Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Washington submits ambitious application for federal preschool funding

Our state has submitted a bold plan to dramatically expand high-quality preschool options in high-need communities around the state, and enhance the quality of existing state preschool slots.

Washington is eligible for up to $70 million over four years through the U.S. departments of Education and Health & Human Services as part of their preschool development grants. Washington has applied for an expansion grant to reach and serve additional eligible preschool children in high-need communities.

Since 1985, Washington has been operating the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), the state-funded comprehensive preschool program for eligible 3- and 4-year-olds. ECEAP ranks high on many quality elements, but most ECEAP slots are currently only part-day, and limited funding makes ECEAP available for only some eligible children.

The federal grant funding would offer Washington the opportunity to implement all the components of high-quality preschool named in the grant (see DEL's grant application summary for more details), and more than double the number of eligible children receiving high-quality preschool by 2019.

Despite a short six-week application window, DEL engaged in extensive outreach to inform the application, including:

  • Webinars and a web page with information about the application process
  • Individual conversations with key legislative leaders
  • Meetings with early learning stakeholders and advocates
  • Conversation with the state Early Learning Advisory Council
  • An application review process that included readers from more than a dozen partner organizations include the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Child Care Aware of Washington, Thrive by Five Washington, the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP, and several current ECEAP contractors. 
It is expected that successful applicants will be notified in December 2014.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

DEL's updated strategic plan now online

DEL's updated strategic plan is now available online: www.del.wa.gov/about/what.aspx

The strategic plan indicates our clear focus on offering high-quality early learning programs and services, prioritizing the most vulnerable children and families in our state. 

DEL vision: Children in Washington start kindergarten healthy, capable, and confident in their ability to learn and succeed.
DEL mission: DEL offers voluntary, comprehensive, high-quality early learning programs and support to families and early learning professionals.
Our four strategic goals:
  • Provide voluntary, high-quality early learning opportunities for children and families in Washington
  • Support all early learning professionals with research-based professional development and resources to ensure high-quality early learning opportunities
  • Build public awareness of and support for high-quality early learning opportunities
  • Promote system excellence by ensuring DEL is well-managed and supportive of its employees

The goals and activities in the plan are cross-walked with  Gov. Jay Inslee’s Results Washington initiative, as well as our state’s Early Learning Plan, so that we are working toward one purpose.

A lot has changed for early learning in Washington since we at DEL last updated our strategic plan in 2011! Here are just a few significant changes in our agency since then:

If you have questions or comments about the DEL strategic plan, please email communications@del.wa.gov

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

ECEAP Outcomes Report

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program that prepares 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families for success in school and in life. The Depart­ment of Early Learning (DEL) oversees the program.

Since 1985, ECEAP has focused on the well-being of the whole child by providing comprehensive nutrition, health, education and family support services to Washington’s most at-risk children. ECEAP reaches the children most in need of these foundations for learning. The program is aligned with nationally researched programs that have shown exceptional returns on investment.

Each fall, DEL releases an ECEAP Outcomes Report to the public. It summarizes developmental, pre-academic, and health gains made by ECEAP children in the previous school year. The 2013-14 report is now available at: http://www.del.wa.gov/publications/eceap/docs/ECEAP_outcomes_2013-14.pdf

 Highlights from the 2013-14 ECEAP Outcomes Report include:
·         We served the largest number of children ever – 8,741 slots.
o   With 12.2% turnover, there were 9,810 children enrolled at some time during the year.
o   29,128 ECEAP eligible children in Washington were not served by either ECEAP or Head Start. 
·         35% of ECEAP children speak a home language other than English.
o   There was an increase in children whose home language was neither English or Spanish, from 5% to 7% of enrollments. 
·         49% of ECEAP lead teachers have bachelor’s degrees or higher.  40% have associate degrees.
·         Risk factors
o   65% of children were from families at or below 80% of the poverty level.
§  FPL was $23,550 for a family of four.
o   32% of children had a parent who did not graduate high school
§  12% of children had a parent with 6th grade or less.

 ·         At enrollment 49% of children were up-to-date with well-child exams.  At exit, 94% were up-to-date.
·         At enrollment 72% of children were up-to-date with immunizations.  At exit, 99% were up-to-date.

·         At enrollment 27% of children were up-to-date with dental screening.  At exit, 95% were up-to-date.

·         Summary of Development and Learning Gains:

For 2013-14, DEL collected GOLD® assessment results for approximately 7,000 ECEAP children who had ratings in both fall and spring of the school year. The children made progress in all domains.
The following percentages of children moved from below age level to at or above age level during their time in ECEAP.
o   Social-emotional development – 48%
o   Physical development – 45%
o   Language development – 42%
o   Cognitive development – 48%
o   Literacy development - 50%
o   Mathematics - 59%


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Washington prepares application for federal preschool grant

Washington is eligible for up to $70 million in new federal preschool funding, which would allow our state to both serve more children and improve the quality of our preschool program.

The Preschool Development Grants opportunity was announced on Aug. 13. Applications are due by Oct. 14. Washington is currently drafting our application, and conducting outreach with key stakeholders to help inform it. 

A key focus of the application will be helping our state infuse some of the essential quality elements into state-funded pre-k:

  • Full school day programs (at least 5 hours)
  • Highly trained and supported teachers with professional qualifications and compensation
  • Evidence-based curriculum
  • Access to comprehensive services (health, nutrition, family support)
  • Rich learning environments and adult-child interactions
Find out more about the grant, and how you can be involved, at http://www.del.wa.gov/care/find-hs-eceap/federalgrant.aspx

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Early Achievers bring information, resources to participants

Hundreds of Early Achievers participants are getting extra support and resources through Early Achievers Institutes now being held around the state. In the past few months, Institutes have been offered in Seattle and Spokane.

Since 2013, the Childcare Quality and Early Learning Center for Research and Professional Development (CQEL) at the University of Washington has collaborated with DEL and Child Care Aware of Washington to produce these Institutes, which have offered sessions to more than a thousand participants, including:
  • STEM for Young Children
  • Supporting Dual Language Learners
  • Practical Strategies for decreasing Challenging Behaviors
  • Environment Rating Scale and Classroom Assessment Scoring System

Nearly 300 early learning professionals attended the first Central Washington Early Achievers Institute in March 2014 in Yakima, where every session was offered in both English and Spanish.

Materials from past Early Achievers Institutes are available online here.

Early learning professionals visit the "Make and Take" room at the Seattle Early Achievers Institute in July 2014, where they can put together resources to use in their programs.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

2014 Kids Count data: Washington ranks in the middle for overall child well-being by state

Washington’s  1.5 million children fare well when it comes to health, but overall, our  children’s well-being ranks close to the middle of the pack, according to the  2014 Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book issued this week.

The annual publication compares key indicators and ranks states. This 2014 edition concludes that there has been gradual, incremental improvement for children of all ages over the past 25 years in the areas of education and health. However, child poverty and a clear opportunity gap for children of color continue.

Washington ranks ninth among states when it comes to health, measured by children without health insurance, low-birth weight babies, child and teen deaths, and teens who abuse alcohol or drugs. Washington's Apple Health for Kids initiative aims to get more children signed up for health care insurance.

When it comes to education, Washington ranks 20th among states, as measured by children not attending preschool, fourth graders not proficient in reading, eighth graders not proficient in math and high school students not graduating on time. State-funded preschool for low-income children in Washington is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, and the Legislature and Governor have made steady progress in increasing enrollment.

In the area of family and community (measured by children in single-parent households, children in families where the head of household lacks a high school diploma, children living in high-poverty areas and teen births), Washington ranks 17th among states. DEL and partners continue to work on strengthening families and communities through our Strengthening Families Washington initiative, parent support in state-funded preschool, Early Achievers, and home visiting.

Finally, Washington ranks 27th for economic well-being, as measured by children in poverty, children whose parents lack secure employment, children living in households with a high housing cost burden, and teens not in school and not working.

"While we are proud of our state's progress in offering high-quality early learning opportunities to all children--especially children at risk of starting school not ready to succeed--there is more to do," said DEL Deputy Director Heather Moss. "With our state Early Learning Plan as our guide, we are working to ensure more families have access to state-funded comprehensive preschool and home visiting services, and that early learning professionals have support through Early Achievers to offer high-quality programs."

KIDS COUNT, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a national and state-by-state effort to track the status of children in the United States. The foundation is based in Baltimore, Maryland.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Measles cases are up in Washington: Protect yourself and the children in your life

Measles is a serious and highly contagious disease, and there are more confirmed measles cases in Washington so far this year than in the past five years combined.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, measles is an infectious viral disease that typically begins with a fever, followed by a cough, runny nose and conjunctivitis (pink eye). A rash starts on the face and upper neck, spreads down the back and trunk, then spreads to arms and legs. 

Our partners at the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) shared steps you can take to protect yourself and the children in your life:

  • The MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine is recommended for children 12 months and older, health care workers, college students, adults born after 1956, and people who travel internationally. Pregnant women should not get the vaccine until after giving birth.
  • Children should be vaccinated with two doses of MMR vaccine, with the first dose between 12 and 15 months and the second at 4 to 5 years. Children ages 6 to 11 months who will be travelling internationally should receive one dose of MMR at least two weeks before departure. Adults should have at least one measles vaccination, with some people needing two. Anyone planning to travel should make sure they are immune to measles before leaving the U.S. Vaccine can be found by calling your health care provider or by checking the online vaccine finder for a location near you.
  • People who are unvaccinated, or aren’t sure if they’re immune, and develop an illness with fever and rash should consult a health care professional immediately. Call ahead to your clinic, doctor’s office, or emergency room before arriving to avoid exposing others in waiting rooms.
For more information about measles and vaccinations, visit the DOH's Measles in Washington web page.  

Recent measles cases are confirmed in South King and Pierce counties. The Tacoma - Pierce County Health Department has posted a list of locations and time periods of concerns. If you visited one of these locations during the time period, contact your regular health care provider to let them know. 

Licensed child care providers must notify the local health jurisdiction, their Department of Early Learning licensor, and parents or guardians of children in care when they become aware of a household member, staff person or child in care being diagnosed with measles (or any of the contagious diseases listed in WAC 246-110-010).

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New law: DEL background checks may now be used for early learning employees in school settings

Starting on June 12, individuals working in certain early learning settings will no longer have to undergo both the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) background check.

Senate Bill 6093, sponsored by Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, allows these individuals to meet their background check requirements by providing a copy of their DEL background check results to OSPI. This applies to early learning professionals requiring background checks who work in:
  • School districts
  • Educational service districts
  • The State Center for Childhood Deafness and Hearing Loss
  • The State School for the Blind
  • Contractors of the above entities that hire employees

Legislators passed the bill during the 2014 legislative session after recognizing that requiring one individual to undergo two background checks was inefficient. The DEL background check is very comprehensive, and looks at an individual’s criminal history, sexual offender registry and professional licensing history.

Individuals wishing to use their DEL background check to suffice for their OSPI check must request copies of their background check results from DEL, and then send a copy of those results to OSPI. 

To request your background check results, complete a Request for Background Check Results Form and mail it, fax it, or attach a scanned version to an email and send it to the Department of Early Learning.  DEL will mail two copies of the background check results to you and you will need to mail the copy in the sealed envelope to the Fingerprint Records office at OSPI

Federal law does not allow our two agencies to share background results directly, but does allow individuals to share their own background results with other state agencies.

Friday, June 6, 2014

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is accepting applications for Early Learning Advisory Council vacancies

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is filling two vacant seats on our Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC): A representative of a local education agency and a representative of the child care center community.

Members serve two-year terms that expire on June 30 of the second year. ELAC members are expected to attend the majority of the six meetings per year and be prepared to actively participate. Regular ELAC meetings are generally scheduled every other month and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participants in subcommittees or work groups should expect to meet outside of the regular meeting dates.

The seats are unpaid positions, although non-governmental members may be eligible for compensation and reimbursement for travel expenses incurred while carrying out ELAC duties.

Interested? Apply online on the Governor’s website by June 30, 2014. Along with your resume, please attach a brief statement that addresses the following:
  • Which vacant seat are you applying for and how do you meet the criteria.
  • How did you hear about ELAC and/or who referred you.
  • What impact do you hope to see ELAC have on early learning in Washington, and how do you want to contribute to that effort.
Questions: elac@del.wa.gov

About ELAC:
Since 2007, ELAC has played a pivotal role in the early learning system as an advisory body to DEL and serves as a connector among the state, local communities and constituencies around Washington.

ELAC’s membership includes parents, child care providers, health/safety experts and legislators, as well as representatives of Tribal Nations, independent schools, the K-12 and higher education systems, and others interested in creating a statewide early learning system that helps all children realize their full potential. Read more about ELAC and its work.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Early learning professionals, scientists share progress on Frontiers of Innovation pilots

Participants in Frontiers of Innovation—an effort to use science to inform early learning practices—came together in Seattle this week to share progress on testing four promising ways to support healthy child development. FOI pairs scientists with early learning professionals to co-design and test new strategies to build executive function and address mental health concerns in parents and children. The focus is on testing ideas on a quick cycle: Strategies that work could be taken to scale around the state; strategies that don’t work can be altered and tested again.

“It’s amazing what happens when you connect people who do this [early learning] work and are passionate about it with the scientists, and give them permission to co-create,” said Department of Early Learning Assistant Director for Quality Practice and Professional Growth Juliet Morrison.

The four intervention models currently being tested are:

Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND)
In this model developed at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC) at the University of Oregon, coaches videotape adults interacting with children and then show them clips where they are supporting children’s development.

“We look at the film to identify moments where good things are happening,” said Melanie Berry, an OSLC research associate. She added that the program reinforces and strengthens the naturally occurring supportive interactions between young children and adults, so-called “serve and return” interactions that help shape the brain.

Children’s Home Society of Washington (CHS) is one program testing out FIND with some of the families it serves with home visiting.

“Imagine you’re in a situation where you are under investigation for abuse or neglect, and then someone comes in and says, ‘OK, let’s look at what you’re doing right,’” said Jason Gortney, CHS community manager.

Licensed family home child care provider Lorrie Hope, another FIND pilot participant, was trained and has since coached three of the families in her care using FIND. Because she lives in southeast Washington, her training was all done online.

“I have a much stronger relationship with my parents,” she said. “We are more trusting with each other and we have a common language.”

Attachment Vitamins
University of California San Francisco research Annmarie Hulette developed the Attachment Vitamins curriculum to help improve caregiver knowledge of important child development issues including executive function and toxic stress. It’s currently being tested by Children’s Home Society and Centralia College.

“Attachment Vitamins is giving us the active ingredients we can take out of the child-parent psychotherapy model and plug into home visiting,” said Gortney. At Centralia College, they are piloting the curriculum in the Teens Entering Education Now (TEEN) program for 14 to 21-year-olds who are pregnant or parenting.

Executive Function Games
“Not every parent and child knows how to play together,” said University of California Berkeley Associate Professor Silvia Bunge, who is working with Childhaven and Centralia College to introduce games that caregivers and children can play together to build cognitive flexibility (the capacity to nimbly switch gears and apply different rules in different settings—for example, children using inside and outside voices in different situations.

At Childhaven, researchers are finding improvement in children’s cognitive flexibility after 10 weeks of playing the specially designed games in their classroom.

“It’s accessible, it’s sustainable—it’s not something that’s overly burdensome,” said Childhaven Vice President of Branch Program Operations Bethany Larsen.

Mindfulness Parenting Program (SEA CAP)
University of Washington Professor of Psychology Liliana Lengua has long studied how income impacts parenting and chld development. She developed the Social and Emotional and Academic Success of Children and Parents (SEA CAP), which helps adults cultivate mindfulness and emotional regulation. This promotes warm interactions between adult and child, and helps the adult learn to “scaffold” learning by guiding children in tasks but stepping out to let the child practice autonomy.

Educational Service District 112 in Vancouver is embedding the mindfulness training in its existing weekly parent-child play group.

“When you practice these skills over time, it becomes easier to access, so when you find yourself in a moment of stress, it’s there for you to use,” said Corina McEntire, ESD 112 professional development manager.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Preschool yearbook: Washington State making progress in quality, access

Washington held steady in 2013 in access to state-funded preschool, and is making progress in ensuring the program is high-quality, according to a new report by the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER).

NIEER, an independent research organization, issues an annual "yearbook" assessing state-funded preschool around the nation. 

DEL oversees Washington's preschool program (the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, or ECEAP). In the current school year, ECEAP is serving 8,700 low-income 3- and 4-year-olds with high-quality preschool, family support services, and health and nutrition services. The goal is to help children and families get ready for success in kindergarten and beyond.

The state preschool program is undergoing significant changes in the coming years: 

  • The state Legislature invested in 1,350 additional enrollment slots for school year 2014-15 and increased the per-slot funding to $7,579. Of this, about 97 percent goes directly to communities to benefit children and families, at an average of $7,331 per slot. (ECEAP is slated to become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, at which time any child who meets eligibility standards will be entitled to a spot in the program.)
  • DEL is using the 1,350 expansion slots to support innovation, such as offering full-day classroom programming, using evidence-based curriculum, and offering family support services tailored to each family's individual strengths and needs. 
  • All ECEAP contractors must join Early Achievers, Washington's quality rating and improvement system, by 2015. This will help ensure we are measuring early care and education programs--child care and state-funded preschool--using a common definition of quality.

Applications for Washington's preschool expansion are due on May 19. DEL received letters of intent from more than 40 organizations interested in offering expansion slots. Read more about DEL's preschool expansion.

Monday, May 12, 2014

DEL Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program announces 2014 Parent Leadership Award winners

Parent leaders can be found all around the state--and at the annual Infant and Early Childhood Conference last week, DEL's Early Support for Infants and Toddlers program honored two woman who have helped their own families and others meet the needs of their children with special needs.
Tracie Winkelman and Jessie Atkins,
2014 ESIT Parent Leadership Award winners

Tracie Winkelman
Parent Leadership Award winner - Eastern Washington
Eight years ago, Tracie and her husband Kevin had their second daughter Mia. Mia was born with Down syndrome. Tracie became aware of the lack of identifiable resources that were available for her family and other families that also had a child with Down syndrome. She and other families diligently worked to secure approval from the Down Syndrome Association for a local charter.  

Tracie now serves on the Down Syndrome Association of the Mid-Columbia board and has been instrumental in its growth and success. Tracie has used her skills as a teacher to help meet the educational needs of other families that have children with special needs in her position as a teacher at the Children’s Developmental Center in Richland. 

Tracie is always willing to share her own experiences as a parent with other families that are facing similar challenges.

Jessie Atkins 
Parent Leadership Award winner – Western Washington
Jessie and her family had tremendous persistence and love that motivated them through the challenges they faced when their son, Stage, was born six years ago. Stage was born with multiple medical challenges. As a parent of a child with special needs, Jessie and her husband Jeff received birth to three services in Snohomish County.  

As a result of having a child with special needs, Jessie became a parent leader in her community. Jessie worked as a parent-to-parent coordinator and volunteer for the Arc of Snohomish County. She served as the co-chair for the Snohomish County Family Interagency Coordinating Council, bringing parent perspective and advocacy to the council. She is also a member and past president of the Marysville School District’s Special Education PTSA. Jessie has used her advocacy skills to speak to the Legislature about services for children with special needs. 

The word “never” is not in Jessie’s vocabulary. She will find a way to get positive results for her family and any family that she helps.

Congratulations, Tracie and Jessie, and thank you for your contributions to your communities!

Friday, May 9, 2014

State, union reach agreement on additional Early Achievers support for family home providers

The State of Washington has reached an agreement with the Service Employees International Union 925 (SEIU 925) to provide additional resources to licensed family home child care providers who are SEIU 925 members and are participating in Early Achievers.
The resources are available for the rest of the current contract (through June 30, 2015), and are meant to support family home providers in improving quality through Early Achievers. The resources include:

  • A $750 Quality Improvement Award for family home child care providers who are rated level 2 in Early Achievers.
  • Up to $500 for a needs-based grant to help certain providers achieve a level 3 rating or higher in Early Achievers. Need is defined as providers in tier 1 of the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) or who live in school districts with 20 percent or more children living in poverty.
  • Free re-rating if rated at a level 2—so long as the re-rating is requested before June 30, 2015, and approved by the provider’s Child Care Aware of Washington Regional Coordinator.
  • Higher subsidy reimbursement (tiered above base subsidy rate) for providers who rate a level 3 through 5 in Early Achievers, to help ensure providers have adequate resources to offer high-quality care, and to encourage providers to offer high-quality care to low-income children. Up to $2 million total is provided in the state budget for this purpose. This is a pilot to determine whether these are the right reimbursement levels to support quality:
    • Level 3: 4 percent above base rate
    • Level 4: 10 percent above base rate
    • Level  5: 15 percent above base rate
Providers should contact SEIU 925 for specific questions about this agreement. DEL is working with Child Care Aware of Washington and other partners on how we will implement this agreement, and will share more details as they become available. 

Tiered subsidy reimbursement rates also will be available for child care centers participating in Early Achievers.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Statewide organizations join together to support Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships grant applicants

With more than 40 percent of children under age 3 in Washington living in low-income families, we know we can do more to support healthy child development from birth. Early learning leaders in Washington are coming together to form a statewide consortium to support applicants for the federal Early Head Start - Child Care Partnerships grant opportunity. This grant, part of President Obama's Early Learning Initiative, will offer $500 million to allow new or existing Early Head Start programs to partner with local child care centers and family home child care providers serving infants and toddlers from low-income families.

Consortium members include the Department of Early Learning, Thrive by Five Washington, the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP, Child Care Aware of Washington and the University of Washington. These state-level organizations share the statewide goals of:
  • Increasing the availability of high-quality care for infants and toddlers.
  • Ensuring continuity of care for children and families.
  • Supporting communities with high needs for infant and toddler care.
  • Helping infant/toddler programs access resources and system supports that decrease the barriers and challenges that currently make it difficult to provide affordable high quality infant/toddler care to the state’s most vulnerable children and families

The consortium is committed to integrating and building on the existing early learning systems in Washington, including Early Achievers, infant/toddler child care consultation, and existing home visiting and Early Head Start programs. Programs that agree to participate in the consortium model will be eligible for coordinated statewide supports, such as supplemental training and technical assistance, and supports to provide continuity of care for children and a stable and reliable child care funding source for programs. The Consortium will also provide a means for shared learning among member programs.

The new consortium needs programs to become members. Program members will help shape the consortium into a statewide body that strengthens all programs and makes it possible to access more resources for infant/toddler care in the state. Joining the consortium will greatly strengthen programs’ abilities to implement child care partnerships and also strengthen programs’ Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership grant applications by being part of a statewide effort.  

More information about this consortium will be released in mid-May, including a framework of available supports to programs. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

The link between high-quality early learning and lifelong health

Positive experiences in the earliest years result in better physical health throughout life. A new analysis in Science of outcomes for children enrolled in the Abecedarian preschool program in North Carolina confirms that those children have significantly better health as adults than their peers in a control group. 

Children in the program got healthy meals and snacks, as well as high-quality preschool learning and health support. As a result, they were significantly more likely to take good care of themselves as adults, and have lower rates of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

We at DEL work to ensure all of the programs and services we offer are high quality (measured by Early Achievers) and include a focus on the "whole child," which includes not just learning, but also physical and social/emotional health. 

The analysis concludes that policymakers should use this new research in several ways, including to make sure they integrate health and nutrition into early childhood programs. In Washington, health and nutrition are essential components of our state-funded preschool program and in licensed child care

Read an overview of the analysis here

Read more about the powerful connection between high-quality early learning experiences and lifelong health from our partners at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Tackling childhood obesity in Washington

Kids don't walk to school anymore (for the most part), and screens and sugary snacks are everywhere. What is a parent to do? 

While recent studies suggest that childhood obesity rates are beginning to decline, 1 out of 12 preschoolers in our nation is obese. We can do better! 

March is National Nutrition Month--a good time to focus on this important issue.

The 2014 Legislature included funding for Gov. Jay Inslee's Healthiest Next Generation Initiative. This will help state agencies--including DEL--do the strategic, coordinated work needed to tackle obesity. The key areas of focus will include supporting breastfeeding-friendly environments, and ensuring healthy early learning and K-12 environments through specific actions with measurable results.

The Department of Health (DOH) will lead this work, along with DEL, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, and other key stakeholders. We will continue providing updates as this work progresses in the coming months.

But whether you are a parent, a child care provider or anyone else with children in your life, there are ways to improve the health of America's next generation starting now. Here are some resources to help get you started:

  • Our partners at DOH have launched a new blog called Adventures in Health, which features their program manager for the Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Program. One of her first posts is about learning her 4-year-old son was in the overweight category based on his body mass index.
  • The Let's Move! Initiative includes ideas and information about physical activity, limiting screen time, and foods and beverages. This includes downloadable action plans for parents, children, schools and child care providers.
  • The USDA Choose My Plate website offers menus, tips for eating healthy on a budget and more.
  • Our partners at Thrive by Five Washington offer tips for fun activities to do with babies and toddlers through their Love. Talk. Play. website.
  • The Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines offer age-appropriate activities for children birth through third grade. (Look especially at the sections in each age range called "Touching, seeing, hearing and moving around" and "Growing up healthy.")

Monday, March 17, 2014

DEL issues request for applications for preschool expansion

Today, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) released the application for preschool expansion for the 2014-15 school year. The Legislature funded 1,350 additional slots for next school year (in addition to 350 new slots for the 2013-14 school year). Preschool for eligible children will become a statutory entitlement in school year 2018-19, and state lawmakers are making incremental investments in expanding preschool.

The 1,350 new slots give our state the opportunity for innovation. Our goal is to provide a high-quality, full-day and extended full-day program to as many at-risk 3- and 4-year-old children as possible. Research shows that quality and "dosage" are two key factors to ensure school readiness. 

DEL is planning to implement a new combined funding model to support full-day models in Washington. This new funding strategy braids ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care subsidy funding at the state level (at DEL) and provides successful applicants with a single contract based on a combined cost per child for a year of service. DEL also will develop a single set of standards and monitoring system, so that contractors will have one system of reporting that meets both ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care subsidy requirements.
Building on the success, experience and expertise of the current ECEAP program, this first phase of expansion includes implementing a new full-day preschool model, an extended-day model for full-time working families, as well as opportunities for successful applicants to provide input into the development of other future preschool model components such as flexible/portable comprehensive services and curriculum requirements. 

Overview of preschool options
View the request for applications here. DEL will announce awards in June, and provide ongoing webinars and technical assistance to applicants.

Early learning highlights from 2014 legislative session

The 2014 Legislature adjourned its 60-day legislative session on time on March 13. Here are the early learning highlights:

Supplemental budget
  • 4 percent base subsidy rate increases for both family home and center child care providers in both 2014 and 2015.
  • Funding to pilot tiered reimbursement for Early Achievers participants (higher subsidy rates for child care programs that demonstrate higher quality levels).
  • Funding to maintain DEL’s Medicaid Treatment Child Care program while the state works to seek additional long-term revenue sources for it. 
  • An additional $50,000 for Reach Out and Read, a key DEL partner in improving early literacy.
  • Authorization to use unspent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funding to support certain vulnerable families with home visiting services through the Home Visiting Services Account.
  • Funding to the Department of Health to work with DEL and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction to implement Gov. Jay Inslee’s Healthiest Next Generation Initiative.
  • Direction to DEL to provide up to 20 percent of Working Connections Child Care slots as contracts rather than vouchers. Language allows DEL to “braid” Working Connections and ECEAP funding to support a full-day experience for participating children. DEL is required to report on the number of children served through these contracted slots.
  • Direction to the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) and DEL to create a plan to triage child care subsidy overpayment cases to prioritize cases with large overpayments and likelihood of fraudulent activity.
Policy bills
Here is the final status of some key early learning policy bills from 2014:

House Bill 2191, Concerning compliance with inspections of child care facilities
Gov. Inslee signed this bill into law on March 12. HB 2191 requires DEL to consult with city or county enforcement officials prior to requiring alterations of licensed spaces within a family child care home due to inconsistencies in established building codes. It also specifies that unless there is imminent danger, DEL may not modify, suspend or revoke a license while waiting for the consultation or written verification from the county or city. It goes into effect on June 12. 

House Bill 2519, Concerning early education for children involved in the child welfare system
Awaiting Gov. Inslee’s signature. HB 2519 seeks to extend quality early learning opportunities to children in the child welfare system by directing Family Assessment Response (FAR) workers to determine the need for child care, preschool or home visiting services during assessments for child safety and well-being. The bill will allow FAR workers to make child care referrals for non-school age children to licensed child care programs that have attained a level 3, 4 or 5 in our state’s Early Achievers program. FAR rolled out in January 2014 in certain areas of the state and seeks to provide a differential response system for families with accepted reports of child abuse and neglect who have a low to moderate risk of further maltreatment. 

HB 2519 also directs DEL and DSHS to develop recommendations on how to partner to ensure children involved in the child welfare system have access to early learning services and developmentally appropriate child care services. Report is due to Gov. Inslee and appropriate legislative committees by Dec. 31, 2014.

HB 2519 also states that children receiving child protective services or FAR services should receive priority for ECEAP enrollment.

Senate Bill 6093, Allowing valid portable background check clearance cards issued by the Department of Early Learning to be used by certain educational employees and their contractors for purposes of their background check requirements
Awaiting Gov. Inslee’s signature. SB 6093 creates system efficiencies by allowing licensed child care employees working in school district and educational service district settings to only have to secure a DEL background check. Currently, these employees are required to undergo both OSPI and DEL background checks.

House Bill 2377, Improving quality in the early care and education system
The Early Start Act passed the House on Feb. 18, but did not pass the Senate. Two components of the bill are included in the supplemental budget (funding for a tiered reimbursement pilot and a direction to contract out up to 20 percent of Working Connections Child Care slots).

Among other things, HB 2377 would have required child care providers accepting state subsidies to join Early Achievers. The bill generated a great deal of dialogue about the importance of both access and quality, and raised awareness of Early Achievers as our state’s quality framework.  We can expect these issues to arise in subsequent legislative sessions.

House Bill 2165, Concerning Department of Early Learning fatality reviews

This bill passed the House, but did not pass the Senate. It would have required DEL to convene a child fatality review committee if a child fatality occurred in a licensed child care program or ECEAP program.