Thursday, December 22, 2011

Tips for enjoying a safe, healthy and fun holiday season

This is a great time of year to celebrate with the children in your life--make sure this holiday season is a safe, healthy and fun one! Here are some expert tips from state and national experts:

And finally, a reminder that the holidays--and every day--are a good time to love, talk and play with your child!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quality Education Council to consider preschool workgroup recommendations Dec. 19

The Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) on Dec. 12 decided to support a recommendation to create a phased-in, voluntary preschool available to all Washington 3- and 4-year-olds as an entitlement program. The issue now moves to the Quality Education Council, which will meet on Monday, Dec. 19.

The recommendation for a statewide preschool program comes for the Early Learning Technical Workgroup, established in Senate Bill 6759. That workgroup submitted its final recommendations in November.

SB 6759 required the group to develop a plan for a voluntary program of early learning as either a part of basic education or as an entitlement program, to help support school readiness for all children in Washington. The final recommendations propose phasing in a high-quality, comprehensive preschool program open to all 3- and 4-year-olds with a graduated co-pay based on family income. The workgroup recommended a mixed-delivery system of providers, including nonprofits, faith-based organizations, licensed child care facilities, private schools, ECEAP and Head Start providers, school districts and others.

ELAC members reviewed the recommendations and heard public comment before deciding to recommend that QEC adopt the workgroup recommendations, with one addition and one change:
  • Adding a Birth-to-3 Technical Workgroup, which would use the existing state Birth to 3 Plan as its basis to focus on enhanced services for infants and toddlers.
  • Phasing in the workgroup's recommendation that lead teachers in the preschool program be required to have a Bachelor of Arts degree.
The QEC meets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 19, in Cherberg Conference Room ABC on the Capitol Campus in Olympia. It will be webcast on http://www.tvw.org/. The QEC must make recommendations to the Legislature by Jan. 1, 2012.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Legislature convenes for special session, hears Governor's proposed supplemental budget

On Nov. 28, the Legislature began a special session called by Gov. Chris Gregoire to address a projected $1.4 billion to $2 billion revenue shortfall in the 2011-2013 state operating budget.

To read Gov. Gregoire's proposed supplemental budget, which includes a temporary half-cent increase in the state sales tax: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/budget12/default.asp

Legislative committees are now holding work sessions on the proposed supplemental operating budget. Here is yesterday's Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee work session:


Watch other hearings by going to www.tvw.org and choosing "Archives" then the committee and date you wish to view.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New family home child care rules will improve safety, outcomes for children

On November 14, DEL filed revised rules for family home child care providers. The revisions focus on health, safety and positive outcomes for children.

What are rules for family home child care providers?
DEL is responsible for providing rules for all licensed child care providers to follow, which are found in Washington Administrative Code (WAC). Child care centers and family home child care providers are subject to different rules. The family home child care rules have not changed significantly since 2004; the changes we filed yesterday are the first major update to the rules since licensing oversight became DEL's responsibility. The new rules will take effect in March 2012.

What does this mean for parents and children?
  • Providers are required to communicate more information about the their child care philosophy and about each child's development.
  • Enhanced safety standards for playgrounds, food service, cribs, emergency preparedness, screen time, and nurture and guidance.
What does this mean for family home child care providers?
  • A streamlined background check process, through nonexpiring licenses and portable background checks.
  • All children ages 13 to 16 who live in the home are subject to noncriminal background checks, as are volunteers or assistants ages 14 to 16 who work in the family child care home.
  • Providers and their staff will be required to meet increased education and training standards. The new rules require, at a minimum, a high school education or equivalent. Current licensed providers have until March 31, 2017 to meet the minimum education requirement.
  • DEL licensors will work with providers in the coming months to make sure they understand the new rules.
How did DEL decide on the rule changes?
DEL formed a group called the negotiated rule-making team that was tasked with developing the rule changes. The team was made up DEL staff, family home child care providers, the family home providers union, and other early learning professionals. Starting in 2007, the team collaboarated with providers, legislators, parents and early learning professionals to develop research-based draft rules. DEL presented the draft rules at eight public meetings around the state on evenings and weekends in Spring 2011. As required by state law, DEL also shared the draft rules with Service Employees International Union 925, the union that represents family home child care providers.

Read the final rules.

Watch DEL Director Bette Hyde discuss new rules: goo.gl/7OayM

More information about the rules is available on our website: www.del.wa.gov/laws/development/negotiated.aspx

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reporting on ECEAP, Head Start programs

DEL published two reports in recent weeks with the results of two important pre-K programs: ECEAP and Head Start.


ECEAP— Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program—helps 3- and 4-year-olds from low-income families prepare for success in school and life. Children who participate receive assistance with learning, nutrition and health and family support services. DEL just celebrated the 25th anniversary of this important program, which is primarily funded with money from the state.

The 2010-11 ECEAP Outcomes Report describes the program’s effect on children’s social-emotional development, learning and family engagement.
A few fast facts from the 2010-11 school year:

  • Total funding was $54.4 million; 98.3 percent of it went directly to local programs that serve children.
  • ECEAP had enough funding for 8,024 children. The program experienced a 13.9 percent turnover rate and its waiting list held more than 4,000 children.
  • DEL administered ECEAP through 40 contracts with educational service districts, school districts, community colleges, local governments and nonprofit organizations; 37 of 39 Washington counties were served at 260 sites.

Related information: ECEAP Making a Difference booklet
 
ECEAP, Head Start and Early Head Start Washington State Profile, 2011

This Profile provides an overview of public early childhood education programs in Washington state, which include:
  • ECEAP (described above)
  • Head Start: A national, high-quality early learning program for low-income children ages 3 through 5, but not yet eligible for kindergarten, and their families. The federal government provides grants to 30 organizations in Washington for these services.
  • Early Head Start: A national, high-quality program to promote healthy prenatal outcomes through services to low-income pregnant women, and promote early learning through services for low-income children from birth to 3 years old and their families. As with Head Start, the federal government provides grants to 27 local organizations in Washington to offer these services.
  • Migrant and Seasonal Head Start: A national, high-quality early learning program that serves low-income children birth through 5 years old, but not yet eligible for kindergarten, and their families who are migrant and seasonal farm workers. The federal government provides grants to local organizations to offer these services. There are two grantees in Washington.
  • American Indian/Alaska Native Head Start and Early Head Start: A national, high-quality early learning program that serves low-income American Indian and Alaska Native children birth through 5 years old, but not yet eligible for kindergarten, and their families. The federal government provides grants to tribal nations and organizations who provide these services. There are 17 grantees providing American Indian Head Start and eight providing American Indian Early Head Start services in Washington state.

The report describes the programs and they children and families they serve, approximately 25,000 children in the 2010-11 school year. The report includes specific examples from Washington state providers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

DEL updates House Early Learning & Human Services Committee on progress

Leaders from the Department of Early Learning (DEL) presented to the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee on Wednesday about our progress in several areas since the Legislature adjourned in May. Watch the presentation to hear the latest on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, efforts to promote quality in licensed child care, home visiting and more.




The PowerPoint presentation DEL used is available online here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Washington throws its hat in the ring for federal early learning grant

Washington state has submitted its application for a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant. The federal grant will provide $500 million in state-level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is leading Washington’s application for the grant, which could bring up to $60 million to our state over four years to support early learning for our children.

RTT-ELC is meant to help states raise the quality of early learning programs so that children start school ready to succeed.
Governor Chris Gregoire said of Washington's application, “This application is bold and it is ambitious, but it is also achievable, and that is what the grant competition is all about. We have submitted a plan that will push our state forward in providing the kind of high-quality early learning opportunities our youngest learners need and deserve."

Washington's application lays out a plan for how to use the grant money:
  • Expand the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state’s kindergarten readiness assessment, to include all incoming kindergarteners by school year 2014-15.
  • Take to scale our state’s quality rating and improvement system, which helps early learning programs improve the quality of care and education they provide to young children and provides information on quality to families.
  • Enhance the state professional development system by offering awards and incentives to those who work with and care for young children.
"This is an important opportunity to help Washington children," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "Washington is uniquely positioned to move forward quickly if we win a grant because of the work we’ve already done with WaKIDS and QRIS."

DEL created a webpage to keep the early learning community informed about progress on RTT-ELC. That page includes fast facts about Washington's application.

The Associated Press ran a story about Washington's application, "State seeks $60M from feds for preschools."

Today, DEL representatives updated the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee about the RTT-ELC and other DEL news. That hearing will be available on TVW's website.

DEL will continue to tweet information about the application and related news using the hashtag #rttt (which stands for Race to the Top) at www.twitter.com/DEL_wa.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Governor, families, teachers join DEL in celebrating 25 years of ECEAP

Almost 170,000 children have been part of the state-funded preschool program (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP) since it began in 1985. Last night, families, ECEAP graduates, teachers and state leaders celebrated 25 years of growing Washington’s future at an ECEAP reception in Olympia.

Governor Chris Gregoire kicked off the evening, saying, “If we get it right early with a child, then they will succeed in school and they will succeed in life, and they won’t end up in the safety net.” Watch the Governor’s remarks on DEL’s YouTube channel.



Rep. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, spoke about her experience as the first ECEAP staff member in 1985. She wrote the first set of ECEAP performance standards and set up the first pilots around the state.


Another highlight of the evening was Melissa Estrada, a former ECEAP student who graduated valedictorian of her high school and is now studying to become a nurse.

Watch for photos from the evening and a special 25th anniversary publication, “ECEAP: Making a Difference,” to be posted soon on the ECEAP section of the DEL website.


 


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

New rules for Working Connections Child Care in effect

The Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy program rules changed on Oct. 1, 2011. DEL wants to make sure you know about the changes.

 
WCCC basics
WCCC helps eligible families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or meet WorkFirst participation requirements.

 
What changed? The most recent rule changes:
  • Made permanent emergency rules about entry caps, waiting lists, income limits and copayments to ensure the WCCC budget meets limits established by legislation and the Governor.
  • Addressed compliance with federal and state audit requirements.
  • Clarified several rules to streamline applying for and receiving benefits, and qualifying to be paid as an in-home or relative provider.

Some notable changes include:
  • Every applicant must go through the WCCC application process, regardless of their participation in other DSHS assistance programs.
  • The benefits start date is now the same for TANF and non-TANF recipients. All applicants must complete the application and verification process within 30 days. Applicants who do not meet the deadline must re-apply if they want to receive benefits.
  • Rules around verifying income and employment now allow providing a previous year’s income tax return and allow untaxed, in-kind income and taxable corporate compensation to be counted as income.
  • DSHS must verify the citizenship or legal residency of all children who participate in the program.
  • Benefits are provided only for hours when parents work outside of the home.
  • Self-employed applicants or recipients must provide additional verification such as a business license or registration and a self-employment plan.
  • An in-home or relative provider who cares for children receiving WCCC benefits may not receive WCCC benefits for his or her own children during those same hours.

 More information is available on DEL’s website at www.del.wa.gov/care/help/connections.aspx

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) retreat information now online

The Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) held a full-day retreat on Aug. 31 at the Lacey Community Center. The retreat was meant to build relationships among ELAC members, including several newly appointed members; develop the ELAC functions and guiding principles; and identify potential early actions for the group. The retreat was open to the public.

Some ELAC members are appointed by the Governor. Others are appointed by various organizations as required by state law. ELAC members provide input and recommmendations to DEL so that our strategies and actions are well-informed and broadly supported by parents, early care providers, health/safety experts and interested parties.

Here’s ELAC member Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett, on why early learning is important for him and how he expects to help ELAC reach its objectives:




And here’s Educational Service District 105 Early Learning Director Cynthia Juarez, a Governor’s appointee:



For more information on ELAC and to view the agenda and related materials from the ELAC retreat, visit www.del.wa.gov/partnerships/elac/.


Monday, October 3, 2011

National Child Health Day -- helping children lead healthy lives

Today is the 83rd annual National Child Health Day. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services created a website to feature important resources that assist families in finding health care services. Resources featured on the website include the 311 Prenatal Hotline, Insure Kids Now, Family-to-Family Health Information Centers, Text 4 Baby, Find a Health Center Locator and the Maternal and Child Health Program.

Take a look at http://mchb.hrsa.gov/childhealthday/ 

Friday, September 30, 2011

"Continuity of care" report now available

A new report on the impact of allowing families longer authorization periods for child care subsidies is now on the DEL website.

DEL contracted with the Washington State University Social and Economic Sciences Research Center to conduct the study, which was required in House Bill 3141.

Most families are authorized for six months at a time for child care subsidies. But HB 3141, passed in 2010, allowed families with children enrolled in Head Start, Early Head Start or the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program to be authorized for 12 months. Parents said this allowed for more stability in their child care arrangement and better supported their child’s development.

The study also suggests that moving to 12-month authorizations for more families could save some costs for administering the program.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

National group reports on the cost of child care

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) recently published its 2011 report on national trends in the cost of child care. Before we discuss that, here’s some background:

NACCRRA is the parent organization for more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral Networks (CCR&Rs), which help parents find child care. Here in Washington, we at DEL partner with the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network to help families find the right child care arrangement for their children. We also partner with the Network to support child care providers in improving quality, through our Quality Rating and Improvement System.
 
The NACCRRA report presents 2010 data about what parents pay for full-time child care in the United States. The information is split out by several categories, including by region, by age of children being cared for and by child care facility versus family child care homes.


Some highlights of the report’s findings:

  • Child care costs increased 1.9 percent in centers and 1.8 percent in family child care homes from 2009 to 2010.
  • In 40 states, the average annual cost of center-based care for an infant exceeded 10 percent of the state’s median income for a two-parent family.
  • In 36 states, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s tuition and related fees at a four-year public college.
  • The 10 least affordable states for child care were Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Colorado, Minnesota, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Montana and Pennsylvania.
  • In Washington, the average annual costs for centers range from $4,650 to $11,450 and for family care homes from $3,800 to $8,650.

The report makes recommendations to help families pay for child care, to improve the quality of care through additional provider training and inspections, and to help CCR&Rs assist providers in becoming licensed.

Related links:

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New “I support licensed child care” window decals now available

DEL has produced a new resource in an effort to raise public awareness about the benefits of licensed child care and the resources available to help families choose child care. The removable window clings say “I support licensed child care” and include a link to the online Child Care Check tool, where families can find out more about the history of licensed child care providers.



Child Care Check is just one resource in the search for child care—families should start their search by contacting the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network. DEL also has a guide on how families can choose quality child care.

The window clings were paid for with federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) dollars. To request one, contact your local DEL office.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School’s Out Washington announces Quality Enhancement Grant

School’s Out Washington is now accepting applications for its annual Quality Enhancement Grant, which helps improve the quality of school-age care programs licensed or certified by DEL.


Programs may apply for up to $3,000, and may use the funds for a variety of projects that support improved program quality. Programs serving low-income families, children of color or children with special needs are strongly encouraged to apply and will get bonus points in the grant review process. Applications are due by Nov. 4.

Visit www.schoolsoutwashington.org to learn more and apply.

The Quality Enhancement Grant is funded by DEL with federal Child Care and Development Fund dollars.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Federal government releases Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant application

The U.S. Department of Education today released the application for the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant, which will provide $500 million in state-level competitive grants to improve early learning and development programs. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is leading Washington’s application for the grant, which could bring up to $60 million to our state over four years to support early learning for our children.


RTT-ELC is meant to help states raise the quality of early learning programs so that children start school ready to succeed. DEL Director Bette Hyde said, “I believe Washington is well positioned to be competitive in the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge. We are rolling out our kindergarten entry assessment program, WaKIDS, this school year and we are taking our Quality Rating and Improvement System to 65 child care providers this year as we move toward statewide implementation.”

The grant application is due October 19 and the federal government will announce the awards in December.

DEL has created a webpage to keep the early learning community informed about progress on RTT-ELC.

See our July 18 blog post about entering the RTT-ELC.

Other resources:

U.S. Department of Education press release about the grant application: http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/obama-administration-releases-final-application-race-top-early-learning-challeng

Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge webpage: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge/index.html

Monday, August 15, 2011

DEL announces 65 early adopters for QRIS

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has selected the Quality Rating and Improvement System Early Adopters for 2011-2012. The Washington Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) is our state’s voluntary program for helping licensed child care providers offer high-quality care.


These 65 licensed child care facilities met all eligibility requirements and demonstrated a commitment to providing high-quality care for the children and families they serve. On behalf of our statewide partners and the local implementation agencies, we would like to congratulate Washington’s first QRIS participants!

DEL Director Bette Hyde shared a message about the early adopters.


Having a QRIS in place is one requirement in the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge grant competition. DEL is leading Washington’s application for the grant, which could bring up to $60 million to our state over four years.

The full list of early adopters, organized by county:


Clark County
  • Cindy Perez
  • Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium– South Ridge
  • Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium – Image Child Care
  • Southwest Washington Child Care Consortium – Fruit Valley
  • Debbie’s 24/7 Day Care
  • Auntie’s House Child Care
  • Caring Corner Preschool and Child Care
  • Debra Simmerson
  • St John Christian Child Care Center
  • P. Nierenberg ELC
  • Becca’s Day Care
  • Daily Discoveries
  • Patience At Hand Child Care
  • Points of Light Christian Child Care
  • Innovative Services NW
  • Country Friends Child Care
  • Tads 2 Tots Daycare
  • Country Campus Learning Center
Kitsap County
  • Wendy Huskey
  • Sunny Patch
  • Mele’s Bize Bees (Mary Parsons)
  • Martha and Mary Early Learning Center -  Silverdale
  • Martha and Mary Early Learning Center -  Poulsbo
  • First Years Children’s Center
  • Chico Christian Child Care
Spokane County
  • St. Anne’s Children and Family Center
  • Spokane Child Development Center
  • Little Precious Ones
  • Jolene Bertsch
  • Ka Diddle Hoppers
  • Little Guys Two
  • Paula’s Play House Child Care
  • Kim’s Child Care and Early Learning
  • Christ Lutheran Child Center
  • Valley Learning Center
  • Lake City Learning Center
  • Green Gable Children’s Center
  • Central YMCA
  • Rainbow Connections Too
White Center
  • Educare
  • Rainbow Family Child Care
  • Maria Nicolas (Pequenos Pasos)
  • Linda’s Wee Ones Day Care
  • Learning Way School and Day Care
  • KinderCare Burien
  • From Roots to Wings Child Care
  • Fauntleroy Children’s Center
  • Curiosity Corner School
  • Community Schools West
  • Community Day School Highland Park
  • Carita de Angel
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Ages in Stages Child Care
  • KinderCare 892
East Yakima
  • YMCA Jewett Child Development Center
  • Rosalinda’s Day Care
  • Rainbow Kids
  • La Petite Early Learning Center
  • Kids Inc.
  • Enriqueta Arreguin
  • Easter Seals – Jane’s House
  • Country Kids Child Development Center on 21st
  • Country Kids Child Development Center – Terrace Heights
  • Bertha’s Day Care
  • Balbina Gomez

Thursday, August 4, 2011

WAEYC launches "virtual book club"

Always wanted to be in a book club but haven't found the time? Our partners at the Washington Association for the Education of Young Children (WAEYC) have just launched an online book club. It's a great opportunity for parents and early learning professionals to learn some simple ways to build lifelong skills in young children.

Mind in the MakingEach month for seven months, participants will explore how to guide children to reach their fullest potential through one of seven life skills: Focus and Self Control; Perspective Taking; Communicating; Making Connections; Critical Thinking; Taking on Challenges; and Self-Directed, Engaged Learning. The book club is based on the book "Mind in the Making" by Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute.

Washington STARS Credit and OSPI Clock Hours available for participating in the webinars.

Visit www.waeyc.org/mitm.htm to learn more and sign up!

Monday, July 25, 2011

DEL seeks ECEAP "grads"

This fall, DEL is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the state-funded preschool program, ECEAP (Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program). We are looking for "graduates" of ECEAP to tell their story about how the program affected their education or their life in other ways.

Anyone who is interested in telling their story can contact us at communications@del.wa.gov or (360) 725-4392.

Monday, July 18, 2011

It's official! Washington will apply for Race to the Top

Governor Chris Gregoire has made it official: Washington will apply for the federal Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant competition. If successful, our state could receive up to $60 million to help build an early learning system that prepares children for success in kindergarten and beyond.

Governor Gregoire notified the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health & Human Services last Friday, July 15, of Washington's intent to apply. She designated the Department of Early Learning (DEL) as the lead agency for Washington's application. DEL has created a webpage to keep the early learning community informed about progress on RTT-ELC.

RTT-ELC is meant to help states raise the quality of early learning programs so that children start school ready to succeed. The draft guidelines issued earlier this month show that successful states will demonstrate use of state early learning guidelines, kindergarten entry assessments, and quality rating and improvement systems. Washington is moving forward with all three:

  • We are in the process of reviewing and revising our early learning guidelines (which have been called the Early Learning and Development Benchmarks). 
  • We have finished piloting our kindergarten entry assessment program, WaKIDS, and will begin rolling it out more broadly in the 2011-2012 school year.
  • We have finished a pilot of our QRIS in partnership with Thrive by Five Washington, and are beginning to take it to scale around the state to help child care providers improve the quality of care they offer to children and families--and help families understand what quality looks like.
In Washington, we are at a critical juncture for creating a statewide early learning system--despite the budget crisis, we've found federal, state and private funding to support early learning. We have a 10-year state Early Learning Plan, and strong partnerships with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Thrive by Five Washington and other public and private entities. This grant would help push us to do even more--and that's a welcome push!

Friday, July 8, 2011

New immunization law goes into effect July 22

Our state has one of the highest school immunization exemption rates  in the nation. A new law that goes into effect on July 22 aims to help ensure families claim exemption for reasons other than convenience--and the law affects child care providers.

Senate Bill 5005, passed by the 2011 Legislature and signed into law by Governor Chris Gregoire, says that if a parent or guardian wants to exempt their child from school or child care immunization requirements, they must first get information about the benefits and risks of vaccinations from a licensed health care provider. The provider must sign a certificate of exemption form, which parents must give the school or child care provider to exempt their child.

The law does not change vaccination requirements for school and child care entry.

Learn more about the benefits of immunizations, and about the new law, by visiting the Department of Health Immunization Program online

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New federal crib rules go into effect today

Starting today, anyone manufacturing or selling baby cribs in the United States must meet new crib safety standards approved by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission in December 2010. These rules are meant to help keep children safer in their cribs, and include a ban on drop-side cribs and more rigorous safety testing by manufacturers. Drop-side cribs have caused the death of more than 30 infants and toddlers since 2000.

Child care facilities, infant Head Start centers, hotels and motels have until December 28, 2012, to use only cribs compliant with the new standards.

Visit the CPSC Crib Information Center for more information, including an updated questions and answers document on the new crib standards.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Washington warms up to Race to the Top

As we await federal guidance on how to apply for the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant announced in late May, DEL has set up a web page where we will post updates on RTT-ELC.

You also can share your ideas, input and questions by emailing rtt-elc@del.wa.gov.

Guidance is expected in July for this $500 million competitive grant, which is meant to help states raise the quality of and integrate their early learning programs and services.

Monday, June 20, 2011

There’s still time! Please comment on the draft purpose and guiding principles for the early learning guidelines

Our state is reviewing and redesigning our early learning guidelines to make sure they are culturally relevant; link to the K-12 system; and reflect what we now know about how children grow and learn. It is important for our state early learning system to have a set of early learning guidelines, which serve as a resource for common understanding about how children learn and grow and what everyone can do to support that.

We need your input!

Please go to our early learning guidelines section to learn more about this redesign process, and how you can give input on the draft purpose and guiding principle statements. On that page, under “Redesign,” you will find:

• A letter from Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde on this redesign process.
• Fast facts about the redesign process.
• A list of individuals on the redesign steering committee.
• A form for you to send your comments on the draft purpose and guiding principle statements.

Later this summer, draft early learning guidelines will be available for comment.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Child care licensing fees increase on July 1

The 2011-2013 state operating budget raises annual child care licensing fees effective July 1, 2011. This money goes directly into the state general fund, not to the Department of Early Learning.

The new annual fee structure is as follows:

Child care centers and school-age programs
• $125 per year for the first 12 children; and
• $12 per year for each additional child up to the facility’s licensed capacity

Family home child care programs
$30 per year

This fee increase will be reflected on the invoice licensees receive 90 days prior to the anniversary date of your license. If you have already received an invoice because your fee is due in July, August or September, a supplemental invoice will be sent to you with details on how to pay this fee increase.

Please contact your local DEL licensing office if you have any questions.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Seasonal Child Care program available again July 1; new application process in place

Families will be able to apply for the Seasonal Child Care (SCC) subsidy program again beginning July 1. The program had been suspended since December due to lack of funding.
DEL has made some changes to the program rules, including limiting entry to the program to help ensure the funding lasts through the year.

Also starting July 1, families will apply for SCC through the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), rather than through local organizations. DSHS will not begin taking SCC applications before July 1. Click here to read more about the new application process.
SCC provides subsidies to eligible seasonally employed agricultural families to help ensure their children are in safe, licensed care while parents are working.

Friday, June 3, 2011

DEL moves forward with Washington Quality Rating and Improvement System

Earlier this week, DEL sent information to some members of the early learning community about next steps for Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS).

QRIS is a systemic way to improve quality of child care with a focus on child outcomes and school readiness. The model does this through supporting quality environments, effective teacher-child interactions and meaningful family engagement.

For the past two years, 80 participants from five communities participated in the Seeds to Success field test, which was led by our partners at Thrive by Five Washington, and will end on June 30. DEL will now begin moving toward statewide expansion by inviting up to 60 field test participants to become “early adopters” of the final QRIS model. Early adopters must meet certain requirements, and commit to helping with the development of a sustainable QRIS model that is child-centered and family-focused.

Early adopters will continue to receive coaching, scholarships, training and incentives to support their quality improvement efforts during the first year of the system.

Early adopter applicants must meet these requirements:

  • Participated in the Seeds to Success field test
  • Have spring 2011 follow-up evaluation data
  • Serve a minimum of four children ages birth through 5
  • Have an active state child care license (no suspensions, revocations and not currently on probation) with no pattern of non-compliance (cannot have two or more valid complaints of the same type within the past 12 months)
  • Serve children receiving state child care subsidies, or offer scholarships or a sliding fee scale for low-income families

DEL will send field test participants an information kit later this month, including an application. We expect to launch activities with providers in late August 2011. We aim to expand QRIS to new facilities statewide in summer 2012 (depending upon available resources).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Competition for additional federal home visiting funding announced

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced up to $99 million in additional competitive grants to states to enhance home visiting efforts.


About $66 million of this funding will be awarded in four-year grants to between seven and 10 states who already have made significant progress in building a high-quality home visiting program as part of an early learning system.

Washington already has received a $1.3 million grant through the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation Programs (MIECHV) for fiscal year 2010. An updated state plan will be submitted by June 8 as the final step in accessing funds for program implementation.

States must apply by July 1, 2011, for these additional dollars. DEL will post more information about this application process as it becomes available.

To learn more about home visiting efforts in Washington, go to the home visiting section of our website.

The MIECHV is part of the Affordable Care Act. For more information on MIECHV, visit the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration online.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Feds share long-awaited details on Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge

The speculation about an early learning-focused “Race to the Top” competition has been building for months, and today, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced a $500 million Early Learning Challenge competition among states.


“Race to the Top was an absolute game changer,” said Secretary Duncan during a press conference this morning. “We’re looking to have the same impact here in…early learning.”

States that successfully secure Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants will have comprehensive plans for an early learning system with clear standards, good coordination among early learning partners, robust evaluation systems, information for parents, and quality professional development for those who work with young children. With our state Early Learning Plan already in place, the early learning community in Washington is excited to compete for these funds.

As Secretary Sebelius noted this morning, “A lot of this work has been going on in states for really a decade or more. We want to be informed by best practices and help raise the bar and drive those practices even further.”

RTTT-ELC grants will be awarded by the end of calendar year 2011. Many questions about the application process remain, but one thing is clear: With such a short timeline, states’ applications will need to be out the door within a few months.

The public can give input to the process by visiting www.ed.gov/blog/2011/05/rtt-early-learning-challenge/. The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services will jointly administer the grant, and say guidance and information about eligibility, range of awards and number of grants is coming in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reminder to child care providers: Take your subsidy billing training!

If you get state child care subsidy payments as a licensed family home child care provider or in-home/relative provider, you must take subsidy billing training by June 30. This training will help you understand how to correctly bill for subsidy payment.

You can take this training in any of these ways:

1. Online. Go to http://www.childcarenet.org/ and click on “Child Care Subsidy Billing Training.”
2. In class. Call the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network at 1.800.446.1114. Enter your zip code at the prompt to connect with your local resource & referral program to sign up for class.
3. Self-paced workbook. Call your local resource & referral program (see step 2 above) to have this workbook mailed to you.

For more information on child care subsidies, please visit the Department of Early Learning child care subsidy page. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big news for WaKIDS! Kindergarten transition bill signed into law

On Thursday, Governor Chris Gregoire signed Senate Bill 5427, which will support school readiness for the 70,000-plus children who enter kindergarten in Washington each year.
 

Governor Gregoire signs WaKIDS bill, with DEL Director Bette Hyde, Rep. Ruth Kagi and early learning advocates looking on.
 SB 5427 names the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) as the kindergarten transition process for all state-funded full-day kindergarten classes. This is voluntary during school year 2011-2012, and mandatory for those classes beginning in school year 2012-2013. The bill is contingent upon funding in the final 2011-2013 state operating budget. Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe sponsored the bill (Rep. Ruth Kagi sponsored the House version).

So why WaKIDS? This program—which DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction are piloting in 120 classrooms around the state right now—brings together families, early learning providers and kindergarten teachers to help get every child off to a strong start in kindergarten. 

First, teachers meet one-on-one with families to learn more about the children they will be teaching—their hopes, their strengths and needs, their worries and their family culture. Then, teachers get a snapshot of their students through an assessment of the child’s social/emotional; cognitive; linguistic; and physical development. And finally, the barriers between early learning and kindergarten are removed as teachers and early learning providers meet together to share information about children.

The University of Washington will deliver a final evaluation of the WaKIDS pilot year next month. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington provided additional funding for the pilot year.

Good things happen for children when the right people are at the table—WaKIDS helps bring those people together. In Maryland, for example, where they’ve had a kindergarten readiness assessment since 2001, the percent of kindergarteners ready for school rose 32 points during the decade, from 49 percent to 81 percent. A report on Maryland’s success is available online.

Learn more about Washington’s efforts at www.del.wa.gov/wakids.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Governor signs three child care licensing bills

Governor Gregoire just finished signing three bills that will help support safe child care settings and improve efficiency in our licensing practice.

Senate Bill 5504, known as the Colby Thompson Act, is meant to help crack down on unlicensed child care in Washington. It requires that DEL post on our website information about individuals who have not started the licensing process within 30 days of being notified that they are offering illegal, unlicensed care. The bill also boosts the potential penalty for family home child care providers offering unlicensed care from $75 per day to $150 per day. (Center penalties remain at $250 per day.) The bill was sponsored by Sen. Tracey Eide.

Under House Bill 1903, DEL will create a portable background check registry by July 1, 2012. After clearing a background check, child care licensees and their employees will be issued a three-year clearance card, which they can use at various child care facilities. This will help employees who wish to work in more than one place, and will help licensees by not requiring them to wait for a new hire’s background check to clear. The bill has protections to ensure DEL is made aware if something happens that could change an individual’s cleared background check status.

This bill also will require all individuals newly working in licensed child care starting July 1, 2012, who may have unsupervised access to children in care to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check. This currently is required only of individuals who have lived in the state less than three years. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall.

Senate Bill 5625 moves Washington to a non-expiring child care license system for those licensed providers in good standing. DEL will continue to monitor licensed family homes at least once every 18 months, and licensed centers at least once a year. However, licensees in good standing will no longer have to go through the reapplication process every three years. This will streamline paperwork for providers and for DEL. We will use any time saved to work with providers on offering quality care, to meet our GMAP licensing measures, and to do our other licensing-related functions.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Nick Harper (Rep. Mary Helen Roberts sponsored the House version).

Big day for child care in Washington!

DEL Director Bette Hyde joins Governor Gregoire, Senator Nick Harper and others for the signing of Senate Bill 5625.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Free Infant Information to Moms’ Phones

Happy Mother’s Day! Did you know you can sign up for free text messages about pregnancy and infant health sent to your cell phone?

Text4baby, the country's first free, health information texting program. Text "BABY" (or “BEBE” for Spanish) to 511411. You’ll get weekly text messages timed to your due date or your baby’s birth date through the baby’s first year.

Text4baby is a service of the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition. The Washington State Department of Health is a partner of this effort to help pregnant women and new moms give their children a healthy start on life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) earns nine out of 10 quality points

Once again, Washington’s publicly funded preschool program ranks among the top in the nation, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research.
 
Our state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) earned nine out of 10 quality points in the national organization’s 2010 Preschool Yearbook, released April 25. The quality checklist ranks several standards, including:
  • Whether the state has comprehensive early learning standards.
  • Staff-to-child ratios
  • Class sizes
  • Teacher qualifications
  • Screening/referral and support services
  • Program monitoring
Data shows that the more than 8,000 3- and 4-year-olds being served in ECEAP this school year will enter kindergarten better prepared for success in school and life. And we know they have big dreams for the future. Students in one northwest Washington ECEAP classroom recently shared their hopes with their teacher, and here’s what they said:
  • A police officer.
  • A cowboy.
  • An astronaut.
  • A doctor.
  • I want to work where my dad works.
  • How about a papi like my papi.
  • A baker.
  • A motorcycle rider.
  • A mommy.
  • Go to work at Costco like my dad.
  • A pilot and fly a jet.
  • Drive a fire truck.
  • An electrical engineer. I’m going to design electricity all over the world, even in poor places.
  • A singer.
  • A teacher.
  • Be in the army.
  • Go to college.
  • A painter.
  • A cowgirl.
  • A big kid.
  • A builder.
  • A worker at Denny’s.
  • A farmer.
For more information about ECEAP, visit www.del.wa.gov/care/find-hs-eceap/

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Seeds to Success field test near end; DEL prepares to expand statewide

On June 30, the field test will end for Seeds to Success, our state’s quality rating and improvement system (QRIS) and the Department of Early Learning (DEL) will begin moving toward statewide expansion.

QRIS programs offer information about child care quality to help parents find the right child care for their families. There are 25 states with programs, including Pennsylvania, Colorado and Massachusetts.

DEL partnered with Thrive by Five Washington to conduct the field test in five communities (Thrive demonstration communities of East Yakima, White Center, and Spokane, Clark and Kitsap counties). Working with the communities, Thrive, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’ve developed and tested quality standards, evaluated incentives and supports for child care providers, and created a nationally recognized program that has served about 3,000 children and 90 child care providers statewide. We have learned a great deal about what works and what can be improved to better support child care providers in creating quality environments.

In recognition of their work to ensure high-quality learning environments for Washington’s children, eligible field test participants will have the opportunity to continue with the program. They will become early adopters of the final QRIS model and continue to receive continue to receive training and support to improve child care. Application criteria for early adopters will be availablein May.

DEL is committed to expanding Seeds statewide. After June 30, we will have the final data to refine the quality standards and begin building the technology, policies and systemwide training necessary to expand to more communities. This work will take time, and DEL does not anticipate inviting new child care centers and family homes to participate until next year.

Nationally and here in our state, QRIS is a top priority. Washington is one of 10 states nationwide invited to partner with the federal Office of Child Care to ensure our system aligns with federal benchmarks and priorities. Moving forward on QRIS is a key strategy of the 10-year statewide Early Learning Plan and the report delivered to the Legislature by the Professional Development Consortium in December 2010. DEL has prioritized a portion of our federal funding in the next biennium for this work.

To learn more about the Seeds to Success model, visit www.del.wa.gov/seeds.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Love.Talk.Play: New statewide campaign launches!

Parenting isn’t always easy. Now there’s a new resource that helps parents of babies and toddlers understand three simple actions they can take to give their child a great start in life: Love. Talk. Play.

The statewide education and awareness campaign kicks off this week, which is the National Week of the Young Child. “Love. Talk. Play.” is shaped by information from national early learning experts, conversations with parents, and input from local early learning coalitions and other partners.

We at the Department of Early Learning are proud to join our partners at Thrive by Five Washington and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction as primary sponsors of this effort. Parent awareness is a key strategy in the statewide Early Learning Plan.

Visit http://www.lovetalkplay.org/ to learn more!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Families move off child care subsidy waiting list, onto program

On April 1, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) began notifying about half of families on the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy waiting list that space is now available for them on the program. We are sending letters to 1,431 families letting them know they have 10 days to call and complete the application process.

WCCC helps families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or meet WorkFirst participation requirements. DEL began the waiting list on March 1 to help balance a shortfall in the WorkFirst budget. The program now serves a maximum of 35,200 families each month. DEL determines how many families can be pulled from the waiting list after looking at program usage and payment data.

Families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits and families of children with special needs have priority access to WCCC. Remaining families with incomes at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty guidelines are eligible for WCCC on a “first come, first served” basis.

Find out more by visiting the WCCC page on the DEL website.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Senate Committee hears about home visiting in Washington

Evidence-based home visiting services help improve school readiness, child health and public safety in Washington, a panel including DEL Director Bette Hyde told the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee this morning.

DEL Director Bette Hyde and Thrive by Five CEO and President Nina Auerbach speak to the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee

During home visits, trained professionals offer information and support to expecting and new parents to help them in their role as their child's first and most important teacher. This support is particularly important in the first years of life, when a child's brain is growing and forming connections faster than at any other time, Hyde said.

In our state, several entities including DEL and our private nonprofit partner Thrive by Five Washington are working to leverage public and private dollars to support and expand home visiting services. Home visiting is a key strategy in our statewide Early Learning Plan and Birth to Three Plan to help support families and reduce risk factors.

Watch today's presentation below from TVW.



Read more about home visiting on DEL's website, and on Thrive's website.

Yesterday, DEL announced seven at-risk communities invited to participate in the next steps for a federal home visiting funding opportunity. This work is part of a $1.3 million home visiting program grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Washington among top in nation for child care center licensing

Washington once again ranks among the top in the nation for our licensing rules and oversight for child care centers, according to a National Association for Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) report released this week.

Washington ranks sixth in the nation overall for our center regulations and oversight. We ranked ninth in the last NACCRRA report, issued in 2009.

NACCRRA highlighted some of the strengths in our center licensing work, including: unannounced monitoring visits and complaint inspections; regulations that address all developmental domains as well as all basic health and safety standards; and an emphasis on parent involvement and information.

The Department of Early Learning licenses about 2,000 centers around the state, which includes school-age programs. View our state’s center rules and school-age rules here: www.del.wa.gov/laws/rules/licensing.aspx

NACCRRA recommends that Washington:
  • Increase frequency of inspections of child care centers (we currently inspect once every 12 months for centers).
  • Require center directors to have a bachelor’s degree or higher in early childhood education or a related field.
  • Increase the education requirements for lead teachers to a child development associate (CDA) credential or an associate degree in early childhood education or related field (currently high school diploma or GED).
  • Increase annual training requirements to 24 hours, including CPR and first-aid (currently 10 hours).
  • Require fingerprints for checking individuals’ criminal history (currently our state only requires fingerprints for those who have lived in the state less than three years).

See Washington’s report card here: www.naccrra.org/publications/naccrra-publications/publications/states/Washington.pdf

NACCRRA also ranks regulations and oversight for family home child care in a separate report—the 2010 report is available here: www.naccrra.org/publications/naccrra-publications/leaving-children-to-chance-2010.php