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.