Thursday, November 21, 2013

Do you know an outstanding primary caregiver? Nominate him or her for an Unsung Hero award!

During Parent Recognition Month each February, DEL’s Strengthening Families Washington, in partnership with Seattle’s Child, honors 28 primary caregivers──parents, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents, guardians──who are an Unsung Hero to their families or their communities. We honor each hero with a short bio that will be posted on Seattle's Child website and at a recognition event in late February.

Do you know a parent, primary caregiver, guardian, foster or adoptive parent or a grandparent who shows one or more of these strengths: ability to bounce back from stress (parental resilience), a strong support system (social connections), understands their child’s developmental needs (knowledge of parenting and child development), shows empathy and support towards their child’s feelings (social and emotional competence of children), and not afraid to ask for help or receive help (concrete supports in times of need). All of those traits are called Protective Factors. Research has found that these five Protective Factors reduce stress and promote the well-being of families.

We are accepting nominations for the 2014 Unsung Heroes awards through Jan. 4, 2014. If you know of a primary caregiver whose outstanding work with their own family or in the community deserves recognition, tell us about them in the nomination form and submit it to us by email, fax or mail

Strengthening Families Washington helps families strengthen family bonds, understand childhood development, cope with the challenge of parenting and develop positive discipline skills. Strong, connected families help children grow up healthy and ready to learn.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Murray, others introduce early learning bill that would expand services in all states

Today, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and other members of Congress introduced the Strong Start for America’s Children Act, which builds on President Barack Obama’s early learning proposal that he introduced in his 2013 State of the Union Address.

“Washington is clearly well-positioned to hit the ground running if Congress passes the Strong Start for America’s Children Act,” said DEL Director Bette Hyde. “We’ve been working diligently in Washington to build a statewide early learning system with our Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant win in December 2011. Funding through this bill would allow us to reach even more children and families who have not yet benefitted from early learning services.”

The legislation would greatly increase the quality of and access to early learning programs for children birth to 5. Here’s what the bill proposes, followed in bullets by what’s happening in Washington and what we would need to do:

Fund states’ efforts to provide high-quality, full-day, voluntary preschool for low- and moderate-income families up to 200 percent federal poverty level (an annual income of $46,100 for a family of four). The funds would be distributed proportionally to states with the highest number of 4-year-olds who live at or below the poverty level.
  • Washington is expanding its state-funded preschool program, ECEAP, to serve all eligible 3- and 4-year-olds by the 2018-19 school year, at which point it will be a statutory entitlement. The Legislature has invested $22 million in additional ECEAP funding for the 2013-15 biennium. This school year, we are serving 350 additional children. In 2014-15, we will serve an additional 1,350 children. According to caseload estimates, an additional 2,400 slots per school year after that would be needed to serve all eligible children whose families choose to enroll them by school year 2018-19.
  • Washington meets many of the proposed requirements, including:
    • Having state-level early learning standards in place.
    • Small class sizes and low adult-to-child ratios.
    • Offering comprehensive services.
    • Pre-k data linked with K-12 data.
    • State advisory council.
    • Comprehensive early learning assessments.
  • Requirements that would need additional work/investment in Washington:
    • Teachers have bachelor’s degrees and demonstrate competence in early childhood education. ECEAP requires an AA for lead teachers. Currently, 45 percent of ECEAP lead teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree.
    • Teachers are paid comparably to K-12 staff. DEL does not establish salary rates for ECEAP—that is determined at the local level by contractors.
    • Full-day services. ECEAP requires a minimum of 2.5 class hours per day, 30 weeks per year. The proposal calls for five to six class hours per day, five days per week. The legislative task force established in Senate Bill 5595 is exploring ways to integrate child care and ECEAP to provide a high-quality, full-day experience. The task force’s recommendations are due to the Legislature in December.

Increase the quality of infant and toddler care in child care centers and family home child care settings. The bill provides grants for licensed child care providers to partner with Early Head Start programs, which serve infants and toddlers, to improve the quality of their care and to serve more young children who live at or below poverty. These partnerships would blend federal funds to provide high-quality, full-day care for infants and toddlers.
  • Washington provides infant-toddler consultations to licensed child care providers to help improve the quality of care they provide to infants and toddlers. The consultations are research-and evidence-based and are provided by trained professionals free of charge.
  • Washington is exploring ways to improve infant/toddler care and better support infant/toddler child care providers through Early Achievers, our state’s quality rating and improvement system.

Support child care quality improvements that are funded by the federal Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), which pays for subsidized child care. The bill would provide grants to states to increase the quality standards of subsidized child care to improve the health, safety and school readiness of children. It would require training and professional development of child care providers, bonuses for child care providers who earn increased credentials or degrees, technical assistance for child care providers and improved health and safety licensing standards. It also would require 12-month subsidy authorization for families.
  • Early Achievers is available to all child care providers and offers supports to providers including training, scholarships, financial rewards, and coaching. In September 2013, the subsidized child care base rate was increased by 2 percent for providers who enroll in Early Achievers and are rated at a Level 2 or higher. Providers must be rated at a Level 3 or higher within 30 months to maintain the 2 percent increase.
  • Through the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant, Washington offers awards to individuals who join our professional development registry (MERIT) and move up the career lattice.
  • Washington moved to 12-month subsidy authorization in 2012, unless a change in a family’s circumstances necessitates reauthorization sooner than 12 months.

Encourage continued support for home visiting through the federal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. Nearly half of infants and toddlers live in homes with a family income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level; home visiting supports the healthy development of our nation’s most at-risk children in their earliest years. Congress is recognizing the importance of providing continued, robust funding to the MIECHV program so that children and families can continue to receive access to high-quality, evidence-based, voluntary home visiting programs.
  • Washington has a strong home visiting partnership between DEL, Thrive by Five Washington and others. We currently serve about 1,700 families with evidence-based home visiting programs with a mix of federal, state and private dollars, but know the need is much greater. Washington currently receives both formula and competitive MIECHV funds.

More information

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

DEL reports on outcomes for children who attend state's preschool program in 2012-13

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) reported gains in student achievement and the lowest-ever turnover rate for children who attend Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), Washington's state-funded preschool program.

During the 2012-13 school year, DEL administered ECEAP through 40 contracts with educational service districts, school districts, community colleges, local governments and nonprofits. ECEAP served children in 37 of 39 Washington counties at 269 sites.

In the 2012-13 school year:

  • ECEAP had space for 8,391 children. ECEAP served 9,328 children. The ECEAP turnover rate has decreased each year to 11 percent in 2012-13, the lowest in ECEAP’s recorded history.
  • At its peak in May 2013, the ECEAP waiting list had 1,186 4-year-olds and 1,281 3-year-olds, totaling 2,467 children. 
  • Approximately 32,322 children in Washington were eligible for ECEAP and were not served by ECEAP or the federal Head Start program. Head Start and ECEAP serve 37 percent of Washington children who are eligible for ECEAP. 
  • ECEAP received 9 out of 10 quality points from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) for our state early learning guidelines, comprehensive family and health services, staff professional development requirements, class sizes, staff–to-child ratios, meals and DEL’s monitoring of program quality. The 10th quality point would require ECEAP lead teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. DEL currently requires an associate or higher degree with 30 quarter credits of early childhood education. 
During the 2012-13 school year, ECEAP children progressed from below age level to at or above age level during their time in ECEAP:

Read the 2012-13 ECEAP Outcomes report.

Starting this school year, ECEAP is expanding thanks to the 2013 state operating budget, which increased the number of slots and the per-slot funding for ECEAP children. This school year, ECEAP added 350 slots; next year ECEAP will add 1,350 slots and increase the per slot-funding for ECEAP. Each subsequent year after 2014, ECEAP will add up to 2,400 slots until 2018-19, when it becomes an entitlement for all Washington children who qualify.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Federal government approves DEL's plan for spending child care grant

DEL's 2014-15 plan for the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) was recently approved by the federal Office of Child Care. 
CCDF is a federal grant administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children & Families. CCDF block grants are awarded to states, territories and Tribal Nations to help ensure families—particularly low-income families—have access to high-quality child care choices.
CCDF pays for:
  • Subsidized child care for families. DEL sets policy for Working Connections Child Care subsidy program, while the Department of Social and Health Services determines eligibility and makes payments to providers.
  • Activities to improve the quality of child care and offer additional services to families, such as child care referral services and training for child care providers.
  • Other research and technical assistance at the state and national levels.
As the lead state agency for the CCDF block grant, DEL must submit a plan every two years for how the funding will be used to improve accessibility and quality of child care in our state.
The 2014-15 plan builds upon goals we set and accomplished for prior years' plans, including moving to 12-month child care subsidy authorization, development of a career lattice and strengthening Washington's professional registry system, called the Managed Education and Registry Information Tool (MERIT). The goals for 2014-15 include:
  • Allowing child care licensing to focus on the providers' strengths and allowing DEL child care licensors to focus on high-risk indicators.
  • Continued work to improve the quality of child care through Early Achievers, Washington's quality rating and improvement system. 
  • Adding resources and supports for child care providers to our online professional development training library.
  • Aligning and streamlining Washington early learning systems, including subsidized child care, to better support high-quality programming that gets children ready for success in school. 
Read the entire CCDF plan

Monday, September 16, 2013

Child care subsidy rates increase effective Sept. 1, 2013

Starting Sept. 1, the base child care subsidy reimbursement rates increased by 2 percent, with another 2 percent boost for child care providers who choose to join Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system.
The Working Connections Child Care maximum subsidy rates for licensed and license-exempt child care providers increased by 2 percent. This includes both licensed and license-exempt providers:
  • License-exempt care is provided by family, friends and neighbors (FFN). They are required to pass a background check, but are otherwise exempt from licensing regulations. They receive $2.24 per hour for the first child and $2.21 per hour per child for additional children from the same family.
  • Licensed child care providers are licensed by the Department of Early Learning to provide child care in their homes or in child care centers. The subsidy rate varies by region, the child’s age, and the whether the child is authorized for half-day care or full-day care. Rates vary from $9.58 per half-day to $45.27 per full day.
Licensed child care providers who choose to participate in Early Achievers, and are rated at Level 2 or higher, are eligible for an additional 2 percent quality bonus. The bonus is 2 percent of the full-day and half-day subsidy amount billed by the provider. Level 2 providers must advance to Level 3 rating or higher within 30 months to maintain the quality bonus. Child care providers who participate in Early Achievers are also eligible for other financial incentives, free training and technical assistance to help them improve the quality of their care.
Families qualify for child care subsidy based on family size, income, and participation in approved activities. Families pay child care providers a monthly copayment based on the family’s size and income. The copayment amount starts at $15 per month. View the copayment schedule.

The rate increases also apply to Seasonal Child Care, which pays child care subsidies for eligible families who are seasonally employed in agricultural settings.
DEL is revising WCCC rules to align with the increased payment rate. We are accepting public comment on the rules changes through October 8. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Gov. Inslee signs 2013-15 state operating budget that supports Washington’s youngest learners

It took one regular legislative session and two special “overtime” sessions, but the Legislature has passed and Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a 2013-15 state operating budget that supports school readiness and success for Washington’s youngest learners.

Here are some highlights of the 2013-15 operating budget, with a note on which strategy in our state’s Early Learning Plan the items support:
  • Expanding Washington’s state-funded preschool program for low-income 3- and 4-year olds.  The Department of Early Learning (DEL) will add 350 enrollment slots to the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) in the upcoming 2013-14 school year, and another 1,350 slots in the 2014-15 school year. Funding is provided to increase the slot rate to $7,500 for all enrollment slots by the end of the biennium, and to enhance program quality and oversight. (Early Learning Plan strategy #12: Expand and enhance ECEAP)
  • Supporting vulnerable new families with voluntary home visiting. The budget adds $1 million in state funding to Washington's home visiting system, which offers voluntary support and resources to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children. (Early Learning Plan strategy #5: Make home visiting available to at-risk families)
  • Building a strong preschool-3rd grade continuum. The budget increases state-funded full-day kindergarten from reaching 22 percent to 43 percent of incoming kindergartners. It also adds state funding to support teacher training on the Washington State Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state’s kindergarten readiness assessment. (Early Learning Plan strategy #28: Implement kindergarten readiness assessment (WaKIDS) and Early Learning Plan strategy #29: Implement phased-in full-day kindergarten).
  • Enhancing child care subsidies. The budget includes a 2 percent base rate increase for child care providers who offer care that is subsidized by the Working Connections Child Care program. It also boosts subsidy reimbursement by 2 percent for providers who join Early Achievers, our state’s quality rating and improvement system. (Early Learning Plan strategy #33: Improve child care subsidies)
  • Enhancing longitudinal data to measure program effectiveness. The budget requires DEL to submit even more program data to the state’s P-20 longitudinal data system to help ensure we are measuring how our investments are impacting school readiness and success. (Early Learning Plan strategy # 36: Expand P-20 longitudinal data system)
  • Continue efforts to ensure integrity in subsidy program. The budget continues funding for DEL’s work to build an electronic child care subsidy attendance system by 2015, and supports DEL’s audit team to help ensure that child care subsidy billing is accurate.
View more information on the 2013 legislative session, including DEL’s implementation plans for key bills.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Early Achievers is available in all Washington counties, starting July 1!

Early Achievers, Washington’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system, is now available to all licensed child care providers and families statewide. Starting today, we've completed the three-phase statewide rollout of Early Achievers.

DEL, with our partners Child Care Aware of Washington and the University of Washington, launched the Early Achievers' statewide rollout one year ago, after a successful pilot project with 64 "early adopters." Since then, we have grown to nearly 1,400 participating child care providers, serving more than 34,000 Washington children.

What does this mean for families?

Child Care Check screen shot of an Early Achievers participant
Child care providers demonstrate their commitment to quality simply by participating in Early Achievers.
Parents can find out whether their provider is participating in Early Achievers by looking on Child Care Check, DEL's online licensed child care information system. You can the provider's Early Achievers status by looking for the Early Achievers icon.

Soon, you will be able to see whether your provider is “participating in quality improvement,” which means they are working on being rated or have been rated level 2, or has achieved a “quality level of excellence” which means the provider has been rated level 3, 4 or 5.

You also can ask your provider whether they are participating in Early Achievers and learn more about what they are doing to ensure that the children in their care are ready for success in school and beyond.

Opportunities for child care providers
Early Achievers offers child care providers and their staff access to coaching, professional development, cash incentives, and other resources that support high-quality child care at no cost to providers or families.

One recent professional development opportunity for child care providers and their staff is the Early Achievers Institutes, being held in several Washington locations this summer and fall. The first institute was held in SeaTac last week, June 27-30. The next institute is July 11-14 in Spokane. Participants choose the sessions they want to attend and have an opportunity to meet other Early Achievers participants. Scholarships and translation are available.

Head Start/ECEAP pilot project
We are preparing for participation of Head Start and our state’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP, providers. We recently finished a one-year pilot project with Head Start and ECEAP and as a result, those programs will join at a Level 3 and may serve as“resource hubs,” sharing their training and other resources with child care providers in their community. ECEAP programs must join Early Achievers by 2015, due to House Bill 1723.

For more information

Early Achievers is 100 percent supported by the 2011 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge federal grant and the federal Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) ($21 million for fiscal year 2013), for which DEL is the lead state agency.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

DEL prepares plan for potential government shut down July 1

State agencies, including the Department of Early Learning (DEL), have prepared and submitted plans to Gov. Jay Inslee in the event the Legislature does not pass the 2013-15 operating budget by July 1. July 1 is when the new fiscal year and biennium begins.

State agencies may not deliver programs and services after July 1 without a final budget, unless those services:
  1. Are funded by appropriations in the enacted transportation budget.
  2. Do not require an appropriation, (come from non-appropriated funds).
  3. Are required by constitutional mandates and federal law.
  4. Are necessary for the immediate response to issues of public safety, or to avoid catastrophic loss of state property.
While the work we do at DEL is critical to our state’s vitality and economic success, our programs and services do not meet these legal and constitutional criteria. Therefore, as of July 1, if there is no final budget:
  • We will temporarily lay off all staff except two child care licensors, who will be available to respond only to child care licensing emergencies.
  • Child care subsidies starting July 1: Child care subsidy payments for care provided in July will cease. This includes Working Connections and seasonal child care subsidies. If child care providers opt to continue caring for children who receive subsidies, the state most likely cannot legally retroactively pay for that care.
  • Child care subsidies prior to July: Payments will be made to providers who bill for care that was provided prior to July 1. Those payments may be delayed.
  • We will be working with our contractors to suspend or terminate agency contracts. Because home visiting services are non-appropriated until Senate Bill 5809 takes effect on July 28, those services may continue to be delivered until that date. Every other program and service funded by DEL will be suspended.
While a government shutdown is unlikely, we must prepare for this scenario. You can find agencies’ contingency plans on the Governor’s Office of Financial Management website.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Early learning bills passed the Legislature, signed into law--what happens now?

Every year, DEL tracks and weighs in on bills in the Legislature that affect early learning in Washington, and we update bills’ status throughout the session on our website.

But what happens after the bills are signed into law? DEL is posting the implementation plans for the bills that require our action. In some cases, it may be a matter of DEL updating a policy or rule in order to comply with the new law. In other cases, the bill may require DEL to form a work group or to institute changes with partner agencies like the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS).
Here are a few examples:
House Bill 1203 allows DEL to exempt personal information relating to children from public inspection and copying. That means that when citizens request public records from DEL, we are allowed to redact children’s identifying information from the records before we release them. Previously, we had to ask the requester’s permission and if the requester declined, we attempted to notify the children’s parents or guardians by mail and give them time to file a court injunction (we explained the bill in more detail in this blog post). You can read how DEL plans to implement the new law, which in this case means we will update our policies and procedures and be ready to go on July 28 when the bill takes effect.

Senate Bill 5595, concerning child care reform,  requires DEL and DSHS to train employees who work with families who apply for or receive child care subsidy; change rules, policies and procedures that apply to Working Connections Child Care subsidy program; and participate in a legislative task force that will look at child care improvements. More detail on how we will do that work is in the implementation plan.
You can see all of our 2013 early learning legislation implementation plans on the DEL website. We will continue to post them as they are completed.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gov. Inslee signs bill that allows DEL to protect children’s privacy

Yesterday, Gov. Jay Inslee signed House Bill 1203 that allows the Department of Early Learning (DEL) to protect the identity of children whose names and other identifying information appear in DEL records. The Public Records Act (PRA) (42.56 RCW) governs how public agencies, including DEL, respond to public records requests. The PRA requires that all public information be disclosed unless it is specifically listed as exempt.  After three years of requesting legislation to specifically allow DEL to exempt children’s identifying information, we
were successful this year with the help of bill sponsor Rep. Jessyn Farrell.

How will this affect people who request public records from DEL?
Starting July 28, DEL will automatically redact children’s identifying information from requested records. Previously, DEL was required to ask requestors’ permission to redact children’s identifying information. If the requestor declined, DEL attempted to notify the children’s parents or guardians and offer instructions for how to seek a court injunction to protect their children’s identities.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thank a child care provider today!

Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed today Child Care Provider Appreciation Day. The day is also celebrated nationally and is a time to thank child care providers for their hard work in caring for our youngest learners.

Here are some ways you can thank the child care provider in your life:

  • Download a certificate of appreciation in English or Spanish to fill out and give to your provider. 
  • Write a thank you note or create a thank you card
  • Share an example with your provider about a time they did something that made a difference in your life or in your child's life. 
  • Offer to bring treats or a snack for the provider and children. 
  • Have your child make a drawing for your provider.
  • Give a favorite children's book to your provider and include a thank you message inside the cover. 
  • A simple verbal expression of gratitude is always appreciated any day of the year!
Do you have an example of something you did to thank a child care provider? Share your idea on DEL's Facebook page

Monday, April 29, 2013

National preschool rankings find Washington stays the course despite economy

Washington’s commitment to early learning stands out in an annual report issued today about the state of pre-kindergarten (pre-k) education around the nation. 

The State of Preschool 2012 report, issued by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER), noted three nationwide trends:
  • State funding for pre-K decreased by more than half a billion dollars, the largest one-year drop ever.
  • Enrollment in state-funded pre-K has stalled after a decade of growth.
  • State funding per child fell to $3,841, down from the national average of more than $5,000 per child in 2001-02.
Here’s how Washington’s Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), administered by the state Department of Early Learning (DEL), fared:
  • Quality: ECEAP met nine out of 10 benchmarks for program quality. The 10th benchmark would require ECEAP lead teachers to have a bachelor’s degree. DEL currently requires an associate or higher degree with 30 quarter credits of ECE. 
  • Access: ECEAP currently has space for 8,391 children to be enrolled at a time. 
    • Washington is serving 8 percent of 4-year-olds, ranking 31st in the nation for access.
    • Washington is serving 1 percent of 3-year-olds, ranking 19th in the nation for access.
  • Resources: Washington ranked seventh in the nation for state per-child funding, at an average of $6,600 per child.

ECEAP has been serving Washington preschoolers for 26 years with education, nutrition, health and family support services. ECEAP serves 3- and 4-year-olds whose families’ incomes are at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level ($25,355 for a family of four in 2012). Nearly two-thirds of ECEAP families are at or below annual incomes of $17,880 for a family of four. Additional children may be eligible based on developmental risk factors or environmental risk factors (such as child protective services involvement); children qualifying for special education; and children in foster care. 

ECEAP currently serves 8,391 children at a time. Combined with the 10,600 federal Head Start slots going to ECEAP-eligible students, Washington serves 37 percent of ECEAP-eligible children. ECEAP is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, at which time all eligible preschoolers would be entitled to enroll.

“Washington’s rankings highlight the need to continue serving our state’s most vulnerable families and to increase access to ECEAP,” said DEL Director Bette Hyde. “ECEAP has proven to be a cost-effective way to prepare our youngest learners for success in school and in life. We must continue to fund ECEAP at a per-child cost that allows ECEAP sites to maintain quality while serving more eligible children.”

Gov. Jay Inslee proposed a $35 million increase to ECEAP funding in the 2013-15 operating budget to improve program quality and access. The House of Representatives and Senate currently are negotiating their final 2013-15 state operating budget. Both chambers proposed an increase in state-funded preschool funding.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Washington ranks third in nation for regulations that keep kids safe, healthy in center-based child care

Washington’s child care center requirements and oversight are among the top in the nation for keeping children safe and healthy, according to a new report from Child Care Aware of America. The report, issued Thursday, ranks child care center licensing requirements in 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Department of Defense. Washington ranked third in the nation, only two points behind New York, for the strength of our child care center licensing requirements and monitoring.
Washington earned notice for conducting comprehensive background checks, one of only 13 states to do so. A comprehensive background check is defined as including a fingerprint check against state and federal records, a check against the child abuse registry and the sex offender registry.
Among the other report findings:
  • Washington is one of only nine states to require CPR training for all staff, rather than just one person on the premises.
  • Other areas where Washington met the standard include:
  • Initial training for child care providers.
  • Learning activities that address specific developmental domains
  • Following safety practices in 10 specific areas and prohibiting corporal punishment.
  • Encouraging involvement and communication with families.
  • Requiring state child care licensors to have a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education or related field.
  • Making licensing complaint inspections and information available to families online (
The report made recommendations on how Washington could strengthen center-based child care:
  • Require more education for child care providers. Currently, they must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
  • Require 24 hours or more of annual training on specific topics. Washington currently requires 10 hours of annual training.
  • Reduce staff-to-child ratios and group sizes.
  • Increase the number of times per year that licensors conduct monitoring visits to at least four times per year. Currently, DEL child care licensors monitor child care centers at least once every 12 months
  • Hire more licensors to lower their caseloads to 50:1 or fewer. Currently, Department of Early Learning center licensors have an average caseload of 63 centers.
More information: 
Child Care Aware also issues regular rankings of states’ family home child care standards. Washington ranked second in the nation for the strength of our family home requirements and oversight in 2012. View that report.
The Department of Early Learning licenses and monitors more than 6,000 child care facilities around the state. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month: How you can make a difference

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is observing National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April by raising awareness in the community about child abuse and neglect prevention. Gov. Jay Inslee has proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Washington. Read his proclamation here.

DEL’s Strengthening Families Washington is the Prevent Child Abuse Washington State Chapter. The Pinwheels for Prevention initiative uses pinwheels—a timeless symbol of childhood—to represent its campaign.

DEL has distributed more than 9,500 pinwheels to communities around the state. They’re popping up in front yards and at community events. The Capitol grounds in Olympia turn silver and blue with pinwheels planted in the ground the week of April 15-19.

Pinwheels for Prevention is a reminder that it is not enough to respond to child abuse and neglect—we must build and support strong families through community engagement, programs, and policies. This grassroots movement works towards developing communities that are healthy, safe, and nurturing for all children and all families.

What you can do to support strong families
  • Whether you are a parent, an early learning provider or a community member, you can help build and support strong families in your community every day in simple ways. Check out these calendars that offer an idea a day, such as offering a board game library in your facility for families, and holding family potlucks or movie nights at community centers with time for discussion.
  • Tell us what's happening in your community to support strong families. Email
  • Join us at the fountain!
Where: Tivoli Fountain, on State Capitol Grounds near Capitol Way, Olympia
When: April 15, 2013 at noon

Help raise awareness by taking a pinwheel and sharing with us how you’ve helped a child.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Gov. Inslee announces budget priorities, including significant preschool funding increase

Gov. Jay Inslee today announced his budget priorities for the 2013-15 state operating budget, which included a proposed $35 million increase to funding for low-income 3- and 4-year-olds to attend preschool.

The Department of Early Learning's Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) currently offers high-quality preschool to about 8,400 children from low-income or otherwise vulnerable families. ECEAP includes at least 320 hours of preschool per school year, as well as family support, nutrition and health services.

ECEAP is effective at:
• Increasing children’s social-emotional, physical and pre-academic skills.
• Strengthening families and building their capacity to support their children’s success.
• Ensuring that each child receives medical and dental care so they start school with optimal health.

Read more about the strong gains in school readiness made for children enrolled in ECEAP.

Gov. Inslee's proposal would expand ECEAP by 1,000 enrollment slots in school year 2013-14 and 2,035 slots in school year 2014-15. The proposal includes quality improvements including increased classroom hours, more training for ECEAP teachers and family support specialists, and support from DEL ECEAP specialists to local programs to help ensure consistent quality statewide.

"With this proposal, Gov. Inslee makes clear his strong support for getting our youngest learners school-ready," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "ECEAP is a proven program that is an important component of our early learning system. If we want all children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed--no matter where they live or their family income--we must offer them high-quality early learning opportunities."

Legislation passed in 2010 makes ECEAP an entitlement program in school year 2018-19, when any eligible child will be able to enroll. In January 2012, there were nearly 4,000 children on waiting lists for ECEAP programs around the state.  

Gov. Inslee's proposal also includes funding for full-day kindergarten expansion and reducing kindergarten and first grade class sizes and early reading intervention.

Read more about Gov. Inslee's budget proposal here. The Senate will announce its budget proposal in the coming days, followed by a proposal from the House of Representatives. The 2013 Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 28.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Legislative update: Bills addressing early learning K through grade 3 moving foward

How to support Washington's youngest learners continues to be an area of focus during the 2013 legislative session. The Legislature hit a significant milestone on March 13, the date that bills had to be voted out of their house of origin (either the House of Representatives or the Senate).

Among the key early learning issues (birth through third grade) still on the table post-cutoff:

  • Child care subsidies. House Bill 1671 and Senate Bill 5595 are related to child care eligibility. They each create a parent and provider oversight board that
  • Early learning system. House Bill 1723 would create a legislative task force charged with looking at how to streamline the early learning system so that families can more easily access high-quality early learning opportunities at every age. The bill also provides an increase to Working Connections Child Care subsidy rates. 
  • Kindergarten transition. House Bill 1369 would allow kindergarten teachers to use up to five days at the start of kindergarten to meet with families as part of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS). The Senate passed a measure (Senate Bill 5330) that provides for up to three days for this purpose.
  • Child outcomes. Several bills are still alive that aim to improve student outcomes:
    • Senate Bill 5491 establishes six statewide indicators of educational system health, including how many kindergartners display characteristics of incoming kindergartners on all six WaKIDS domains.
    • Senate Bill 5330 includes several strategies to enhance student outcomes, such as parent involvement coordinators and keeping class sizes in grades K-3 below the average of 25.23 students.
    • Senate Bill 5237 indicates the Legislature's intent to expand the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) to more students next biennium. It also includes language to help ensure students are reading at grade level in grade 3, and support them if they are not. 
    • House Bill 1680 would implement strategies to close the educational opportunity gap.
  • School-age care. House Bill 1547 makes clearer that certain drop-in school-age programs are exempt from child care licensure. House Bill 1968 directs the state Fire Marshal to make rules that help programs in school buildings operate school-age child care programs.
  • Children's privacy. DEL has agency-request legislation (House Bill 1203 and Senate Bill 5198) to allow us to redact children's names and identifying information from public records before releasing them.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Legislature reaches first major deadline; key early learning bills still "alive"

Feb. 22 is the first "cutoff" of the 2013 legislative session. This is the day that bills without fiscal impact must be voted out of policy committee. The session cutoff calendar, which outlines key deadlines, is online here.

A summary of the current status of key early learning-related bills is on DEL's website here. Among the issues being considered:

  • House Bill 1369 would allow kindergarten teachers to use up to five days at the beginning of the school year to meet with families and learn about the children they will be teaching. These "family connection" meetings are a key component of the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) and teachers say the meetings help them know their children better and inform their instruction.
  • HB 1723 would establish the Early Start program to provide a continuum of high-quality early learning opportunities for families. Among its provisions, the bill would enhance child care subsidy rates, increase funding for birth-to-3 programs, and create a legislative task force on early learning.
  • HB 1671 and Senate Bill 5595 have to do with child care subsidy reform. They have each been amended in different ways, but both would create a parent and provider oversight board to provide feedback to DEL and the Department of Social and Health Services on consumer issues.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee has requested two bills (House Bill 1872 and SB 5755) that seek to improve educational outcomes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). DEL would be included in a STEM Education Innovation Alliance to support STEM education and would be part of a STEM benchmark report on the state's efforts.
Learn more about the legislative process and check out the Legislature's pilot project for commenting bills online at  

Friday, February 1, 2013

Child care, kindergarten transition bills heard as 2013 legislative session continues

The Legislature just wrapped up week 3 of the 2013 session. Find a summary of some key bills DEL is watching here

Here are some early learning highlights from session so far:

  • DEL has presented updates on some key early learning programs (including the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, home visiting, the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, child care subsidies, and Early Achievers) to various legislative committees. You can find the PowerPoint presentations and video of those presentations on DEL's website here.
  • Our agency-request bill that would allow us to redact children's names and identifying information from public records will be heard in the Senate on Tuesday. It already has been heard in the House. (Senate Bill 5198, sponsored by Sen. Jeannie Darneille and House Bill 1203, sponsored by Rep. Jessyn Farrell.)
  • DEL testified in support of HB 1134, which would require DEL to convene a work group to make recommendations on early learning programs in tribal compact schools. Watch the public hearing on this bill here.
  • DEL testified against HB 1228, which would exempt certain family home providers from meeting the high school education or equivalent requirement currently in rule. Watch the public hearing on this bill here.
  • DEL testified with concerns on SB 5157, which would require license-exempt providers receiving subsidies to become licensed after one year of providing care. Watch the public hearing on this bill here.
Coming up next week: Public hearings on bills to allow for up to five days for family connection at the beginning of the kindergarten year (HB 1369) and a student outcomes bill that would make changes to state-funded full-day kindergarten (SB 5330).

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Early learning a key topic as 2013 legislative session begins

The 2013 Legislature convened this week for a 105-day session, during which they must write a 2013-15 budget. Stay connected on DEL's State Legislature web page, which includes links to reports, presentations, and DEL briefing papers on key programs and services.

Early learning issues likely to be areas of focus this session include:

  • How to expand and enhance the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), our state-funded preschool program. ECEAP is scheduled to become a statutory entitlement for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds beginning in school year 2017-18. Outgoing Gov. Chris Gregoire in her proposed 2013-15 budget added $50 million to ECEAP to fund 5,000 more enrollment slots and program quality improvements.
  • How to support children ages birth to 3. A legislatively created birth-to-3 work group delivered recommendations to the Legislature on how to help ensure our very youngest learners and their families have high-quality opportunities that prepare them for school and life. Read those recommendations here
  • How to help ensure our state offers high-quality service to families seeking Working Connections Child Care subsidies and ensures program integrity.Read the eligibility study here, and the DEL/Department of Social and Health Services response here. DEL is pursuing continued state funding for an electronic subsidy attendance system to help ensure billing accuracy. That system will go live in 2015.
  • How to implement the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), our state's kindergarten readiness process for helping to ensure a successful start to the K-12 experience. WaKIDS is a key component of Washington's Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grant. A legislatively created work group has delivered recommendations to the Legislature about how to roll WaKIDS out statewide. Watch a WaKIDS update during a Jan. 17 joint work session of the House Early Learning & Human Services and House Education committees:

Watch a Jan. 17 DEL/Thrive by Five Washington overview to the House Early Learning & Human Services Committee: