Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Community Approach to Tribal Early Learning in WA

In order to remain tightly focused on early learning, and to promote shared supports within the tribal nations, the Indian Policy Early Learning (IPEL) work group was established in 2013 to advise the Department of Early Learning (DEL) and assure quality, comprehensive delivery of early learning services to American Indians and Alaska Natives in Washington State.

DEL enlists the help of IPEL to provide guidance regarding
early learning initiatives that affect children statewide.
The committee is modeled after the Department of Social and Health Services’ Indian Policy Advisory Committee (IPAC), and guides DEL’s implementation of the Centennial Accord and DEL’s policies that impact tribes. Each of the 29 Federally Recognized Tribes of Washington are entitled to appoint one delegate and alternates to participate as members. IPEL meets quarterly and has recently provided guidance to DEL on the state’s Child Care Development Fund plan and the roles and responsibilities of DEL’s new Tribal Liaison position.

In a recent IPEL meeting on the Tulalip Reservation, committee chair (Patty Eningowok of the Suquamish Tribe) lead a detailed discussion around emergent and ongoing issues associated with tribal early learning. Topics included:
  • recent federal changes in critical funding streams, 
  • state level changes outlined in the recently passed Early Start Act, and 
  • a tour of a newly constructed tribal early learning facility. 
Eningowok has served as the Chair of IPEL since its inception. Between discussions, she had a moment to talk about the value of IPEL and the successes of the group. 
“IPEL has created more opportunity for resource sharing among the tribes and has given an opportunity for equal representation of all the tribes in broader early learning discussions.” Further, Eningowok acknowledged the importance of family engagement in tribal early learning, recognizing that “each tribe is focused on family preservation, but is faced with a unique sense of history and culture that is specific to the tribe, IPEL has created a venue where we can talk about our common goal and recognize that each of us has a unique set of challenges as we pursue that goal.”
Also in attendance was Jacki Haight of the Port Gamble S’Klallam tribe. Jacki is thankful for IPEL because, as she states, “our voices need to be heard.” Jacki has been a part of tribal early learning for decades and brings a great sense of history and purpose to the work.
 “IPEL has allowed tribes to deepen their understanding of not only their own unique challenges in providing quality early learning, but also the challenges faced by other tribes as well.”
A strong relationship between the Department of Early Learning and the tribes is important as the state makes bold steps towards ensuring quality early learning opportunities for all kids in Washington. Bette Hyde, DEL’s director, has served as the liaison between the tribes and the agency.
“Quality for all truly means quality for ALL, regardless of where you live or your ethnic or national identity,” Hyde said. “My time with the tribes has help me to understand what it means to be a tribal provider of quality early learning and the unique circumstances faced by each tribe.”
Moving forward, the agency will soon designate a dedicated full time staff person to the role of tribal liaison.
“While I have enjoyed my time as the agency liaison, there is so much work to be done that a dedicated full time staff person is needed to continue to build cooperative relationships with each of the 29 federally recognized tribes in our state,” Hyde said.
To view DEL's web pages on tribal relations, go here: Tribal Nations

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