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.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Feature: Let's Move!

The following content is courtesy of Let's Move! (a comprehensive initiative, launched by the First Lady, dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation, so that children born today will grow up healthier and able to pursue their dreams.)

Let's Move! aligns with Washington state's Healthiest Next Generation initiative with the goal to help our children maintain a healthy weight, enjoy active lives and eat and drink healthfully by making changes in early learning settings, schools and communities.
"The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake."
- First Lady Michelle Obama at the Let’s Move! launch on February 9, 2010 Obesity by the numbers

Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in America have tripled, and today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40% of the children are overweight or obese. If we don't solve this problem, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives. Many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma.

How Did We Get Here?

Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight. Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and there was always a vegetable on the plate. Eating fast food was rare and snacking between meals was an occasional treat.

Today, children experience a very different lifestyle. Walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut; afternoons are now spent with TV, video games, and the internet. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals. Snacking between meals is now commonplace.

Thirty years ago, kids ate just one snack a day, whereas now they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200 calories a day. And one in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day.

Portion sizes have also exploded- they are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past. Beverage portions have grown as well- in the mid-1970s, the average sugar-sweetened beverage was 13.6 ounces compared totoday, kids think nothing of drinking 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time.

In total, we are now eating 31 percent more calories than we were forty years ago–including 56 percent more fats and oils and 14 percent more sugars and sweeteners. The average American now eats fifteen more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.

Eight to 18-year old adolescents spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, including, TV, computers, video games, cell phones and movies, and only one-third of high school students get the recommended levels of physical activity.

Now that’s the bad news. The good news is that by making just a few lifestyle changes, we can help our children lead healthier lives–and we already have the tools we need to do it. We just need the will.

Let’s Move!

Combining comprehensive strategies with common sense, Let's Move! is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices. Providing healthier foods in our schools. Ensuring that every family has access to healthy, affordable food. And, helping kids become more physically active.

Everyone has a role to play in reducing childhood obesity, including parents, elected officials from all levels of government, schools, health care professionals, faith-based and community-based organizations, and private sector companies. Your involvement is key to ensuring a healthy future for our children.

Special Note:

Attention Child Care Centers and Homes: The Packard Foundation is partnering with Let’s Move! Child Care (LMCC) to award toolkits to support early care and education (ECE) providers in meeting LMCC’s goals. These toolkits include supplies and materials to directly support an ECE center’s or a home’s Let’s Move! Child Care Action Plan. The toolkits, provided by Kaplan, are valued at more than $100 per kit and will be a great help in achieving steps on the winning ECE providers’ Action Plans.

Centers and homes that develop an LMCC Action Plan on line between August 17 and September 18 will be entered into a drawing for a chance to win the toolkits. Ten programs will be randomly selected as winners. (Note: There can only be one winner chosen per center or home, so program directors, staff members, and leaders should complete their Action Plan together as a team.) The winners will receive toolkits (appropriate for the number of children they serve) with resources based on the top priority goal area from their Action Plan and will be contacted in the future to see how the materials have helped make positive changes in their center or home.

Note: ECE providers who developed an Action Plan on the LMCC Web site prior to August 17, 2015, will need to reenter the action plan information on the LMCC Web site between August 17 and September 18 to be entered into the drawing.