand (cup, marker, toy, food, etc.). He would not talk or interact with anything or anyone.

The teachers invited him to participate at every opportunity but did not force interactions. The ECEAP site team quickly involved their mental health consultant and made an outside referral for therapy with a bilingual therapist (this child did not speak English). The family gets four hours of in-home support a week and weekly therapy sessions. Efforts to draw him out and to help him feel successful in the classroom were constantly evaluated by the mom and staff together and new strategies employed. In late winter he began to eat in class, to hold toys, and to participate in art projects. He then started to speak to another child in his native language and was observed smiling and delighting in the interactions of others in the class.

Photos taken at the end of the year show a smiling 4-year-old comfortably lying in the grass looking up at his peers. The team saw amazing social emotional development in the ECEAP class, and mom saw similar changes at home. Best of all: He will be able to return to ECEAP this next school year!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Districts eager to participate in kindergarten readiness pilot

Great news! More than 50 school districts have applied to be part of the voluntary pilot of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) for school year 2010-2011.

Applications were due May 27, and school districts selected for the pilot will be announced June 11. Nearly 50 school districts applied, representing about 230 classrooms and 5,200 students. The pilot will include 120 kindergarten classrooms and 3,000 incoming kindergarten students.

Visit to see the latest on WaKids including: a video of a licensed child care provider talking about why WaKIDS matters for early learning professionals, and questions and answers about the pilot.

DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, in consultation with Thrive by Five Washington, are leading this pilot. The 2009 Legislature funded the pilot, which requires a private funding match. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive have awarded the state private matching funds.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Gov. Gregoire, DEL help launch “Developing Mind Project” at UW

It’s called a megnetoencephalography machine (whew!)—but all you need to know is that it is here, and it signals a new era in child brain research. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) was proud to help host the unveiling of the “Developing Mind Project” at the University of Washington Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences this week. This project includes a one-ton machine that can safely look at the developing minds of children.

This imaging will help us better understand how and when children learn. The machine was installed at I-LABS through a mix of public and private funds (including $4 million in state funding through the state’s Life Sciences Discovery Fund).

“A big congratulations to the children of tomorrow and the parents of tomorrow, because that’s clearly what today is all about: The idea that we can unlock an amazing amount of research to assist parents and children so they can be all they want to be,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said at the unveiling. “I’m look forward to putting those discoveries to use on behalf of the children of Washington State and the children of the world.”

Photos are courtesy of UW’s Dr. Patricia Kuhl.

Extended Eligibility for Child Care Subsidies

A new state law allows a 12-month eligibility period for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC). A family may qualify for Extended Eligibility starting August 15, 2010 if:
  • A child receives services from Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), a Head Start program, or an Early Head Start program; and
  • The family is eligible for WCCC.
More information will be available soon for child care providers and families to help them understand how the changes will affect them.

As part of the new changes, DEL also is proposing changes to our WCCC rules to line up with the new law. You can check out these changes on our website and see how you can offer input.

In Washington, the Working Connections Child Care program helps about 35,000 families a month. This program is critical to helping low-income families pay for the child care they need to work, look for work, or go to school. You can read a recent New York Times article about child care subsidies here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

DEL on TVW’s Inside Olympia

Check out TVW’s Inside Olympia in which Austin Jenkins interviews Assistant Director for Outcomes and Accountability Bonnie Beukema. They cover preschool, child care subsidies and where early learning is headed in our state.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

2010 market rate survey: What is it?

The 2010 market rate survey (also sometimes called the “provider survey”) is now under way in Washington!

If you are a licensed child care provider, you may have gotten a letter in the mail this week about the survey. A letter was sent to all licensed centers and to a sample of family home providers. Please take the time to go online and take the survey. If you don’t, you may get a follow-up call asking you to take the survey via phone.

So what is the market rate survey? As our state’s lead agency for the federal Child Care and Development Fund grant, DEL must conduct a survey every two years. The data is used to set child care subsidy reimbursement rates, among other things. The survey asks questions about licensed child care providers’ rates, hours, enrollment, employees and salaries, and much more.

Learn more about DEL’s role as lead state agency for the Child Care and Development Fund by visiting the Government Relations section of our website.

This survey is important—it helps paint the picture of whether our state has an adequate supply of affordable, quality child care. If you are contacted to respond, please do!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

DEL seeks input on school-age child care rules

DEL is in the process of reviewing our rules related to school-age child care programs (for children ages 5 and older). If you are a school-age provider, we need your input!

Here’s how you can make sure your voice as a school-age provider is heard:

• Visit our DEL School-Age Rules page to learn how School’s Out Washington is facilitating a school-age rules rewrite group to make recommendations to DEL.

Also on that page, you can:
  • read a letter from our director, Bette Hyde, about this work.
  • read the current rules for school-age child care (Washington Administrative Code Chapter 170-151)
  • take the survey to tell us what you think about recommended changes and how they would impact you!
Your input matters. We have more than 540 licensed school-age facilities in our state, caring for up to 4,200 children. School-age care refers to all programs that operate before school, after school, and during the summer and holiday breaks.

Structured time in a school-age program can offer children opportunities to make friends, develop relationships with adult role models, and build self-esteem and conflict resolution skills.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Washington's state-funded preschool ranks high in quality again

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), Washington's state-funded preschool program for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds, met 9 out of 10 quality benchmarks yet again this year in a national preschool report released today.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research's "The State of Preschool 2009," ECEAP meets the benchmarks in:

  • Program standards
  • Staff-to-child ratio
  • Maximum classroom size
  • Assistant teacher degree requirements
  • Teacher specialized training
  • Meals
  • Monitoring
  • Screening/referral and support services
  • Teacher in-service
Washington does not meet NIEER's benchmark in teacher degree--ECEAP requires lead teachers to have at least an AA, while NIEER's benchmark calls for a BA for all lead teachers. Only two states (North Carolina and Alabama) met all 10 benchmarks, and only eight other states also met 9 out of 10.

We are proud of our state's high-quality preschool program! More than 8,000 children around the state are enrolled this school year. Thanks to Governor Chris Gregoire and the 2010 Legislature, even more children will have access to preschool in the coming years.

To read ECEAP's program standards, click here.
To learn more about ECEAP and whether your child might be eligible, click here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Public forums provided valuable feedback on family home rules

During the past three weeks, DEL staff members have visited eight cities throughout the state to collect comments on recommended changes to the licensed family home child care rules. To view the recommended draft rules, click here.
About 200 attendees total were at the eight meetings. We visited Tumwater, Vancouver, Everett, Seattle, Kent, Spokane, Pasco and Wenatchee.

“Some of the provider groups had been meeting prior to the forums to review and draft comments. Some were hearing the information for the first time,” said Judy Jaramillo, DEL policy analyst. “I was impressed with the passion that was expressed by the participants. We received some very valuable input and will continue to compile the comments as we move forward with the next draft.”

DEL is revising rules for licensed family home child care in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) chapter 170-296, using a unique process called “negotiated rule making.” Recommendations came from the Negotiated Rule Making Team, which included a large representation of child care providers, SEIU staff, DEL staff, Child Care Resource & Referral staff, provider advocates and parent advocates. For more information about the team and the process, visit our negotiated rule making web page.

The next steps will be for DEL to review all the comments, then write the next draft. For questions about the process, e-mail

When the new WAC is adopted in December 2010 it will completely replace the current rules. Until the final draft is adopted, the current Family Home WAC is still in effect.

Thank you to everyone who participated and provided feedback during this important process!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tribal Conference builds knowledge, partnerships in Tacoma

About 180 people from tribal early learning programs around the state gathered on Friday and Saturday at the 2010 Tribal Early Care & Education Conference at Hotel Morano in Tacoma.
The event opened with a prayer and song from Connie McCloud of the Puyallup Tribe, followed by welcoming remarks from DEL Director Bette Hyde (see photo at right).

Hyde described the many state programs and initiatives that tribal representatives have provided feedback on and helped create, including the draft Early Learning Plan, the pilot Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) and the review of the Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks.

“Our state efforts are better for the conversations with the tribes,” she said.

Keynote speaker Dr. Martin Brokenleg, of Reclaiming Youth International, had the audience both laughing and in tears with stories of children’s resiliency and uniqueness. His talk focused on four key areas that can help build strength of spirit in a child: a sense of belonging, generosity, belonging and mastery.

“Your students will forget what you say to them, but they won’t forget how you make them feel,” he said. Brokenleg encouraged providers to see the future possibilities all children have within themselves.

DEL sponsors this conference to build partnerships and provide learning opportunities for those who work for or are affiliated with a tribal early learning program. In break-out sessions, participants learned about creating a baby-friendly environment, fun kids’ activities, and adding song into their programs (see photo at left of presenter Lorraine Bayes) as well as other topics.

To learn more about ways DEL partners with Tribal Nations, visit our website.

Monday, April 19, 2010

DEL Parent Advisory Group: Informing early learning in Washington

The DEL Parent Advisory Group (PAG) met April 15 and 16 to give DEL input on policies and programs. This enthusiastic group contains individuals from around the state who represent families who use state services such as child care subsidies and our free preschool program, as well as diverse family structures such as grandparents raising children, foster parents and blended families. Click to learn more about the group.

A highlight for parents was a great conversation about strengthening early learning and building strong local programs with DEL Director Bette Hyde and state Representative Ruth Kagi (see photo, above right).

At last week’s meeting, members also provided valuable input on recommended changes to the family home child care rules. The group discussed how a child care provider can support young children in getting their needs met, helping them learn to get along with others, and preparing them for success in school, including:
  • How family home child care settings can support diversity: family traditions shared in the family child care home, as well as books, toys and foods that represent our diverse society. Exposing kids to multiple languages is a plus, too!
  • How child care providers can use enrollment time to learn about the child and the family, including learning about the child’s unique characteristics, strengths and needs.
  • Outdoor environments, health procedures, emergency preparedness, overnight care and screen time in family home settings.
This valuable input will be used in developing the family home licensing rules. Everyone can provide input to these rules by visiting the Rules Comment Page between now and the end of April.

With the generous support of our private partner, Thrive by Five Washington, the parents participated in two action-packed days at the DEL state office in Lacey. We appreciate our PAG’s wisdom, insight and honesty!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Early learning fares well in tough session

The Legislature adjourned on Monday night, after a special session in which they found a way to close a $2.8 billion revenue shortfall. That’s in addition to $9 billion in cuts already made to the 2009-2011 biennial budget.

As we expected, the budget is filled with tough choices that will affect real people. In the end, though, our Governor and Legislature demonstrated that our state’s youngest learners are still a top priority.

The supplemental operating budget is a big document, and we are still analyzing it and determining how it affects early learning funding. An initial overview of the impacts from the budget on Department of Early Learning (DEL) programs:
  • Transfer of the Infant Toddler Early Intervention Program from the Department of Social and Health Services to DEL effective July 1, and renames it Early Support for Infants and Toddlers. More about this exciting move soon!
  • Reduction of 29 slots in our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP).
  • Funding for the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network in FY 2011 is reduced ($212,000 savings).
  • Savings in the Working Connections Child Care subsidy program:
    • Allowing single parents with children under the age of 6 to meet 20 hours per week of work participation hours rather than the current 32 hours per week ($11 million savings).
    • Asking DEL to reduce and transfer staff and enter into a memorandum of agreement with DSHS to provide WCCC policy operations support. The budget language still indicates that DEL is the lead agency for and recipient of the federal Child Care and Development Fund grant.
  • Funds for home visiting services are transferred from the Council for Children and Families to DEL. DEL will contract with Thrive by Five Washington to deliver these services ($300,000 transfer). An additional $200,000 is provided for Thrive in the home visiting services account to be administered by DEL.
  • New funding and staff support for DEL and OSPI to implement SSB 6759, requiring DEL and OSPI to convene a technical working group to develop a comprehensive plan for a voluntary program of early learning, is provided to DEL.
  • New funding is provided for DEL to contract with Reach Out and Read for early literacy programs ($150,000).
  • Child care licensing:
    • DEL is authorized to increase child care center licensure fees in FY 2011.
    • DEL is required to submit a plan for improving child care licensing to the Legislature by January 15, 2011 (no additional funds provided).
  • Along with many state agencies, DEL is also facing administrative reductions.

Washington one of six states chosen for NGA policy academy

Exciting news for the Department of Early Learning and for families in our state: Our state is one of only six in the nation selected for an upcoming “policy academy” with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices!

So what does this mean? These six states (us, along with Oregon, Kansas, Louisiana, Rhode Island and Vermont) will receive interactive support and guidance from national experts to help us with a key early learning initiative important to our state. For Washington, that means our continued efforts on Seeds to Success, our quality rating and improvement system. The purpose of a QRIS is to help improve quality in child care and give families information about how to determine quality.

This support from the NGA will help us as we create a clear action plan for the next phase of Seeds to Success testing, so that we can create a QRIS that is sustainable, and supports child care providers in ensuring quality child care environments for children. In addition to DEL, the Washington team includes representatives from Thrive by Five Washington, educational service districts, the Department of Social and Health Services, and the University of Washington.

Read the NGA press release announcing the six states that will be part of the Ready States: A Project to Develop Key Components of State Early Childhood Infrastructure policy academy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Week of the Young Child

It’s the Week of the Young Child, a great opportunity to talk about why early learning is so important! The week is an annual celebration sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (Check out resources there too.)

Experts now know that about 85 percent of brain development happens in the first three years. That’s faster than any other time in life. What does that mean for parents, child care providers, teachers and other important adults in kids’ lives? It means we all need to work to together to help create high-quality learning opportunities to take advantage of those growing brains!

Learning is much more than colors, shapes, numbers and letters. Learning begins at birth. It’s made up of everyday opportunities like singing songs, playing hand games, and comforting your child when she’s upset. Kids who have nurturing and supportive experiences in their early years are much better prepared to succeed in school and life.

So what can you do to help celebrate this exciting phase of development with a child in your life?

Take advantage of everyday learning moments.

Click here for a list to get you started from our private partner, Thrive by Five Washington.

Attend a library, zoo or park with a child

Click here to find Web sites that can help you find activities in your area.

Learn about child development

The Washington State Early Learning and Development Benchmarks are early learning guidelines that are helpful in understanding what young children may know and do at different ages. They are a research-based tool to support parents, early learning educators and caregivers in helping children grow and learn. This is only a resource document—every child develops as an individual in the context of his family, culture and community.  Click here for a guide for parents.