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.