Friday, December 28, 2012

New crib standards take effect today for all child care providers in the United States

Starting today, all child care centers and homes must comply with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) new crib rules.

More than 11 million cribs have been recalled because of safety hazards in the United States since 2007. The CPSC changed federal manufacturing standards for cribs in June 2011. The new rules, which apply to full-size and non-full-size cribs, prohibit the manufacture or sale of traditional drop-side rail cribs, strengthen crib slats and mattress supports, improve the quality of hardware and require more rigorous testing. Read more about the details of the crib manufacturing rules.

Starting today, all cribs in use in child care centers, family homes and places of public accommodation must comply with the June 2011 crib safety standards.

How can I tell if my crib complies with the new standards?
You cannot tell from looking at a crib whether it meets the new standards. If you purchased a crib before July 2011, it is not likely that it meets the new federal standard. You can check the crib itself for the manufacturing date. If it’s after June 28, 2011, the crib meets the standard. To be sure, you can contact the manufacturer to ask if the crib complies with 16 CFR 1219, the new standard for full-size cribs, or 16 CFR 1220, the new standard for non-full-size cribs.

The CPSC recently published guidance on which cribs meet the requirements and how providers can determine if their cribs comply. Read the guidance on CPSC’s cribs webpage.

How will DEL enforce the new standards?
DEL has incorporated the CPSC crib rules into our child care center and family home licensing rules. The rules require licensees to keep a log that shows each crib in use meets the CPSC crib requirements. Child care licensors may ask to see the log at any time, including during monitoring visits.

More information:

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Updated school-age licensing rules take effect Dec. 20

Updated rules for licensed school-age child care go into effect on Dec. 20. The revised school-age licensing WAC 170-297 will replace the previous school-age center requirements, WAC 170-151. The revised rules pertain to the 450 licensed school-age programs around the state, which serve up to 20,000 children ages 5 through 12 with before- and after-school care. The rules were last updated in 2001.

The updated rules are better aligned with DEL's other child care licensing rules, and reflect more recent research. Key changes in the updated rules include:
  • Updates to water safety requirements, including adding a requirement of minimum staff-to-child ratio of 1:10 during water activities.
  • More information about guidance and discipline, including positive options for discipline and ways to help ensure bullying does not occur in the program.
  • Allowing use of public transportation, so long as children are supervised at all times and required staff-to-child ratios are maintained.
  • Updates to lighting safety requirements, including adding a requirement for either shatter-resistant light bulbs or shatter-resistant light coverings on ceiling-mounted light fixtures.
  • Requiring licensees to share more information with families about the program's program philosophy (view of child learning and development).
  • Information about use of private wells for water.
  • Updated information about smoking in or near the licensed space.
  • Updated information about first-aid kits.
  • Adding a requirement for ground cover in fall zones near swings and play equipment.
  • Adding limitations to screen time.
  • New rules regarding satellite kitchens.
  • Increasing education requirements for program directors.

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) began the process of updating these rules in 2009, when we contracted with School's Out Washington to create recommendations for the rules. School's Out Washington brought together key stakeholders to deliver these recommendations to DEL.


DEL filed formal proposed rules on Sept. 5, 2012, and held public hearings in Seattle and Yakima. We also accepted comments online.View a list of those comments and how they informed the rules.
School-age providers who have questions should contact their licensor.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Immunization reporting requirements for child care providers and educators

We recently shared some information with licensed child care providers from the state Department of Health (DOH) about immunization reporting that is required by Nov. 1. According to the DOH, “Washington State law requires Early Learning Programs to complete and file an Immunization Status Report each year by November 1. Programs required to report include licensed Child Care centers, Preschools, ECEAP contractors and Head Start programs. Licensed Family Child Care Homes with 12 children or less are exempt for the reporting requirement.”
We’ve added links to the immunization schedule and reporting requirements to several of our webpages as a resource for families and child care providers:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

DEL taking action to address issues identified in child care subsidy audit

The Working Connections Child Care program helps low-income families pay for child care while they work, look for work, or participate in approved job training. The program helps up 30,000 families at any given time with an economic boost they need to find or maintain work.
 
Accountability and program integrity are one of the many areas the Department of Early Learning (DEL) has been focusing attention in the program. The child care subsidy system is an old and largely manual system. Several audits identified ways the subsidy system is not working as well as it should, and DEL has addressed many issues in accountability. For context, DEL is responsible for child care subsidy policy and oversight; the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) is responsible for families’ eligibility to receive subsidized child care and payments to child care providers.
 
Thanks to the funding from the state Legislature, we are working on developing an electronic subsidy system that will replace the old paper and manual entry system. This will be a crucial step in tightening controls over the $280 million in subsidy payments we make each year.
 
Despite some cases of reported fraud in the child care community, which have been turned over to DSHS for investigation and/or prosecution, families who are eligible for services are receiving care and, as of now, the program has room to serve more families.
 
DEL initiated its own child care subsidy audit team to review random, targeted, and complaint-based subsidy payment records from both licensed and license-exempt child care providers. We assembled the audit team to improve accountability over child care providers’ billing practices. The team is responsible for documenting and writing overpayments for collection where errors in billing occur; the team refers potential fraud cases that are identified to DSHS’ Fraud and Accountability at the Department of Social and Health Services for investigation.
 
Based upon the DEL audit team’s results, DEL has asked OFM for permission to add an additional five auditors to the team, using existing federal funding.

Any amount of waste or abuse is too much. DEL has been actively working with DSHS on recovering overpayments. DEL has also modified or added to child care subsidy rules:
  • Responsibilities for child care providers who are paid for providing subsidized care.
  • The provision that providers may not receive benefits for child care subsidies at the same time as they are themselves are paid for providing care.
  • A requirement that providers maintain the last year of attendance records to be immediately available upon request on site.
  • Not allowing payments to providers who bill for more children than they are allowed to care for (called overcapacity). 
These are just a few areas where DEL and DSHS have been focusing attention to improve performance and promote responsible practices by people who work in or use the child care subsidy system.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Child care providers have better access to education, more clear career path

Today, DEL and the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges announced a project to improve child care providers’ access to continuing education and a clearer path to an early childhood education (ECE) credential.

DEL and the higher education system have been working for several months on building “stackable certificates” that allow early learning professionals to work their way toward a statewide ECE credential, which equals a one-year certificate. We are calling it a statewide credential because all participating colleges will use the same curriculum, course descriptions and course numbers. Three certificates, earned sequentially, will result in the one-year credential.

This fall, there are three participating community colleges: Olympic, Pierce and Yakima Valley. Starting this winter quarter, four more colleges will participate: Highline, Clark, Lower Columbia and Bates Technical. By Fall 2013, all state community and technical colleges will be able to offer this curriculum. That means that any ECE student who studies at a participating college will be able to transfer to another participating college and have their credits and progress toward a certificate or credential seamlessly transfer.

Participating colleges also will offer Early Achievers Opportunity Grants, which are set aside for early learning professionals who work at a child care facility that participates in Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system, and who qualify as a low-income student. The grants help pay for tuition, books and other resources, including tutoring. Students apply for the grants through a participating community college.

We are using funding from the Race to the Top-Early Challenge grant that our state won in December 2011 to pay for the Early Achievers Opportunity Grants because they are directly aligned with the federal government’s goal for this funding: to build a strong, cohesive and consistent professional development system, respond to communities’ unique needs and provide valuable instruction to early learning professionals. In the end, child care professionals, families and children all win in our race to improve the quality of early learning in Washington.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gov. Gregoire launches ‘Read Early, Read Often’ campaign

Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced a new campaign, “Read Early, Read Often,” encouraging parents to read to their children at least 20 minutes a day. Gregoire joined Department of Early Learning Director Bette Hyde at Denise Louie Education Center in Seattle, where the governor launched the initiative this morning and read one of her favorite books, “What Grandmas Do Best,” to a group of preschoolers. Hyde shared the story, “Preschool Day Hooray!”

“As kids head to school or preschool this month, it’s too easy to think that they’re getting enough education time in the classroom,” Gregoire said. “We know though that when parents get involved at home, our students have a better chance at succeeding in school and in life. Just 20 minutes a day can not only help make your child a more proficient reader, it will strengthen the bond between parents and their kids.”

According to a 2010 report from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, “the ability to read is central to a child’s success in school, lifelong earning potential, and the ability to contribute to the nation’s economy and its security.” Building literacy skills helps children succeed in the long run, and research shows that children who are reading proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to graduate from high school.

“School readiness means ready schools, ready children, ready families and ready communities,” said Hyde. “Reading to children every day, even as little as 20 minutes, gives them an important boost in being ready for success in school and life.”

For reading ideas to try with children, visit the governor’s Read Early, Read Often webpage.

For more information on Gregoire’s achievements in education, visit: www.governor.wa.gov/priorities/education/education_accomplishments.pdf

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Price of child care in Washington--and nation--is still high

Washington families continue to pay twice as much for child care as they do for college tuition, according to a new report from Child Care Aware of America on national trends in the cost of child care. The report also finds that nationally, many families are moving their children from care regulated to ensure health and safety standards, to unlicensed care to save money.

The 2012 report, called Parents and the High Cost of Child Care, is published annually and reflects what families around the country pay for full-time child care in child care centers and in family homes child care settings. It measures average rates for infants, 4-year-olds and school-age children.
Washington ranked 12th in the nation—tied with Michigan—for least affordable child care for an infant in a center. Infants care is typically the most expensive than care for preschool or school-age children. Washington families with two parents’ income pay an average of 13.2 percent of their median income on infant child care in a center. Single mothers, meanwhile, pay 42.4 percent of their median income for that type of care. Those percentages drop to 10 percent and 32.2 percent respecitvely for a 4-year-old’s center-based care; and 5.6 percent and 18.2 percent respectively for school-age center-based care. Infant care in a child care center costs 15 percent more per child than tuition and fees at a public college.

Washington’s average annual rates for child care:
Child care centers
  • Infant: $10,920
  • 4-year-old: $8,320
  • School-age: $4,680
 Family home child care:
  • Infant: $8,424
  • 4-year-old: $7,020
  • School-age: $3,661
Washington household costs for comparison
  • Average annual rent payments: $10,848
  •  Average annual mortgage payments: $21,240
  •  Average annual public college tuition and fees: $9,484
Child Care Aware is the national organization for more than 600 state and local child care resource and referral networks, which help parents find child care. DEL partners with Child Care Aware Washington—the state branch of the national organization—to help families find the right child care arrangement for their children. We also partner with Child Care Aware Washington to support child care providers in improving quality through Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system.
Some national highlights from the 2012 report:
  • In 40 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost of center-based care for an infant exceeded 10 percent of the median income for a two-parent family. That was also true for the cost of a 4-year-old’s care in 22 states and DC.
  • In 35 states and in DC, the average annual cost for an infant in a child care center was higher than a year’s tuition and fees at a four-year public college. That was also true of the cost for a 4-year-old’s care in 19 states and DC.
Breakdown by state for center-based care:
  • Most expensive state for infant care: New York, $14,009
  • Least expensive state for infant care: Mississippi, $4,591
Child Care Aware agencies around the nation report that parents are removing their children from licensed child care settings to informal child care settings because of cost. While unlicensed settings may cost less, they are also of unknown quality and do not receive checks for basic health and safety standards that licensed child care facilities are subject to.
The report makes recommendations to the federal government to:
  • Define minimally acceptable quality child care for families
  • Study the real cost of quality care and to offer recommendations to Congress for financing to support quality options for parents.
  • Add safety requirements to federal funding (Child Care Development Block Grant) that improve the quality of care through requiring background checks for people who care for children; training requirements; regular inspections of facilities; investing in resource and referral agencies so they can assist providers in meeting licensing standards and help families find quality care.
  • Expand the availability of quality care in low-income areas and areas with a shortage of licensed care.
  • Reduce barriers that prevent families from accessing child care assistance.
View the report: Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012
Learn more about child care and child care assistance on DEL’s website.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

DEL enhances efforts to help ensure safety in child care

The Department of Early Learning and partners have enhanced our efforts to help ensure registered sex offenders are not living in homes where child care is offered.

The effort comes as the result of a State Auditor's Office performance audit that found 17 instances over 10 years of registered sex offenders living in homes where child care is offered. Two of those homes were licensed family homes. The other 15 were license-exempt child care providers who receive state subsidies to care for children.

As DEL staff testified today at a Joint Legislative Audit Review Committee session on the report, child care providers are good people doing hard work. However, as is highlighted in the audit, very occasionally a provider does not divulge information about a sex offender living on premises. The auditor gave us a new approach for making sure that children in child care are safe.

As a result of this audit, we:

  • Will be meeting with the Department of Social and Health Services on a quarterly basis to match up sex offenders’ registered addresses against a list of licensed family home child care providers’ and license-exempt providers’ addresses. If we make a match, we will take quick action on the provider’s license or, for exempt providers, on their ability to be paid state child care subsidies.
  • Revoked the license of one of the two licensed family home child care providers identified in the audit. The other provider was no longer licensed, but we have noted the auditor’s finding in that individual's file should that person ever seek a child care license again.
  • Are clarifying our rules around background checks for license-exempt child care providers. Our rules are clear that when the provider offers care in the child’s home, the provider must have a background check, and when the child goes to the provider’s home, everyone living there age 16 or older must have a background check. What our rules did not address was the rare instance where a license-exempt child care provider lives in the same home where he or she is providing care to a child. We will clarify that in that instance, only the provider must have a background check.
Watch the JLARC hearing here:



Friday, August 3, 2012

Sept. 1 marks new approval process to support high-quality training for early learning professionals

Training and education helps early learning professionals offer higher quality care for children. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) and partners are building a professional development system that provides clear pathways for professional development, and brings increased recognition and support to the field of early learning.

Starting Sept. 1, trainers in Washington must be approved by the state to offer trainings that meet state training requirements for child care providers (20 hours of basic STARS training and 10 hours yearly of continuing training). Already, 56 trainers have successfully completed the approval process. We have approved trainers in every county, and more applications come in every day.

The approval process is rigorous: Prospective trainers must complete a series of online modules about topics including adult learning, the state Early Learning and Development Guidelines, and the state core competencies for early education professionals. Then they must submit an application that includes an example of their work. An application is available for conferences or one-time special events, for those who want to offer STARS hours at local conferences without going through the full trainer approval process.

A trainer approval board made up of representatives of higher education, community-based training organizations and state agencies meets throughout the year to review trainer applications.Once approved, trainers can enter their available trainings into MERIT, our state professional development registry, for individuals to sign up.

Also beginning Sept. 1, DEL is offering free online trainings for early learning professionals that will earn them STARS credit. The trainings will cover several topics, including the Early Learning and Development Guidelines and cultural competencies.

As part of our Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, we are offering incentives to professionals who increase their training and education. Learn more about that here.

We at DEL are excited about ensuring high-quality training opportunities for those who care for and teach young children. For more information, visit the trainer approval page on our website. There you will find a frequently asked document for trainers, and video tutorials on the trainer approval process.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Help all children start school strong at annual conference: Registration closes August 1

Children start stronger when the adults in their lives are working together to help them succeed!

The fourth annual Starting Strong P-3 Institute next month will bring together early learning professionals and K-12 educators to talk about innovative ways to align systems. The Department of Early Learning is proud to be a sponsor of this event.

This year's conference takes place Aug. 14 and 15 in Vancouver, Wash. Registration closes on Aug. 1! Scholarships are available. Visit http://web3.esd112.org/startingstrong to learn more and register.

The three main goals of Starting Strong are:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Share your input on how state and local groups work together on behalf of children

The Department of Early Learning, in collaboration with our partners at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Thrive by Five Washington (Thrive), has started the Washington Early Learning State and Local Coordination Project.

This project is meant to strengthen how different parts of the state’s early learning system–state agencies, regional collaborative efforts, K-12 education and child care providers–work together to support children in Washington.

Since February, the project conducted community research to better understand barriers to a strong early learning system, opportunities for improving it, and promising practices from other states. We are conducting an initial round of outreach, and want your input! Click here to learn more and take a brief survey. The survey closes at the end of July.

Monday, July 2, 2012

July 2 is a big day for early learning in Washington

Several changes that affect child care professionals, families and early learning advocates have taken effect as of today: 
  • Portable background checks. Beginning July 1, our state moves to portable background checks for those working in child care. View more information on portable background checks, including information on an upcoming webinar for providers, and a frequently asked questions document.
  • Child care subsidy eligibility. Beginning July 1, eligible families can be authorized for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies for 12 months at a time. Also, WCCC eligibility limits change from 175 percent federal poverty level to 200 percent federal poverty level. These changes may help more families access WCCC. There is no wait list for WCCC at this time. Information about these changes to subsidies will be posted on DEL’s WCCC page on Monday, July 2. Please share this information in your community.
  • Statewide expansion of Early Achievers begins. Early Achievers, our state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system:
    • Connects families to child care and early learning programs with the help of an easy-to-understand rating system.
    • Offers coaching, financial incentives and resources for child care providers.
    • Find out more about how child care providers and families can benefit from Early Achievers.
  • The work of Council for Children and Families becomes part of DEL. The 2011 Legislature passed House Bill 1965, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park, that called for the Council to sunset on June 30, 2012, and its early learning functions and funding transferred to DEL.
    The Council for Children & Families, which the Legislature created in 1982, will now be called Strengthening Families Washington. The functions of Strengthening Families Washington include:
    • Community-based parent learning, leadership and volunteer opportunities
    • Postpartum mood disorder public awareness campaign (Speak Up When You’re Down)
    • Shaken Baby Syndrome public awareness campaign (Have a Plan)
    • Leadership on behalf of state and national partners to support effective child maltreatment prevention efforts

    • Information about Strengthening Families Washington is available on DEL's website at http://www.del.wa.gov/development/strengthening/default.aspx

Friday, June 29, 2012

Stay tuned for big news on July 2!

July 1 is a big day for early learning in Washington! Several changes go into effect that we will launch on Monday, July 2. 
  • Portable background checks. Beginning July 1, our state moves to portable background checks for those working in child care. View more information on portable background checks, including information on an upcoming webinar for providers, and a frequently asked questions document.
  • Child care subsidy eligibility. Beginning July 1, eligible families can be authorized for Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidies for 12 months at a time. Also, WCCC eligibility limits change from 175 percent federal poverty level to 200 percent federal poverty level. These changes may help more families access WCCC. There is no wait list for WCCC at this time. Information about these changes to subsidies will be posted on DEL’s WCCC page on Monday, July 2. Please share this information in your community.
  • Statewide expansion of Early Achievers begins. Early Achievers, our state’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system:
    • Connects families to child care and early learning programs with the help of an easy-to-understand rating system.
    • Offers coaching, financial incentives and resources for child care providers.
    • Find out more about how child care providers and families can benefit from Early Achievers.
We will post press releases with more information on Monday in DEL's Newsroom.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

More families may be eligible for child care subsidies with changes this summer

Upcoming changes to the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) and Seasonal Child Care subsidy programs may help more families in Washington access these benefits. The changes are based on decisions made by the Legislature during the 2012 session. Here is a list of those changes and when they start:  
  • June 7, 2012: Families will no longer be required to seek child support enforcement services. Before, families receiving subsidies had to seek child support enforcement services from the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) unless there was good cause not to cooperate.
  • July 1, 2012: Eligibility moves from 175 percent of federal poverty level to 200 percent federal poverty level. For a family of three, this would be $3,182 per month.
  • July 1, 2012: Families may be authorized to get 12 months of WCCC subsidies before reapplying. The current limit (until July 1) is six months of WCCC subsidies at a time. This change is meant to help promote stability of care for children from low-income households. If a family is authorized for a 12-month subsidy authorization,  the family must notify DSHS within five days if they change child care providers, and must notify DSHS within 10 days if their need for child care changes or they have other changes that might impact eligibility.
WCCC is a subsidy program that helps families with low incomes pay for child care while they work or meet WorkFirst participation requirements. Find out more about the program—and how to apply—by visiting www.del.wa.gov/care/help/connections.aspx. The program is capped at 33,000 households, and a wait list is used when the program exceeds enrollment. There is no wait list for WCCC at this time.

SCC is a subsidy program that helps families pay for safe, licensed child care while parents work in agricultural settings. Find out more about the program at www.del.wa.gov/care/help/seasonal.aspx.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Early Achievers expands; opportunity for professional development and incentives for licensed child care providers

Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system, is expanding! Licensed or certified child care providers may choose to participate. This voluntary program helps provide high-quality care to prepare children for school.

The Department of Early Learning is partnering with the Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network and the University of Washington to expand Early Achievers beginning on July 1, 2012.

Incentives for providers include:
  • One-on-one coaching: Research shows coaching is key to improving quality! The amount of coaching a provider receives is up to the provider. Coaching is not limited by the type or size of child care facility. Coaches are hired locally by resource and referral agencies. They will have in-depth understanding of the business of child care, but as important as that, they will have expertise in child development and program quality. Their job is to help providers set and achieve goals.
  • Quality improvement awards: Programs get awards for attaining higher rating levels. The awards are used to carry out their quality improvement plans designed with a coach. The state currently is bargaining the award amounts for family home child care providers with SEIU 925.
  • Professional development incentives and awards: Early learning staff will receive individual incentives for achieving training and education at universities and colleges in Washington, and programs can increase their rating levels by having more highly qualified staff.
  • Access to resource hubs: Head Start and Early Childhood Education and Assistance (ECEAP) programs that are evaluated and scored at level 4 or 5 in Early Achievers will receive a bonus to serve as resource hubs, opening their doors to high-quality trainings and other support for local early learning professionals (examples might be: access to computer labs, time for providers and their coaches to observe classrooms).
Please visit www.del.wa.gov/care/qris or contact your local resource and referral agency to learn more about Early Achievers. Early Achievers is funded by the federal Child Care and Development Fund and Washington's Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What's new with Washington's Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant?

Washington was one of nine states to win a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) grant in December. Since that time, DEL and partners have truly been racing to capitalize on this opportunity to improve outcomes for Washington's youngest learners.

RTT-ELC is about reforming early education efforts in our state to help ensure the strongest outcomes for children. Washington's grant is being used to take key initiatives to scale and align them within the early learning system: 

  • Explanding and enhancing Early Achievers (our state's quality rating and improvement system).
  • Taking the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Kids (WaKIDS) statewide.
  • Improving professional development opportunities for those who care for and teach young children.
Find out more in our May 2012 RTT-ELC update.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Child Care Provider Appreciation Day is May 11!

We at DEL appreciate child care providers every day for their hard work and commitment to offering children safe, healthy learning environments. But every year, a special day is set aside nationally just for showing child care providers how much we value their efforts.

Gov. Chris Gregoire has proclaimed May 11, 2012, Child Care Provider Appreciation Day in Washington. View the proclamation in English and in Spanish.

Events are happening around the state to honor child care providers. Find out more.

How can you show appreciation for your child care provider? The Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network has several great ideas for saying thanks, including:

  • Offering to bring breakfast, lunch or treats for the teacher and children.
  • Having your child make a special art project for their provider.
 From all of us at DEL, thank you to Washington's child care providers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

WaKIDS work team created by Legislature meets for first time

A work team created by the 2012 Legislature in House Bill 2586 met for the first time today to review progress on implementing the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) and begin creating recommendations to inform WaKIDS.

The work team is legislatively charged with making recommendations on:
  • Administering WaKIDS, including in half-day kindergarten classrooms.
  • How to achieve the legislative intent of replacing various kindergarten assessments used around the state with WaKIDS as the kindergarten entry tool.
The work team includes kindergarten teachers, principals, parents and representatives from DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Thrive by Five Washington and Encompass.

WaKIDS is a process that:
  • Welcomes students and their families to kindergarten as partners in education.
  • Assesses students' strengths at the start of the kindergarten school year in several developmental domains (social/emotional, physical, language, cognition, literacy and math).
  • Encourages early learning providers to participate in ensuring a smooth transition into the K-12 system.
  • Engages the state in a conversation about characteristics of children's development and learning that will enable them to be successful in school.
Beginning in the 2012-13 school year, WaKIDS is mandatory for all state-funded full-day kindergarten classrooms. Five school districts have applied for and been granted one-year waivers from participating in WaKIDS next school year. At least 22,000 incoming kindergarteners will participate in WaKIDS next year, up from 7,300 in the current school year.

Work team members got an overview of WaKIDS implementation to date, and an update on how WaKIDS teacher input, including a teacher survey in fall 2011, has influenced the WaKIDS process:
  • OSPI and DEL are enhancing teacher trainings on Teaching Strategies GOLD, the tool used to measure where each child is in his or her development at the start of kindergarten.
  • The online data entry tool for GOLD has been streamlined and customized for Washington; and teachers this coming school year will only need to enter students' names, dates of birth and ID numbers to create their classroom roster.
  • OSPI and DEL have worked with the Educational Service Districts to create a regional network of support for teachers using WaKIDS.
  • Real-world tips from teachers on how to successfully integrate WaKIDS into the classroom are being collected to share online.
  • Introducing Me, a booklet parents can use when they meet with families at the start of the year, is being translated into 11 languages.
The work team will meet again in June. Their preliminary recommendations are due to the Legislature on December 1, 2012.

WaKIDS is funded with state dollars, the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, and private contributions from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Thrive by Five Washington. Learn more at www.k12.wa.us/wakids.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Legislature finishes, passes budget that supports early learning

The 2012 Legislature adjourned on April 11 after "double overtime" special sessions to tackle a revenue shortfall. On the last day, the Legislature passed a supplemental operating budget for the 2011-13 state biennium. For early learning, the budget included:
  • $1.1 million to implement an electronic attendance system for child care subsidies and to have an independent consultant evaluate and make recommendations on the optimum system for child care subsidy eligibility.
  • $1 million in additional state funding to implement the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state's kindergarten readiness assessment process.
  • Moving the Working Connections Child Care eligibility level up to 200 percent federal poverty level, and removing a requirement that the Department of Social and Health Services and the Department of Early Learning establish or enforce child support obligations.
  • Reducing DEL agency administration by $446,000.
  • Creating a birth-to-3 subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council to make recommendations on how to move forward with our state's Birth to 3 Plan.
Read more about how early learning was impacted during the 2012 legislative session in DEL's 2012 legislative session highlights.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Washington’s state-funded preschool ranks high for funding and quality, low for access

The National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) today released its rankings of state preschool programs, and once again Washington’s program ranked among the top in the nation for quality, but landed 31st out of 39 states that provide state-funded preschool in 2010-11 for access.

Not surprisingly, the study found many states are seeing declining funding for preschool programs. The State of Preschool 2011: State Preschool Yearbook shows total state funding for the nation’s pre-K programs decreased by nearly $60 million from the previous year to the 2010-2011 school year. In the past 10 years, real spending on state pre-K has declined by about 15 percent, or more than $700 per child.

Washington’s state-funded preschool program is the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), which has been serving Washington preschoolers for 25 years. ECEAP serves 3- and 4-year-olds whose families’ incomes are at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level ($24,585 for a family of four). Sixty four percent of ECEAP families are at or below annual incomes of $17,880 for a family of four.

Here is a breakdown of NIEER’s rankings for Washington:
  • Washington meets nine out of 10 benchmarks for preschool education quality, up from six out of 10 in 2001-02. The one benchmark Washington does not meet is requiring a bachelor’s degree for the lead teacher in ECEAP programs. While 42 percent of ECEAP teachers have a bachelor’s or master’s degree, the current standard requires an Associate of Arts degree.  
  • For access to the state pre-K program, Washington ranked 31 out of 39 states that provide state-funded preschool programs: Just 8 percent of Washington’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in ECEAP.
  • Washington ranked 7 out of 39 for spending on state-funded preschool: Per-child funding has fared better than other states in the past 10 years. Washington spent $6,780 per enrolled child in 2010-11.
  • Washington spent $54.4 million on ECEAP in 2010-11.

“Washington’s program remains well-funded, dropping real per-child funding only slightly in 2010-2011, and the quality is there,” said Steve Barnett, director of the nonpartisan National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) at Rutgers University that has surveyed state preschool programs on a number of measures since 2001-2002. “As one of the states to receive an Early Learning Challenge grant in 2011, there is hope of improving early learning opportunities for preschoolers in Washington.”

View NIEER’s report for 2011: http://nieer.org/yearbook 
Read the Associated Press story about Washington's ranking.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines - a resource for parents, providers

The Washington Department of Early Learning (DEL) has published the Early Learning and Development Guidelines (guidelines) for children from birth through third grade. The guidelines replace the Early Learning and Development Benchmarks, which were first created in 2005 to outline what children know and are able to do at different stages of their development.

DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Thrive by Five Washington led the recent revision of the guidelines in close partnership with a 51-member workgroup that included statewide representatives from Head Start, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), parents, Tribes, child care providers, special needs experts, K-12 staff and our state's ethnic commissions.

The guidelines are a resource for child care providers and families to help recognize what children ages birth through third grade should be doing and learning at different stages of their development. The guidelines have pages for each age group to use as a quick reference and are written in a clear, easy-to-understand way.

For example:
  • Page 16 has suggestions for the ways parents, child care providers and kingergarten through third grade teachers can use the guidelines.
  • Each section starts with "What families already know about their children: five questions to reflect on."
  • At the end of each section is a page called "Differences in development" that outlines areas of potential concerns for that age group.
Thrive by Five Washington, one of the partners for this project, blogged about the guidelines today: "The new Early Learning and Development Guidelines, though, are something more basic, and just as important. The resource is designed to be used by families and educators in every day parenting and care. Instead of describing an important but technical public policy, the guidelines explain to parents in clear terms the milestones in their children’s development, such as how their child may interact with other children, eat and communicate. Broken down by nine age groups, it also provides strategies to encourage healthy development at each stage."

Related links:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Family home child care rules are a boost for Washington families and child care professionals

More than 170,000 Washington children from newborn through age 12 spend time in licensed child care, about 45,000 of them in family home child care settings. Many of these children spend the majority of their waking hours in care. They deserve care that is not just safe and healthy, but also gets them ready to succeed in school.

On March 31, updated family home child care licensing rules will go into effect for our state’s 5,000 family home child care providers. The updated rules support healthy, safe, nurturing care by:

  • Requiring family home providers to have a high school diploma or GED, a child development associate credential or 45 credits of child development. Existing providers have until March 31, 2017, to attain this education.
  • Limiting screen time, including video games and movies, to two hours per day.
  • Increasing playground safety to reduce injuries caused by falling from climbing equipment and swings.
  • Reflecting new federal standards around crib safety.
  • Requiring a higher level of communication between providers and parents around child development and child care philosophy.
  • Enhancing background checks for those who work or live in the home.

A recent Washington Post article about a baby’s death in a Virginia family home child care illustrates why family home child care rules are so important. Earlier this month, Dateline NBC aired an investigation about background checks for child care providers across the nation. At least 11 states, including Washington, have comprehensive background screening systems—39 states do not. The investigation went on to illustrate case after case of people with criminal backgrounds caring for children and the devastating consequences that have happened in some cases.

These reports illustrate the contrast between Washington’s rules and what other states require – or not. Some states require no criminal background checks, training (including CPR) or even basic inspections. In 2012, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) ranked Washington ranked second in the nation for strong, thorough family home child care licensing policies. Sixteen states scored zero points out of 150 because they do not regulate family home child care or do not inspect before licensing providers. Washington’s rules are just the basis of what children and families deserve in child care.

Washington started regulation family home child care rules in the 1960s after a fire in a family home child care killed three children. Since the 1960s, we have made great strides to ensure children’s safety in family home child care and child care center settings. In recent years, parents and child development professionals have recognized the need for child care professionals, with whom young children who attend spend the majority of their waking hours, to help prepare children for success in school and life. Our state is one of many around the nation making a push toward increased quality in child care as a key school readiness strategy. The bulk of Washington’s recent $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant will support child care providers in boosting the quality of their programs through coaching, incentives and professional development. These updated rules help provide the foundation.

Family home child care providers are an integral part of the local economy, offering care for families while parents work, look for work or go to school. The revised family home child care rules are meant to support providers as small business owners. While there is—understandably—anxiety among some providers about meeting these updated rules, DEL is committed to helping them succeed. Families demand and deserve high-quality care, and we must help ensure communities can meet that demand.

The Department of Early Learning wants child care providers to succeed. Their success equals children’s success. And that is good for everyone.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2012 regular legislative session wrap-up: How did early learning fare?

The 60-day 2012 legislative session will end today, and several important early learning bills are heading to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her signature. The Legislature does not appear likely to pass a supplemental operating budget before the session ends (no later than midnight tonight). Gov. Gregoire will determine when to call the Legislature back to finish that work, which could be as early as next week. View the latest versions of the House and Senate budget proposals online here.

Legislators continued to support and focus on early learning as a smart investment this session. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) and partners presented to legislators on a variety of topics, including:

• Our transition plan to move duties of the Council for Children & Families to DEL on July 1
• The updated family home child care licensing rules that go into effect on March 31
• Our state’s $60 million Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant
• Child care subsidies

Find the video and PowerPoint presentations from all DEL legislative work sessions online here.

Among the key early learning bills passed:

House Bill 2586, sponsored by Rep. Ruth Kagi, D-Lake Forest Park (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell): Moves our state forward with implementation of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WAKIDS. States legislative intent that WaKIDS replace other school district assessments, unless the district is seeking information not addressed through WaKIDS. Enhances parent and educator input on WaKIDS implementation. Allows districts to apply for waivers from WaKIDS until full statewide implementation of state-funded full-day kindergarten in school year 2017-2018.
Senate Bill 6226, sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle: Extends the authorization period for Working Connections Child Care subsidies to 12 months for qualifying families.
Senate Bill 5715, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle: Requires DEL to adopt and implement core competencies for early care and education professionals and child and youth development professionals and review them every five years. These are a key foundation for our state’s professional development system.


Early learning bills that did not pass include:

House Bill 2658, sponsored by Rep. Kagi: Would have allowed child care employees who work in a school district or educational school district to undergo only a DEL background check and be exempt from the district background check.
House Bill 2569, sponsored by Rep. Tina Orwall, D-Des Moines: Would have put more detail in statute about the purpose and goals of Washington’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system.
House Bill 2608, sponsored by Rep. Kagi (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Nick Harper, D-Everett): Would have put the state Early Learning Guidelines into statute and require DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive by Five Washington to periodically review and update them.
House Bill 2448, sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland (Senate version sponsored by Sen. Harper): Would have created a voluntary state preschool program as an entitlement, per the recommendations of a legislatively mandated work group.
House Bill 2646, sponsored by Rep. Kagi: Would have exempted the personal information of children in for-profit licensed child care from public disclosure. Personal information for children in nonprofit child care is exempt from public disclosure.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Frequently asked questions about family home child care licensing rules available

The updated family home child care licensing rules take effect March 31, 2012. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has been gathering questions from licensed providers and put them into a new "frequently asked questions" document that is on our website.

The family home rules are the result of an extensive, four-year negotiated rulemaking process between DEL, the SEIU 925 and others. The negotiated rulemaking team reviewed the existing family home rules, reviewed national research around child care safety and health, and made recommendations to DEL.

The rules do several things, including increasing education and training standards for providers and staff; enhancing standards around playground safety, food service, cribs, emergency preparedness, nurture and guidance, and screen time; and requiring a higher level of communication with parents around child development.

Learn more about the rules and watch the video of a December 2011 training webinar online.

Do you have questions about the updated rules? Email them to rules@del.wa.gov.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Questions and answers about the proposed Washington Preschool Program

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has received several questions from child care providers and others about a bill that is being considered in the Legislature. This is House Bill 2448, also called the High-Quality Early Learning Act of 2012, and moves forward the recommendations of a legislatively required work group about how to phase in a high-quality, voluntary preschool program to help children get ready for success in school and life.

Following are some answers to some of the questions we at DEL have heard most frequently:

What does House Bill 2448 do?
HB 2448 would establish a statewide, voluntary preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds in Washington. The bill calls this the “Washington Preschool Program.” The new program includes 450 hours of preschool a year, as well as health and family support services. The bill also would focus on planning voluntary programs for birth-to-3-year-olds at the same time.

The Washington Preschool Program would build on the standards of our current state-funded preschool program (the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP).

The Washington Preschool Program would be what is called a “mixed-delivery system.” This means that many different groups could deliver these preschool services. That could include licensed family home providers and child care centers; school districts; educational service districts; current Early Learning and Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) and Head Start providers; and faith-based organizations.

You can read the most current version of House Bill 2448, along with analysis prepared by House of Representatives committee staff, online.

What does this mean for licensed child care providers? Would they have to participate?
This preschool program would be voluntary for families. Not all families will choose to enroll their child, for any number of reasons. There is no requirement for families to be a part of the Washington Preschool Program.

Licensed child care providers could choose to apply to be a Washington Preschool Program provider, and would be encouraged to do so. Participation is not required. Providers who were selected by competitive process to be part of Washington Preschool Program would be funded per-slot to deliver high-quality preschool programming that meets the requirements of this bill, for a minimum of 450 hours per year. Child care providers may choose to have Washington Preschool hours when all requirements of this bill are in place, and child care hours when they meet child care licensing requirements.

Licensed child care providers who did not wish to apply to be a Washington Preschool Program provider would be able to continue offering licensed child care, following the child care licensing WAC. The requirements of the Washington Preschool Program do not apply to all child care or to preschools that are not part of the Washington Preschool Program.

Licensed child care providers could choose to deliver both Washington Preschool Program services (which would be part-day) and subsidized child care to result in a high-quality full-day program.

What does this mean for private preschool providers? Would they have to participate?
Currently, private preschool providers offering educational curriculum and operating for fewer than four hours per day are exempt from child care licensing requirements. These preschools would not have to participate in the Washington Preschool Program.

What would the educational requirements for lead teachers be under the Washington Preschool Program?
Research is clear that a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or a related field supports high-quality early learning programs. Part of HB 2448 is a requirement that DEL and others make recommendations to the Legislature about a timeline to phase in a bachelor’s degree requirement for lead teachers. The bill also will likely include a requirement for DEL and others to review current capacity at higher education institutions, affordability in attaining a degree, barriers for child care providers, and any “equivalencies” that would allow child care providers to demonstrate quality without having a bachelor’s degree.
How would the Washington Preschool Program impact the Working Connections Child Care and Seasonal Child Care subsidy programs?
The Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) and Seasonal Child Care (SCC) subsidy programs would continue operating the way they currently do. Funding for WCCC and SCC would not be diverted to fund the Washington Preschool Program.

I have heard the Washington Preschool Program could not include religious instruction. Is that true?
It is true that any publically funded education program may not include religious instruction during the time of day funded for the preschool program. Faith-based organizations would be encouraged to apply for Washington Preschool Program with the understanding that they would not offer religious instruction during the portion of the day funded with public dollars.

Why would any entity consider being part of Washington Preschool Program?
Those who participate in Washington Preschool Program would be paid per-slot to offer high-quality preschool services. In addition, participants would have access to professional development and materials to support them in their work.

Would this program be for families with low incomes only?
The Washington Preschool Program as proposed in House Bill 2448 would offer access to this program to all families upon full implementation in school year 2024-25. Families with incomes above 250 percent of the federal poverty level would pay a co-pay set by DEL.

How were these recommendations for this program created?
This has been a gradual and thoughtful process:
  • A bill passed in 2010 (House Bill 2731) created a voluntary preschool program for educationally at-risk children, to be phased in as an entitlement program by the 2018-2019 school year. An entitlement means a guarantee of access to specific benefits either by law or by constitution.
  • Another bill passed in 2010 (Senate Bill 6759) set up a work group to look at whether this preschool program should be part of basic education or an entitlement, and get more specific about what the preschool program should look like. You can find the recommendations from the SB 6759 work group online by clicking here. At that same place, you can find more information about the work group membership and process.
  • The SB 6759 work group delivered its recommendations to two groups in November 2011: The Quality Education Council (QEC) and the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC).
  • ELAC considered the recommendations during its Dec. 12, 2011, regular meeting. They supported the work group recommendations, with two additions:
    • Adding a birth-to-3 technical workgroup to use the state Birth to 3 Plan as the basis for working to enhance services for infants and toddlers.
    • Phasing in the SB 6759 work group recommendations about lead teacher education requirements, rather than requiring a bachelor’s degree at the creation of the program.
  • The QEC at its Dec. 19, 2011, regular meeting, voted to recommend the work group recommendations.
  • The bill was introduced for consideration during the 2012 legislative session and is now being considered by the Legislature.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

DEL accepting public comment on several rules

It’s a new year, which means it is time for new rules related to many areas that affect DEL, parents, child care providers and even unlicensed providers. The rules that govern how state agencies do business are called WACs (pronounced “wax”), which stands for Washington Administrative Code.


Part of the rule-making process is accepting public comments on the proposed changes. Right now, DEL is accepting public comment on several rules. People can provide comment online, in person (in some cases), by email or by postal mail. Each topic has a link to the webpage that contains more information, including how to provide input.

This list is organized by the date in which the public comment period closes.

January 31

  • Child Care Center Rules on Lice and Nits: DEL agreed to review the rule following a public petition asking DEL to remove the section of the rule that requires licensed child care centers to exclude children or staff who have lice or nits. This rule only applies to child care centers and school-age programs.
February 13
  • Public disclosure of DEL records, how the public may request records, indexes to certain public information and DEL organization rules required by law. 
  • Child care centers and school-age centers on new nonexpiring licenses: A nonexpiring license is available to current providers with a full license, and to new providers who have successfully completed the initial license period. The proposed rules describe the annual requirements for a provider to maintain a nonexpiring license.
  • Raising annual license fees for child care centers and school-age centers: DEL raised fees for family home child care providers in new WAC chapter 170-296A. The Legislature directed DEL to increase license fees for all licensed providers to deal with projected 2011-2013 state budget deficits. License fees are deposited to the state general fund and are not kept by DEL. The new fee amounts have been in effect by emergency rules filed in June and October 2011.
  • Suspected unlicensed child care and higher civil penalties (fines) that may be levied for violating child care licensing rules: The rule changes are as a result of 2011 Senate Bill 5504, and have been in effect by emergency rules filed in July and December 2011.
  • Working Connections and Seasonal Child Care programs in Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 170-290, and related changes to licensing rules for child care centers, school-age programs and family home child care. The rules are being revised to meet state and federal audit recommendations, reduce potential fraud, waste or abuse, comply with portions of 2011 Senate Bill 5921, and clarify other requirements.
March 31

  • Child care center rules: This will be the first substantial update of child care center rules since 2003. DEL is interested in suggestions that are child-centered and evidence- or research-based.
You can find the complete list of rules DEL will tackle the first half of this year on our semi-annual rule-making agenda, which we update every January and July.

Anyone who is interested in receiving information about current rules, draft rules and notices of rule changes, can sign up:

Rules Coordinator
Washington State Department of Early Learning
P.O. Box 40970
Olympia, WA 98504-0970

Thursday, January 19, 2012

DEL office closures January 19

Many Department of Early Learning offices are closed today, January 19 due to icy conditions:
  • Headquarters in Lacey
  • Aberdeen
  • Bellevue
  • Bellingham
  • Bremerton
  • Everett
  • Kent
  • Mount Vernon
  • Port Angeles
  • Seattle
  • Tacoma
  • Tumwater
We will update this blog with new information as it becomes available.

If you need to reach a licensor or headquarters staff, please send them an email. See DEL contacts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

DEL office closures January 18

The following Department of Early Learning offices are closed Wednesday, January 18 due to inclement weather:
  • Headquarters in Lacey
  • Field offices are open but many DEL employees are telecommuting. The best way to reach a licensor today is by email.
We will keep this post updated with any changes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Legislature convenes for 2012 session--how to stay updated on early learning

The 2012 regular legislative session began on Monday, Jan. 9, and will last 60 days. Although this is a supplemental budget year (not the "long" 105-day session during which the biennial budget is written), legislators have plenty to do during these 60 days.

This week, DEL will present to various legislative committees on the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, child care subsidies, the upcoming transfer of the Council for Children & Families to DEL, and portable background checks for child care employees.
 How you can stay informed on early learning issues throughout session: