Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences

One of our former Strengthening Families staff members, Erinn Havig, MSW provided training as part of the NEAR Learning Institute.  This training focused on key research and emerging science that teaches about the impact of adversity on health across the lifespan.

In the mid-1990s, Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a study to consider the effects of childhood adversity on population health and wellbeing.  The ACE Study had over 17,000 participants.  The term ACE or Adverse Childhood Experiences ACE is way of identifying negative experiences that affect children and it is used as a way to calculate these experiences.  The study surmised the higher the ACE score, the greater the likelihood that the individual will have social and health problems that lead to early death.

Research shows that brain development is negatively impacted by adverse childhood experiences.  The ACE Study was designed to show how adverse childhood experiences influence human development in predictable ways.  The pathway goes as follows: adverse childhood experience, disrupted neurodevelopment, social, emotional and cognitive impairment, adoption of health-risk behaviors, disease, disability and social problems, early death.  

In the work we do at DEL, we have the opportunity to reach many of Washington State’s youngest children through our many programs and services to prevent and mitigate ACEs.  By gaining an understanding of how life experiences and new scientific discoveries can help children and their families, we can help these individuals experience greater health, safety, prosperity, and happiness.   
For further information: www.aceinterface.com/

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Statewide Child Care Licensing Administrator Retires

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) announces today that Mary Kay Quinlan will retire from her position as the Statewide Licensing Administrator after nearly 40 years of licensed child care work in Washington.

Mary Kay Quinlan
Quinlan has made significant strides in improving the quality of licensing services and the availability of licensed early learning opportunities for Washington’s littlest learners. Under Quinlan’s leadership, DEL implemented a differential monitoring approach that supported consistency and efficiency of licensing practices. Her passion focused on safe and healthy environments for the diverse communities of children and families in Washington state.
“One of my proudest accomplishments is the data-informed improvement of licensing policies, procedures and regulations,” said Quinlan. “These improvements support providers and encourage them to develop professionally and to view the child care setting with health and safety of children as the main priority.”
Quinlan also enhanced DEL communication with parents and communities, creating an awareness of licensing regulations, policies and procedures, while promoting a “whole child” approach that acknowledges and honors the diverse needs of children during some of their most influential years.

Other key accomplishments under Quinlan’s leadership include:
  • revising regulations that enable home-based providers to focus on quality of their services and better care and education for early learners; 
  • engaging licensors and licensed providers in implementation of Early Achievers, our state’s quality rating and improvement system; and
  • initiating work on health and safety for infants and toddlers by implementing the Safe Sleep initiative and supporting the state Early Head Start and Child Care Partnerships collaboration.
“Under Mary Kay’s leadership, Washington’s child care licensing system has made tremendous strides in ensuring health and safety of early learning environments for our state’s youngest population,” said Heather Moss, DEL’s Deputy Director. “Our leadership team would like to congratulate her on an exceptional career in state service. Her commitment to ensuring the health, safety and educational opportunities for all children makes her a lifelong ally for the families we serve.”
Quinlan’s last day will be December 31, 2015. Luba Bezborodnikova, DEL Assistant Director for the Early Start Act, will assume the lead role in statewide child care licensing moving forward. Regional Licensing Administrators from DEL’s four child care licensing regions will also aid in this transition.

For all licensing questions, comments and suggestions please contact Luba Bezborodnikova, DEL Assistant Director for the Early Start Act at luba.bezborodnikova@del.wa.gov or 360-725-4404.

DEL’s Regional Licensing Administrators are also available for licensing questions as they pertain to different parts of the state:

Cammey Rocco, Regional Licensing Administrator (Southwest)

Heather West, Regional Licensing Administrator (Northwest - King)

Robert Kerwin, Regional Licensing Administrator (Eastern)
DEL Child Care Licensing Regions

Travis Hansen, Regional Licensing Administrator (North Central)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Lawmakers and Early Learning Advocates Tour SW Licensed Care

Yesterday, Representative Ruth Kagi, staff from Child Care Aware of Washington and members of DEL staff visited licensed child care centers and family child care homes in both Tacoma and Olympia.

DEL licensed child care regions.
The event is what is known as a "DEL legislative tour" as it is a time to invite lawmakers and advocates of early learning to view the conditions of licensed child care in specific areas. This tour was dedicated to ECEAP classrooms, child care centers and homes to get a variety of perspectives from various providers.

The group got a view of licensed child care in the state's Southwest Region which currently holds:

  • 3,786 licensed family home child care programs
  • 1,533 licensed child care centers 
  • 424 school-age programs
The Southwest Region is unique in that:
  • Staff includes one Regional Administrator, four Licensing Supervisors, 23 Licensors, a Licensing Analyst, a Health Specialist, an Administrative Assistant, and four administrative support staff. 
  • It has three satellite offices located away from the larger metropolitan areas: Aberdeen, Kelso, and Port Angeles. Each of these offices is staffed by a single licensor who carries a combined caseload of family homes, child care centers, and school age programs. Additionally, there is a Bremerton office that houses two licensors for Kitsap County.
  • Many of the Southwest office staff have strong working relationships with area community colleges, early learning coalitions, family home child care associations, directors’ groups, Child Care Aware, and other early learning community partners.
    Rep. Ruth Kagi looks in on a classroom at snack time in Lacey, WA.
  • The Southwest Region works closely with military early childhood programs that are licensed by the Department of Defense. Bangor Naval Base has two child care centers and Kitsap Naval Base has three child care centers that DEL certifies for payment only. Joint Base Lewis-McChord has twelve child care centers that DEL certifies for payment only. Additionally, there are 19 family child care homes that are licensed by the military that DEL certifies for payment only. 
  • There are several tribes in the Southwest Region that DEL works with. Some of the tribes are certified for payment only and some are certified. Agencies that are certified by DEL are governed by their own set of rules and must request to be certified.
Overall, touring the Southwest Region's licensed facilities was a successful and educational where experts in the field voiced their view on child care subsidy, ECEAP and successful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) lessons that are happening now in licensed facilities. Early Achievers and the Early Start Act (passage in July 2015) were also on the minds of licensed providers. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Physical Activity in Washington Child Care

In a recent article by Medical Daily, the importance of physical activity in child care was emphasized by pediatricians and professionals. 

The article stated,
"Pediatricians recommend that young children get at least an hour a day of physical activity to help build motor skills, coordination and strong muscles and bones, as well as to reduce the potential for obesity later in life. Playground time is also key for developing social skills, like taking turns and conflict resolution."
The study that informed the article was published nationally. 

In a state where rain and chilly temperatures are the norm during winter months, this can be a challenge for child care providers--but Washington partners in Governor Jay Inslee's health-centric initiative, the Healthiest Next Generation, have created technical assistance documents to promote activity in early learning environments that do not rely on outdoor time per-say.

This release comes after the results of a 2013 child care survey that showcased low physical activity practices throughout child care in Washington state.

The Department of Health (Health), The University of Washington Center for Public Health Nutrition and Department of Early Learning (DEL) developed Physical Activity in Child Care Technical Assistance Handouts with essential tips for providers and families who regularly utilize child care centers and family homes.

Tips for family home child care programs include: 
  • Add activity breaks into daily routines, like circle time.
  • Get kids active between lessons. Even a five to ten minute burst of activity can help.
  • Avoid having kids stay seated for a long time. 
  • Include teacher-guided activities. Introduce simple movement games and songs like “Simon Says,” “Follow the Leader” and “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” 
Center tips are similar, and include ideas for how to combat barriers like cold weather:
  • Ask parents to dress children in appropriate clothing and shoes for active, outdoor play.
  • Stock spare clothes, boots, hats and gloves.
  • Take a nature walk or neighborhood tour when the grass or playground equipment is wet or covered in snow. 
  • Indoor play idea: set up an obstacle course using unlikely objects. Kids can push chairs across the room, crawl under tables or jump over blocks.
To see the finished, printable handout for family homes, click here: Physical Activity in Family Homes.

To see the finished, printable handout for centers, click here: Physical Activity in Centers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pinwheels for Prevention: Make a Difference in Preventing Child Abuse

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is observing National Child Abuse Prevention month in April of this coming year (2016) by raising awareness in communities about child abuse and neglect prevention. As the Prevent Child Abuse Washington State Chapter, Strengthening Families (a program within DEL) encourages you to join the Pinwheels for Prevention initiative. This initiative uses pinwheels – a timeless symbol for childhood – to represent its campaign. 

More about Prevent Child Abuse America:
Prevent Child Abuse America is the national champion of great childhoods for all children. Founded in 1972 in Chicago, Prevent Child Abuse America works to promote the healthy development of children and prevent child abuse before it can occur in order to help children to grow up and contribute in their communities. The organization helps nearly 100,000 families a year through our Healthy Families America program and put 92 cents of every dollar raised towards programs that help children and families thrive.

More about Pinwheels in WA:
Last year DEL distributed thousands of pinwheels to communities around the state. 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 movement works towards developing communities that are healthy, safe, and nurturing for all children and all families.

Please place your order for pinwheels using the form found here as soon as possible. Pinwheels are available on a first come, first serve basis. Pinwheels will be available for delivery in March. All proceeds benefit the Children's Trust of Washington.

Look for more information on this blog about Pinwheels for Prevention and Child Abuse Prevention Month in the coming weeks.

Want more information about reporting child abuse? Find it here: Reporting Child Abuse.

Interested in contributing to Prevent Child Abuse in your state? Find out more here: Contributing to Prevent Child Abuse.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Partners in Early Learning Celebrate Midway Point of 10-year Plan

It has been five years since the development of the Washington Early Learning Partnership’s 10-year early learning plan

As the sixth year of this plan’s implementation approaches, the Washington Early Learning Partnership took the opportunity to acknowledge what has been achieved so far and look to the future state of early learning in Washington with the publication of this midway report: Celebrating the First 5 Years.

The following are highlights from the report. They showcase accomplishments that have bettered the state of early learning in Washington: 
  • We developed a Racial Equity Theory of Change that has given us strategies and a stronger determination to eliminate the opportunity gap. This gap can be seen before a child’s first birthday and disproportionately impedes the healthy growth and development of children of color and children from low-income families.
  • We created the Home Visiting Services Account, which now combines state, federal and private dollars to serve more than 2,100 families living in some of our state’s most vulnerable communities. It includes a new partnership with the state Department of Social and Health Services to provide high-quality home visiting to families in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
  • We won a $60 million federal Race to the Top – Early LearningChallenge Grant to establish and grow Early Achievers, our state’s system for supporting the highest-quality licensed child care and helping families make better informed choices about child care. The state’s new Early Start Act and historic state investment in early learning now sustain Early Achievers.
  • Our 10 Early Learning Regional Coalitions lift up local voices through their advocacy, closely partner with state leaders, and build their community’s capacity to reach more children and families.
  • Our tribal community sought a stronger voice in early learning and created the First Peoples, First Steps Alliance.
  • We support innovation and alignment between early learning professionals and K-3 educators.
  • Our kindergarten readiness assessment process better ensures a child’s successful start in school by looking at the skills of the whole child and connecting the key adults in a child’s life.
  • We launched the “Love. Talk. Play.” campaign to support parents of infants and toddlers as their child’s first and most important teachers.
  • We redefined early learning to span from prenatal through third grade and then adopted Early Learning and Development Guidelines that support that continuum and value our state’s increasingly diverse population.
  • We committed to our preschoolers and kindergartners. By fall 2016, the state will fund full-day kindergarten statewide for more than 80,000 children; by fall 2020, about 23,000 eligible 3- and 4-year-olds will be entitled to state-funded preschool.

The report provides an in-depth look at some of these accomplishments with data-driven support for highlighted strategies. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

State Works to Align Standards for Quality Early Learning

With the passage of the Early Start Act on July 6, 2015, the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) has begun work to align child care licensing and ECEAP (state-funded pre-school) standards within Early Achievers (the state’s quality rating and improvement system), quality framework.
“When we talk about the Early Start Act, we often focus on the investment for high quality through Early Achievers. But there’s more to it than that,” said DEL Director, Ross Hunter. “The historic legislation will ensure that children in all of Washington’s diverse communities have equitable access to the same high standards of quality care and education.”
To kick-start the development of aligned standards, DEL, ThriveWashington, Child Care Aware of Washington and Early Learning Regional Coalitions are hosting meetings to garner community input throughout the state.

Following a brief video presentation featuring DEL Director Ross Hunter, DEL Deputy Director Heather Moss and other agency experts on standards and policy, attendees will be asked to provide input in smaller groups.

To view the trailer for the alignment work group meetings and video, see below, go here: Alignment Teaser, or go to DEL’s YouTube channel.

“Meetings such as these are crucial to the alignment process,” said Hunter. “This is very challenging work and your input can make a difference in the future of our state’s youngest learners.”
Each Early Learning Regional Coalition will host an event or has already done so. To see the schedule to find a meeting near you, go here: Alignment Meeting Schedule or visit del.wa.gov/government/EarlyStartAct.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Race to the Top: Grant Supports Significant Progress for WA Early Learners

This past October, Washington joined other RTT-ELC (Race to the Top, Early Learning Challenge) grant recipients (states who have received this game-changing grant award, which supports efforts towards successful comprehensive state systems and high-quality, accountable programs) for a three-day meeting in Arlington, VA. 
Bringing together state teams of RTT-ELC grantees to share information and discuss current issues related to early learning, this year’s meeting honored the nine “Phase-1” grant recipients (the first states awarded with RTT-ELC grant funding) by presenting them with “The Little Engine that Could” signed by Libby Doggett and Linda Smith, along with a personalized note from Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education. 
During the presentation, federal program officers highlighted the progress achieved by each of the early grant recipients.  
In 2014, Washington's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge was one of refinement and tailoring to ensure the strongest outcomes possible. Washington made significant progress among all of the reform areas outlined in the RTT-ELC application. Some noteworthy accomplishments of Washington state, also included in the Annual Performance Report (APR), are:
  • At the end of 2014, total participation in Early Achievers, (Washington’s quality rating and improvement system) was 2,448, reaching 43% of licensed providers, and 182 ECEAP contractors/Head Start grantees; Early Achievers is reaching 66,413 children, or 85% of the RTT-ELC target.
  • Increased quality focus in state subsidy through implementation of tiered reimbursement aligned with the Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement System (TQRIS).
  • Infant/Toddler Coaching and Consultation is integrated with Early Achievers and available to Early Achievers participants to improve the quality of infant/toddler classrooms.
  • Early Achievers Institutes, which provide focused professional development to child care and early learning professionals participating in Early Achievers, are offered by the University of Washington (UW). The Institutes offer sessions ranging from improving instructional support to incorporating developmental screenings. Begun in 2013, the Institutes have been held 6 times across the state (in English and Spanish) and have been attended by 1,500 participants (four additional institutes are offered throughout 2015).
  • Technical assistance specialists and coaches reflect community diversity in staff composition and culturally competent practices. Of the 78 coaches and technical assistance specialists, 34% speak a second language in addition to English including Spanish, Somali, Russian, Vietnamese, Swahili, Tagalog, Hindi, and Arabic.
  • Washington uses Teaching Strategies GOLD® as its Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA), and in 2014 assessed 43,298 kindergarten students, reaching for the first time over half (52%) of the state's kindergartners, more than doubling participation in two years. Known as the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills, or WaKIDS, Washington’s KEA process includes whole-child assessment, family connection and early learning collaboration, supporting a successful start to a child’s K-12 experience and connects to with key adults.
  • Washington is beginning the development of an Early Childhood Education Career Planning Portal. This portal is a way for professionals to learn about early learning career pathways and the colleges and universities that offer degrees and certifications towards their chosen career.
  • Sustaining progress of RTT-ELC: The Early Start Act was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Inslee July, 2015. This historic legislation invests in expanding high quality early learning for Washington’s children and families, building on the progress made by RTT-ELC, particularly in our most diverse and vulnerable communities. For child care providers, the Early Start Act focuses on supporting high quality early learning services through Early Achievers and ensures that child care providers, especially those who serve low income families, receive needed support and resources to sustain high quality programming.

To read Washington’s 2014 federal report and see the federal summary for all RTT-ELC states, click here: 2014 Report.

Follow progress on participation in Early Achievers by clicking here: Early Achievers Progress.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recognize an Unsung Hero

Since 2011, with your help, DEL's Strengthening Families Washington division has honored 112 men and women in Washington for the roles they have taken with their families, school and communities. These people are the "unsung heroes" and they are recognized during Parent Recognition Month (February). These parents and caregivers have been recognized because they have shown strength, courage and empathy in their communities, and because they have demonstrated the use of Protective Factors in their provided care.

Research has found Protective Factors reduce stress and promote the well-being of ALL families.

The Five Protective Factors are:
  • Parental Resilience: I can overcome hard times and bounce back. 
  • Social Connection: I have people who know and support me. 
  • Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: I know where to go to find out about parenting skills and my child’s developmental growth. 
  • Concrete Support in Times of Need: I know where to turn to for help. 
  • Social and Emotional Competence of Children: I know how to help my children talk about their feelings. 
2015's Unsung Heroes event was a great success and featured families with children of all ages, DEL Director Bette Hyde and Washington's First Lady, Trudi Inslee. 

Do you know a parent, primary caregiver, guardian, foster or adoptive parent or a grandparent who shows one or more of these strengths?

Visit this page to find out how to nominate this special person in your life: nomination, and we will give special recognition to 28 individuals from around the state by awarding them publicly with an Unsung Hero Award! The deadline is January 4.

We invite you to nominate a parent, primary caregiver, or guardian who lives in Washington to receive this special Unsung Hero Award. Tell us what you think is so remarkable about them. We will select 28 nominees – one for each of the 28 days in February – for a special award, which we will present to them during a ceremony. 


Monday, October 26, 2015

DEL Releases Results of 2014 Licensed Child Care Survey

The Department of Early Learning and the University of Washington did a survey on licensed child care in Washington state and these were some of the interesting results:

Findings about the Child Care Population:

An estimated 157,047 children in Washington were enrolled in licensed child care in the spring of 2014. About 85 percent of these children were in child care centers and the remaining 15 percent were in licensed family homes.
Information from the child care survey was combined with the population data from Washington’s Office of Financial Management to estimate the proportion of children of various ages in licensed care at the time of the child care surveys. Roughly 14 percent of children in Washington were estimated to be in care, with the proportions of children in care varying substantially by age group. Just over 9 percent of infants, 21 percent of toddlers, 26 percent of preschoolers, 14 percent of kindergartners and 7 percent of school‐age children were estimated to be in licensed care at the time of the survey in 2014.

Findings about Child Care Centers:

  • The total capacity for centers was 131,846 children. A total of 133,059 children were cared for in centers. The average capacity for centers was 67 children.
  • The number of vacancies for centers was 17,721. Among centers with at least one vacancy, the average vacancy rate was 13.44 percent.
  • Average hourly wage for employees at child care centers was $10.67 for assistants,
  • $12.82 for teachers, $15.48 for supervisors, and $17.08 for directors.
  • Staff turnover rates varied among different staff positions. The proportion of assistants newly hired was about 1.8 the proportion for teachers, which was 23 percent. Eleven percent of supervisors were newly hired compared to 12 percent of directors newly hired after September 1, 2013.
  • Overall, the staff turnover rates of assistants, teachers and supervisors were higher than those of 2012.
  • Less than 7 percent of survey participants from centers indicated they were uncomfortable calling their licensors.
  • Thirty‐five percent of center participants reported they received timely information on changes to licensing policies; 54 percent agreed that the licensor clearly explained the reasons behind the licensing regulations at the most recent licensing visit; and 60 percent believed that the licensor clearly explained what the center needed to do to comply with regulations.

Findings about Licensed Family Home Child Care:

  • In 2014, 66.7 percent of family homes received assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • More than a half (51.8 percent) of participants from family homes reported having liability insurance.
  • Forty‐three percent of family home providers had a high school diploma or GED. Twenty‐two percent of family home owners reported having an associate degree in child development or a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential; 10 percent had a Bachelor’s degree, and 2 percent had either a Master’s or Doctorate degree.
  • On average, a licensed family home provider’s gross income was $37,203. For 54 percent of family home providers, child care earnings were their households’ primary source of income; their average income ($42,826) was considerably higher than family home providers with other income sources ($30,425).
  • Overall family home participants had positive experiences with their licensors and said they had no hesitation in calling their licensors (44 percent), reported they received timely information on licensing policy changes (29 percent) and clear explanations (37 percent) and suggestions from their licensors (49 percent). At the same time, 48 percent of participants didn’t feel that they were regarded as knowledgeable about and a professional in, the field of child care by their licensors.

Findings about Special Needs Care:

  • At the time of the survey, 57 percent of centers and 20.4 percent of family homes either were providing or had provided care for children with special needs at the time of the survey. 22.7 percent of centers that weren’t providing special needs care had provided care for children with special needs previously.
  • Six percent of centers and 3.3 percent of family homes applied for the special needs rate since January 1, 2014. Four percent of centers and 1.4 percent of homes received special need rate. Two percent of centers and 3 percent of homes requested a rate above the special needs rate since January 1, 2014, and 1.4 percent of centers and 1.8 percent of homes received a rate above the special need rate.

Findings about Children with Subsidized Child Care:

  • In 2014, an estimated 40,718 children received subsidizes for licensed child care in Washington: 9,127 children in licensed family homes, representing 38 percent of all children in family homes; and 31,591 children in child care centers, representing 24 percent of all children in centers.
  • Seventy‐nine percent of centers and 62 percent of family homes cared for children with child care subsidies.
  • Thirty‐eight percent of children in family homes and about 24 percent of children in centers received subsidized child care. On average, a family home cared for 3.85 children receiving subsidized child care, and centers cared for 22.19 children with subsidized child care over the last typical week of operation.

To read the entire survey, go here: 2014 Licensed Child Care Survey.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Resource Highlight: Vroom

You may have seen or heard various early learning people mention Vroom—but what is Vroom?  At its core, Vroom is a tool designed to help parents and caregivers interact with young children to maximize brain development through daily interaction. 

An impressive team of scientists from the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and early childhood development have been studying brain development. The evidence from this body of scientific research shows that the brain develops the fastest from birth to age five; more so than at any other stage in life.  Every child is born with billions or neurons and every positive interaction with a child, helps their brain make neural connections.  

OK, so all of this research is interesting and great…but how is this going to help parents and caregivers improve interaction with their child?  Parents and caregivers are a child’s first teacher so even though a child may not be able to speak—they are watching and hearing everything you do.  These interactions are shaping and growing a child’s mind. 

What Vroom aims to do is provide tools for parents and caregivers to enhance adult to child interaction.
What seem like simple, everyday tasks, turn into an opportunity to engage with a child in a one-on-one, neuron-nurturing, fire storm-of-fun!

Here are the basics of these activities:

  • Look: make eye contact.
  • Chat: talk about what you are doing, what you see or hear.
  • Follow: let your child lead the conversation or ask follow up questions.
  • Stretch: build on what your child does or says to make each interaction last longer.
  • Take turns: share conversation or sounds, words, faces or actions, go back and forth.

For specific activities or to sign up for daily suggestion—download the Daily Vroom App; or visit their website to see what all the excitement is all about http://www.joinvroom.org/

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Parent Advisory Group (PAG) Holds Productive Meeting

The newly established Parent Advisory Group (PAG) met for the first time last week in Seattle. The Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) has selected 17 parents to represent 10 regions as members of the group. The PAG will act as a sounding board for decisions, ideas and questions that shape the future of DEL and early learning programs throughout the state.

PAG members by Early Learning Region.

At the meeting, parents discussed topics including, but not limited to:
From the parents' perspective, the group determined what they would like to see happen in Washington for our state's littlest learners. PAG members are passionate about multiple early learning topics and expressed the need for:
  • More supports for children with special needs from the ages of three and five.
  • Increase quality and access to early learning opportunities across the different types of providers, starting at birth. 
  • Improved content in early learning settings. 
  • Cultural, special health care needs, promoting social emotional growth, so children have a strong foundation of healthy positive experiences before and throughout school. 
  • Supports for mental health, especially post-partum depression. There are services available for wealthy and low-income mothers, but not middle income. Provide access to all mothers who need support. 
  • Increased transparency and accessibility for state programs. Citizens understand what they’re paying for and there are no stigmas around accessing services. 
  • Access to quality care, no matter where you live in Washington. 
More was discussed during the day-long retreat in Seattle, and the PAG will continue to provide essential insight for DEL to produce strong, quality early learning initiatives in the future. Their next meeting is scheduled for early November.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

National SIDS Awareness Month: Spotlight on NISSA

According to the Northwest Infant Survival and SIDS Alliance, SIDS claims the lives of 2,500 infants in the U.S. each year. To honor National SIDS Awareness Month, DEL would like to remind the public of important resources that are currently available to Washington parents.

The Northwest Infant Survival and SIDS Alliance (NISSA) hosts a website that is loaded with valuable and educational resources for families, grieving parents, child care providers and more.

One of the organizations most valuable resources is their Safe Sleep Tips. Here are a few of the tips provided online:
  • Infants should always be placed on their backs for sleep.
  • Infants are safest in their own sleep environment.
  • A firm crib mattress covered by a sheet is the recommended sleeping surface.
  • Keep all soft objects and loose bedding out of the crib.
  • Do not smoke during pregnancy or around infants.
  • Wedges and "positioners" should not be used.
  • Consider offering your infant a pacifier at naps and bedtime.
  • Dressing babies too warmly may cause them to overheat. They can sleep comfortably in light clothing.
  • Avoid commercial devices marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS. None have been proven safe or effective.
Krista Cossalter Sandberg, Executive Director of the Northwest Infant Survival and SIDS Alliance notes,
"The biggest issue in sleep related infant death is currently co-sleeping."
NISSA dedicates a section of their website to the University of Washington research regarding safe sleep, including a publication about bedsharing.

Sleeping in the same space as your child or children can be done safely, according to the University of Notre Dame, but doctors warn the public of risks. Check out their guide on how to safely co-sleep.

Dr. James J. McKenna of the University of Notre Dame states,
"Aside from never letting an infant sleep outside the presence of a committed adult, i.e. separate-surface co-sleeping which is safe for all infants, I do not recommend to any parents any particular type of sleeping arrangement since I do not know the circumstances within which particular parents live. What I do recommend is to consider all of the possible choices and to become as informed as is possible matching what you learn with what you think can work the best for you and your family."
NISSA currently works with DEL's licensed providers to promote safe sleep practices throughout the state. The organization sent safe sleep information, WAC (Washington Administrative Code) regulations and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) guidelines as well as a poster with a safe sleep environment image to every child care provider in Washington.

The AAP has been instrumental in the development of DEL's safe sleep training and guidelines. For more information about those, go here: DEL Safe Sleep.

NISSA offers various ways you can get involved in their organization, including an upcoming dinner and auction: "An Evening of Courage and Hope." There are other ways to volunteer as well. To find out more, visit their site here: Volunteer.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Early Learning Regional Coalitions Meet for Statewide Summit

Community-minded early learning advocates from around the state gathered in Spokane for their third statewide summit this year. Geared towards networking, the sharing of best practices, and local empowerment, the statewide regional coalition summit supports the advancement of quality early learning throughout the state.

The agenda included: 
  • legislative advocacy, 
  • standards alignment, 
  • a statewide early learning dash board and may other important topics.  
There was even an opportunity for local leaders to meet the new director of the Department of Early Learning, Ross Hunter and engage in a brief Q&A. 

Early Learning Regional Coalition Map
The gathering of over 70 people included representation from every corner of the state spanning from Vancouver to the Olympic Peninsula to the Tri-Cities and, of course, Spokane.  There was representation from all 10 of the state’s regional coalitions, many of which are broken down even further to better capture the needs and potential of local systems.  This summit in Spokane was the third this year with the first taking place in Olympia (to facilitate greater coordinated advocacy during the legislative session) and the second in Vancouver.

When asked about the value of these summits, recently appointed early learning coordinator of Skagit County, Lyndie Case, said enthusiastically, 
“I’m new here, this is my first summit and I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from my counter parts across the state." Flying in from Bellingham for the event, Case used the summit as an opportunity to learn about her local connection to the larger effort taking place across the state, “I feel now like I better understand the state system and can put names to faces of my fellow coalition leads.”
Empowering understanding at the local level has long been a theme of these summits that have been taking place regularly for 5 years.  The effort is spearheaded by ThriveWashington and is supported by the leadership of Dan Torres, Director of Community Momentum with Thrive.  The father of two young sons himself, Dan is excited about the impact that regional coalitions can have on early learning opportunities for all of Washington’s young children. 
“These events are a chance to share best practices and build a common voice for the advancement of quality early learning through functional relationships geared towards on the ground action and results,” said Torres. 
DEL Director, Ross Hunter
Dan, who has been leading this effort with thrive for three years, has built an event that promotes networking, idea sharing, and increased collaboration.

Making a special appearance at the event, newly appointed Department of Early Learning Director Ross Hunter shared his passion for early learning and showed a real responsiveness to those on the ground.  
“My job is to help break down barriers so that those committed to working for the advancement of quality early learning can better serve the youngest kids in our state,” said Hunter.  
After a brief introduction, Director Hunter addressed audience questions that touched on a range of topics, including the passage of the Early StartAct, the hard work that it took to get the act through the legislature and his thoughts on how to best support advancing the field of early learning.  

This is the final summit of 2015 with the next scheduled for 2016 during the legislative session to better encourage direct advocacy from on the ground early learning professionals.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Parent Advisory Group Members Announced

The Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) has selected 16 parents to represent 10 regions as members of the newly established Parent Advisory Group (PAG). The PAG will act as a sounding board for decisions, ideas and questions that shape the future of DEL and early learning programs throughout the state.
“The Department of Early Learning is engaging in a critical mission: eliminating race and economic standing as the strongest predictor of outcomes for Washington kids.  Input from parents is critical to ensuring we get it right,” said DEL Director, Ross Hunter. “We look forward to working with the Parent Advisory Group.”
DEL received a total of 86 applications interested in joining the PAG. A panel of diverse early learning advocates and DEL leadership selected 17 parents with varying backgrounds and experience to represent ten Early Learning Regional Coalition (ELRC) communities throughout Washington. The coalitions and the selected members are broken down as follows:
  • Pierce County: Angelica Gonzalez, Kirsten Anderson
  • Northeast: Allene Osborn, Jennifer Ross
  • Central: Bianca Bailey
  • Northwest: Amber Mehta, Keron Ricketts
  • Olympic-Kitsap: Jasmyn Kaiwa, Natasha Fecteau
  • North Central: Susy Salazar
  • Southwest: Kelli Burnham
  • King County: Angeline Corpuz, Sitara Marin, Yingju Ren
  • Southeast: Beth Swanson
  • West Central: Scott Lee Elliot, Teneille Carpenter
PAG members will represent the unique experiences and perspectives of their families, including but not limited to:
  • Rural, remote, urban and military communities;
  • Access a variety of early learning services for their children or not currently connected to services;
  • Have diverse family structures (for example, headed by both or single parents, grandparents, kinship care, foster parents, or are blended families);
  • Experience with immigration and being new to a community;
  • Impacted by incarceration;
  • Cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity;
  • Have children with varying developmental and special needs.

For the most current information on group members, visit DEL’s website (www.del.wa.gov) and search “Parent Advisory Group” or click here: PAG.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Spotlight on Perinatal Support Washington

Postpartum Support International of Washington is now Perinatal Support Washington. Perinatal Support Washington is a nonprofit organization committed to lifting the veil on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and treating them effectively.

The goals of Perinatal Support Washington are to:
  • Provide personal support to women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and their famililes
  • Educate the public concerning the nature and management of these disorders
  • Promote continuing education and networking among related professionals

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs)

The spectrum of perinatal emotional complications are referred to as Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). They can begin during pregnancy or after birth. Mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents also can experience mood and anxiety disorders during pregnancy and/or the postpartum period.

Many of us refer to emotional complications after birth as “postpartum depression” or just “postpartum”. However, we know that perinatal emotional complication are not just depression and that many women experience emotional changes that begin during pregnancy- this is why we refer to them as a spectrum that includes many different responses to the changes we are experiencing.

Perinatal Emotional Complications can interfere with a family’s joy over a new baby and interrupt the parent-infant bonding process. They can appear as late as a year postpartum and during significant hormonal changes such as weaning from the breast or the return of menstruation.

The following lists of symptoms can be applied to both pregnant and postpartum parents.

The fast facts about “Baby blues”

Nearly 85 percent of all new mothers experience the baby blues after giving birth. Baby blues will only last 2-3 weeks and will improve with self care such as eating and sleeping. Anything after this 2-3 week period could indicate something other than baby blues.

• Feelings of despair/hopelessness
• Crying, tearfulness
• Anger and irritability
• Sleep disturbances (too much/little)
• Loss of energy and interest
• Physical symptoms (clumsiness, slowed speech, etc.)
• Suicidal thoughts
• Frightening thoughts about self, baby or other family members
• Weight loss or gain
• Feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy
• Hypochondria, excessive worries

• Muscle tension
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath; choking sensation
• Hot/cold flashes
• Tingling hands/feet
• Agitation/restless
• Fear of dying
• Fear of going crazy
• Faintness
• Irritability
• Anger/rage
• Fear of being alone, fears about baby’s health, agoraphobia
• Feeling trapped, immobilizing guilt
• Racing heartbeat
• Hyperventilating
• Nausea/vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Dizziness

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
• Recurring, persistent and disturbing thoughts, ideas or images (scary images of accidents, abuse, harm to baby)
• Ritual behaviors done to avoid harming baby (e.g., put away knives) or to create protection for baby (e.g., don’t leave the house), constantly checking the baby, house, etc.
• Intrusive thoughts, fears, images
• Person cannot control thoughts
• Person understands that to act on these thoughts would be wrong
• Hypervigilant (e.g., can’t sleep for fear that something will happen to baby/ constant “fight or flight” mode)
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (usually occurs soon after birth)
• Previous trauma (recent or in the past – abuse, accident, etc.)
• Feeling of anxiety when exposed to situations similar to the trauma
• Sensations of “being in the trauma” now
• Nightmares
• Emotional numbing/detachment

DEL is a strong advocate of the campaign, "Speak Up When You are Down." If you feel you have any of these symptoms or are concerned about a loved one, call 1.888.404.7763 for support. The hotline is operated through a partnership with Perinatal Support Washington.

Up to 80 percent of new mothers experience some form of baby blues. Postpartum depression (PPD) is more than the baby blues, and it won’t go away on its own. Help is available. Talking about how you feel is the first step.

The Washington State Postpartum Depression Awareness Campaign (Speak Up When You're Down) is the result of 2005 legislation to provide a public awareness campaign to educate women and their families about the signs, symptoms and treatment of PPD.

Talking about PPD can be the first step toward recovery. The campaign message, “Speak Up When You’re Down,” encourages women and their families to talk openly with each other and with their health care provider if they are feeling down.

Washington residents and agencies may order hard copies of these materials by sending an email with their address and requested quantity to strengtheningfamilies@del.wa.gov.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Washington Featured for Inter-Generational Services: Supporting the "Whole" Family

In a recent article published by the National Governor's Association, the topic "intergenerational poverty" and how lawmakers can help provide essential services for parents and children was featured.

Key anti-poverty strategies in communities that feel the effects of generational poverty (poverty that involves multiple generations, also known as the "Cycle of Poverty") include:

  • helping low-income parents find work that provides family-sustaining wages, 
  • fostering children’s school educational success, and 
  • providing the necessary family support services.
The article highlights how important "two generation" strategies are for low-income families. This is something that DEL spends some time on, for example, within the home visiting program, there are services targeted specifically to parents and caregivers. To read more about the current state of home visiting, check out our recent blog on the topic: Home Visiting Spotlight

In the article, programs and states across the nation are commended for thinking of the whole family, instead of just programs and services that benefit kids.
"Experience suggests that two-generation strategies for low-income families hold promise when services—not just referrals—are provided to both generations, and when the services are intensive enough and of sufficient quality to produce positive outcomes."
By providing leadership and fostering collaboration across all state agencies (DEL, OSPI, DSHS and more--read more about the Washington Early Learning Partnership here: Washington Early Learning Partners Sign Joint Resolution) that influence low-income children and families, lawmakers can "develop innovative solutions for promoting the well-being of children and improving family economic stability."

One example that the article cites is the Community Action Plan (CAP) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. 
CAP Tulsa employs multiple programs that aim to prepare young children for educational success and increase the employability, earning potential, and parenting skills of their parents. CAP Tulsa coordinates and co-locates high-quality early childhood education with family financial, career-training, and health services. CAP Tulsa’s Career Advance program provides Head Start and other low-income parents with training in the health care sector, with the goal of helping them secure a good job with a family supporting wage while filling a critical workforce gap in the local economy.
While two-generational services are not new to the U.S. (the War on Poverty policies announced in 1965), there have been a consistent number of programs that do not receive legislative follow-through. The article suggests learning from past mistakes with these programs and celebrating programs that are currently working in several states. Washington was one of the featured states, as the article cited:
"Washington State has launched a program that uses Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to provide home visiting services supported by strong evidence of effectiveness to families receiving TANF cash assistance. The program will track child and family well-being outcomes as well as parental employability."
Adopting a two-generation lens to serving low-income children does not necessarily require new programs and policies; rather, lawmakers can focus on strengthening links among existing programs toward a common set of goals for low-income children and families.The article warns:
"Lawmakers should be wary about assuming that two-generation strategies will work without significant attention to the quality of the services each generation receives and to the likelihood that those services will lead to improvements in families’ economic well-being."
Studies show that the well-being of low-income children is tied closely to "their families’ economic stress and overall economic well-being." Strategies that involve both parents or caregivers and their children have great promise to aid in overcoming inter-generational poverty.

To read the article, go here: States Employ Two-Generation Strategies...

Friday, September 11, 2015

Child Care Emergency Preparedness in the Washington Wildfires

Called a "slow-motion disaster" by Governor J. Inslee, this summer's wildfires have claimed hundreds of thousands of acres of land and three lives.

Among the affected areas in Washington is the city of Omak and among the many families who experienced loss and property damage are child care providers in that area.

Brianne Gates is a fairly new family home child care provider in Omak.
"I started my business in April," said Gates. "But I grew up helping at my aunt's day care. If you were going to be there, you were going to help. I've been around child care for a long time."
Today, Bree's Child Care (Gates' business) welcomes six children ranging in age from eight months to six years old. Gates herself is currently expecting her second child, and experienced the fires while approaching her eighth month of pregnancy.
"I got a phone call from a friend at the fire department at 12:20 in the afternoon. The kids were finishing lunch," said Gates.
The community in which Gates lives had been on alert since early-mid August as a fire across the river from her home had started due to lightning. On this day in particular, the winds had increased at a dangerous rate.

Gates' contact at the fire department told her that the fire had jumped the river and was now on a road very close to her home.

Thankfully, Gates has a clear policy and procedure for emergency situations, and she is careful to communicate this with parents.
"When I first consider accepting a new child into my care, I invite both a parent and the child to my home," said Gates. "I spend the meeting time getting to know their child, interacting with them, and following along as the parent reads my policies."
Gates is available to answer questions, as well as point out highlighted portions of her policies such as her emergency preparedness and evacuation policies. Gates also holds periodic drills for earthquakes and other disasters.
"After I got the call from the fire department, I issued a group text to the parents telling them we were planning to evacuate for the safety of the children," said Gates. 

Within minutes every parent had responded, asking if Gates and the children were already at the designated space (a department store's large concrete parking lot, about one mile from the home--where much of the community stayed the night in campers).
"I was amazed that the parents remembered the place we were supposed to go, and even more amazed at how fast they responded to the situation," said Gates. "There are other providers in my community that experienced property damage and did not have the same good luck with parents."
According to Gates, the evacuation process took around 10 minutes and was very successful. Bree's Child Care was out of business for several days following the evacuation.
"When it was bad, you could see this red cloud coming at us--filled with hot embers. We were close to losing our house, but we didn't," said Gates. "By the following week, we were back down to a [alert] level 1."
With the support of her community and the help of parents, no child was harmed and Gates did not experience property loss.

Gates' experience is a great example of how important consistent communication is for parents and providers. Having an emergency preparedness plan is just one of the ways Washington's child care providers promote child health and safety. To find out about emergency preparedness levels, go here: Wildfire Levels.

To learn more about licensed child care in Washington, go here: Licensed Child Care.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spotlight on Washington Home Visiting

Yesterday and today, Washington state held its first Home Visiting Summit in Seattle. The event was collaboratively planned by the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL), Thrive Washington, and the Washington Dental Services Foundation

In a recent blog post by Thrive Washington, it was reported that around 250 home visitors attended. 
"Three years in the making, the Summit answers the requests of home visitors for more professional development and opportunities to share strategies and stories with each other, so they can support families even better."
DEL Director, Ross Hunter
at the Home Visiting Summit

What is Home Visiting? 

Home visiting is a voluntary service in which trained professionals such as nurses, early childhood educators, social workers or trained paraprofessionals offer information and support related to healthy child and family development. These programs offer family-focused services to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children. Home visiting supports the child and family by buffering the effects of risk factors and stress in the family.

Evidence shows that when families receive home-based support, their children are born healthier and are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect. It has also shown a strong return on the investment of funds in this area of prevention and early learning support.

Key Benefits of Home Visiting:

  • Stronger parent-child bonds
  • Healther mothers and babies
  • Lower rates of child abuse and neglect
  • More positive parenting practices
  • Earlier development of language and literacy skills
  • Improved school readiness
  • Safer homes
  • Increased rates of parental employment
In collaboration, DEL and Thrive Washington were able to create a one-page, printable document that gives data and information about home visiting as well as one woman's story about her experience with this program:
"Carrie stopped using heroin when she learned she was pregnant, but her baby was born early and addicted to methadone. Carrie joined parent support groups and received some support from a transitional housing program before enrolling in home visiting. After only a few months of home visiting, Carrie and her daughter are demonstrating positive changes in their relationship. The home visitor brings a book to every visit, and offers information about daughter Rachel’s developmental stages and milestones."
To read more about Carrie and to get more current statistics about home visiting in this state, go here: Home Visiting One Pager.

Learn More about Home Visiting Models in WA:

Thrive Washington has an easily-accessible web page dedicated to home visiting accessibility. Check it out here: Thrive Washington Home Visiting Accessibility

These are just some of the home visiting models offered in Washington state. The links below contain more information about the different approaches to home visiting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Center Child Care Licensor

At the beginning of July, DEL featured a blog post entitled “A Day in the Life of a Family Home Child Care Licensor.” The article featured an in-depth description of what a family home licensor encounters on an average day at work.

While family home child care is common throughout the state, there are licensors that specialize in monitoring and working with child care centers as well. The following post was written after spending an afternoon shadowing a DEL licensor while she visited a licensed child care center in Spokane. 
“Centers are another world,” said Helen Cramer, DEL Center Licensor in Spokane. “There are generally more children and more space to regulate, as well as different standards.”
Center classroom coat and book bag area.
The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is responsible for licensing and monitoring child care facilities around the state to ensure providers meet the health and safety requirements necessary for children to receive safe, healthy and quality care while parents are working or away.

DEL's licensing work is guided by 
state lawsstate rules, which are also called WACs (Washington Administrative Codes), and internal DEL policies and procedures

Not unlike family home licensors, center licensors spend a large amount of their time on the road and "in the field."
All DEL licensors (homes and centers) are currently equipped with tablets that can connect to the Internet when needed to ensure open and consistent dialogue with supervisors, licensees and colleagues. Tablets are also used so licensors have constant access to WAC documents and guidelines, as well as the electronic forms used for inspections. 
“One of the reasons for the tablet is that licensors are now able to provide forms, resources and licensing checklists to providers via email while on the premises,” said Licensing Supervisor, Karen Christensen. “We also use our tablets to bring up the MERIT system, background checks and other sites that are of use to the provider and can be viewed by the provider during the site visit.”
MERIT is a system used by early childhood education professionals and child care providers across the entire state. For more information about MERIT, go here: MERIT.
“The first thing I do is walk through the entire center,” said Cramer. “This allows me to get a general feel for the surroundings—see if anything stands out right off the bat.”
Center sizes vary greatly—this one in particular had around 120 children ranging in ages from infant to school-age. In a center, there is usually a larger staff dedicated to different age groups.

Classroom and play area at Spokane center.
At this center, the rooms were designated by color and age group (e.g. the Teal Room for preschoolers).

The licensor made notes and asked the center director questions about the general first impressions of the center. She paid special attention to each room’s functionality and safety—marking the placement of cleaning products, inquiring about medications for each child, and checking the cleanliness of each space.

Not unlike licensed homes, licensed centers are held to a set of standards and can receive violation notices that need to be addressed by the center administration.
“Child safety is our number one priority,” said Cramer. “We [center licensors] work with administrators to achieve the best possible standard of care for the kids.”
Sample of a Center curriculum posting.
During the bulk of the visit, Cramer surveyed the nap areas, play spaces (this center has its own gym!), and bathrooms. She notes status of fire alarms, placement of epi-pens for children with allergies, pays attention to the layout of the play areas (both indoor and outdoor), and reviews each staff member’s curriculum (which was posted in each room).

All licensors are required to conduct monitoring visits each year using an in-depth checklist of requirements. Center licensors may need to take more than one day to complete a monitoring visit—depending on the size of the center.

If a licensor finds that certain areas of the center checklist are not up to code (according to the WACs), the provider and the licensor develop a compliance agreement with a plan of correction stating that they will fix the issues in a certain amount of time. 

Violations are available for anyone to view online at DEL's Child Care Check. These violations range in severity. A violation could be failure of reporting or record keeping - failure to keep record of a child's vaccination history, or a violation could involve lack of supervision.  

Working with large centers is unique and it can be challenging to regulate. There are usually multiple staff files that licensors have to monitor. For example, staff members are required to have current CPR and First Aid training while caring for kids in a center, licensors must take note of this.

Licensors take the health and safety of children seriously--and are fast to act if they feel a provider is putting children at risk. Summary suspensions are served to centers that have allegations that pose imminent risk to children.
“One of the topics I try to bring up with each center I visit lately is Safe Sleep,” said Cramer. “We are rolling out new rules about this and we want to make sure centers are aware of the changes.”
This particular center had a well-established curriculum, caring, motivated staff members, and had the look and organizational feel of a school.
"Families who choose child care in a center setting usually choose programs because they see a close connection between a center and a school-like atmosphere," said Cramer. "There is also the opportunity for diverse interactions with multiple staff members and children of varying ages."
Her day usually ends after she has surveyed the center, spent a lot of time with administration, and reviewed files of all staff thoroughly.

Centers often have a lot of positive resources for children and offer different organized curricula for children of all ages. For example, it is common for centers to offer well-organized and well-chaperoned field trips--this may be an opportunity for children to bond and travel to new and interesting places in the care of qualified staff. 

If you are looking for child care, don't be afraid to ask questions of potential providers or to visit. All of DEL's WACs and policies and procedures are available online, and their subject matter ranges from safe outdoor play equipment to safe sleeping practices in child care settings. A good place to start learning about licensed child care in WA is here.