Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Meet the Early Achievers Data Collection Team at Cultivate Learning

The Early Achievers data collection team at Cultivate Learning is a group of skilled early learning professionals who have a passion for collecting culturally responsive, reliable, and valid data on the quality of early learning environments. The data is provided to early educators and their coaches so they can collaborate and plan for continuous quality improvement.  

This team is made up of two smaller groups: Community Liaisons and Data Collectors. Both data collectors and community liaisons live, work, and play in the communities they serve. These early learning professionals have, at a minimum, bachelor’s degrees in early learning or a related field and have experience working with young children in early learning environments such as family child cares, large centers, small and non-profit programs, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP); Head Start, Montessori, Reggio, and Waldorf programs.

In addition, Cultivate Learning honors the government-to-government relationship between Washington State’s 29 sovereign nations and the federal and state government through Tribal liaisons and data collectors who have experience working with Tribal communities or are members themselves. The Tribal liaison’s goal is to support Tribes participating, or considering participation, in Early Achievers.

Washington is a diverse state, especially when you look at its youngest residents. Many early learning programs across the state have a language of instruction other than English. Research at the University of Washington’s College of Education emphasizes the importance of encouraging early educators to support a child’s home language. Cultivate Learning offers data collection in many languages. For languages not represented on the team, Cultivate Learning uses an interpreter and headset system for real-time interpretation. Languages currently represented on the team include Cantonese, English, Korean, Mandarin, Somali, Oromo, Tigrinya/Amharic, Uzbek, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian.

Meet Jessica, an Early Achievers Data Collector at Cultivate Learning

Cultivate Learning recently caught up with Jessica, a busy Early Achievers data collector in King County, for some perspective on her job.

Hi Jessica, can we ask you a few questions about your work as a data collector? 

Sure, I would be happy to discuss my work!

What inspires you about being on the data collection team?

The data collection team is not only responsible for collecting data for Early Achievers. Our job entails so much more than that. I love how we teach at institutes, participate in Meaningful Makeovers, and are involved in many other projects. Our team comes from diverse cultures, we speak different languages, have different backgrounds and we are all able to come together and work passionately to help children and families. It's a pretty awesome team! 

Do you miss working with children? 

Yes absolutely! It's hard sometimes during the observation watching kiddos from a distance—I just want to spend time and play. However, I know that our work is important and impactful for their future! 

What do you like best about working on the data collection team? 

Being on the data collection team for five years now, I've had the privilege to see all the hard work teachers put into their programs. I'm excited to see more of that!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Letter from the Director: DEL's Budget Request

It’s that time of year again, when DEL submits its budget requests to the Governor’s office for consideration in the next legislative session. This year, however, will be a little unique. Because we’re in a transition phase from being the Department of Early Learning into being part of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families, our budgeting process is happening in two stages this time around.

Linked here you’ll find the small ask that DEL submitted for two limited technical adjustments:
  • Provide full funding for tiered quality reimbursements to child care providers by adjusting the department’s budget to match forecasted reimbursement levels;
  • Streamline child care services for families experiencing homelessness and ensure compliance with federal law by transferring the budget for the Homeless Child Care Program from DEL to the Department of Social and Health Services (Economic Services Administration).

As I noted in my letter attached to the budget request, these packages constitute a $3.6 million dollar investment that will keep kids healthy and safe by reimbursing child care providers for high-quality child care environments and keep the state in compliance with federal law.

If you’re thinking “that can’t be everything,” I want to remind everyone that this is a supplemental budget year, meaning that the legislature is charged essentially with only taking up budget changes to fix problems. We are limited and focused in what we can request in supplemental years, and you’ll see that reflected in this year’s package. Additionally, the bulk of what would be considered a DEL ask will come out as the budget request of the new DCYF. Look for a post on that complete budget package on the DCYF website later this week.

Thank you to all of our stakeholders and partners who have provided meaningful feedback and advice during our budget development process.

Heather Moss
Department of Early Learning

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Digital Attendance Project Marks Key Progress

As we previously reported in our blog, the Department of Early Learning is purchasing a digital attendance system to simplify and improve how we track children’s participation in subsidized child care. We’ll be replacing manual paper attendance systems with modern, off-the-shelf, cloud-based software. We’re pleased to announce that DEL has signed a contract with a company called Controltec to provide us with our system!

We’re excited to move into the next phase of this project – configuring the purchased system to suit DEL’s needs. Over the next few months we’ll also work with Controltec to train DEL staff on the system so they can provide top-notch support to providers.

The big question on the minds of many providers is “when will this affect me?” Providers who accept state subsidies for child care will be required to use some form of digital attendance system after the full rollout is complete. DEL understands that a new process and technology can’t be simply handed out without support. In phases, DEL will train providers on the new system, ensuring that trainings are delivered in a variety of ways and languages.

Beginning in January, 2018 we will start with an “early adopters” phase of the system roll-out. This will give us the opportunity to test out our training and deployment methods with a small cross-section of providers before the full roll-out. Then, with lessons learned from that effort, we’ll conduct training and make the system available to all providers from late February through March.

We’re still working on the process for recruiting the early adopters, but we know that we’ll be looking for volunteers from family homes, child care centers, and Family, Friends, and Neighbors providers from a variety of communities across the state. Luckily we have a lot more flexibility with this phase than we did with our usability testing, so we’ll be able to engage providers better. We’ll be sure to reach out to you when we have more details about participating in the early adopters group. Keep an eye on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. Our partners at SEIU 925 and Child Care Aware will also help us get the word out.

Want to learn more about the digital attendance project? Visit our webpage to get answers to frequently asked questions at https://del.wa.gov/Attendance-Project

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Washington Enlists Video Coaching to Support Nurturing and Development

Washington State has been utilizing a new and unique way to support healthy brain development of young children and positive relationships between children and their caregivers. It’s a video coaching program that uses the concept of serve and return interactions, called Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND). Dr. Phil Fisher and his colleagues at the University of Oregon developed the FIND model to support interactions between one caregiver and one child.  The FIND development team at the University of Oregon, the Washington State Department of Early Learning and Children’s Home Society of Washington, have co-created a model of FIND for use in early childhood settings.

FIND was developed as part of the Frontiers of Innovation at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, and is an example of putting researchers and practitioners together to advance science-based innovations that can be expanded to serve more young children and families.

What is FIND?
Coaches trained in FIND film interactions between the child and their caregiver for 10 minutes as they engage in everyday activities such as playing a game or having a snack. Films are edited into short clips by a team at CHSW. After editing, a FIND coach shows the caregiver the video of positive interactions with a child. Coaches emphasize the caregivers’ strengths and understanding of how engaging positively with the child promotes positive brain development.

Expanding FIND around the state
In 2013, FIND was implemented in a licensed family child care home in Richland, Washington called “Hope for the Future Childcare.” This small-scale road test demonstrated the feasibility and utility of implementing FIND in the context of child care.

Targeted FIND coaching for infant-toddler caregivers was conducted in a larger pilot in 2015 with 16 child care providers in one region of the state.  The goal of the pilot was to demonstrate that FIND could be used in formal child care and early learning settings. Positive outcomes from the pilot resulted in DEL implementing FIND across the state as part of Washington State’s child care quality rating and improvement system (QRIS), Early Achievers.  Adding FIND to Early Achievers will help to improve the quality of child care for infants and toddlers.

In order to increase the amount of FIND coaching, in January 2016, four randomly selected regions of the state began FIND with infant-toddler classrooms. The remaining six regions began implementation in July 2016. During the first year of FIND coaching, 189 caregivers completed the FIND program.  The impact can be heard in this quote from a teacher “I realized that my work with infants and toddlers has a big impact on their development and their future. I want every infant-toddler teacher to take this coaching.”

The project also involves training and certification of regional infant toddler consultants as FIND coaches who support child care providers through the state. Twenty-one FIND coaches were trained in coordination with the FIND development team at University of Oregon and Children’s Home Society of Washington.

Data collection during the first year of FIND was completed and is currently being analyzed by the FIND Development Team at the University of Oregon and researchers at the University of Washington. 

To read a set of case studies from this evaluation, click here: To read a full summary of all of the FIND initiatives, click here.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Research & Analysis to Support the 90% Goal

DEL’s goal: By the year 2020, 90% of five-year-olds will be ready for kindergarten, with race and family income no longer predictors of readiness.
In Spring 2016 the Department of Early Learning (DEL) established its first ever agency-wide Research & Analysis team, and we’re excited about the opportunity to support the agency’s 90 percent goal. Our team is made up of 2 researchers and 2 analysts whose job it is to make meaning out of data and help inform agency policy decisions. We’re supported by our agency Data Governance Coordinator and the Data Team in DEL’s IT Department who all help make sure we can get access to the data we need.

DEL has always had terrific analysts and data staff embedded in DEL program units to support our different programs – like ECEAP, Early Achievers, subsidy, home visiting, ESIT, and ECLIPSE. DEL’s new Research & Analysis team is building on that past success to explore agency-wide questions that will improve program quality and effectiveness, and help more children prepare for kindergarten.

In our first year we’ve starting producing answers to questions like:
  • How do children who’ve participated in ECEAP perform on WaKIDS kindergarten entry assessments? Why do many children in ECEAP exhibit greater levels of readiness in Spring of their ECEAP year than when they enter kindergarten in the Fall? 
  • What kind of impact are program enhancements like Family Support models in ECEAP and layered subsidy having on child and family experiences in DEL’s programs?  To what extent are DEL’s programs reaching children in need from different racial, ethnic, and language groups across the state? 
  • How is implementation of Washington’s Early Achiever’s Quality Rating and Improvement System impacting providers and children throughout the state? Are the Early Achiever’s policy changes having greater impact on some subgroups of providers and children than others? 

Getting to 90% Ready: Strategies
This graphic is one of the ways the research team tells the story of how DEL is doing at meeting our 90% goal, and how some of our tactics can get us closer to that goal.

In the coming year we’ll be exploring many more questions, including: 
  • To what extent do young children participate in multiple DEL programs? To what extent does participating in multiple early childhood programs help in preparing children for kindergarten? 
  • How does ECEAP dosage effect children’s readiness for kindergarten? To what extent is 2 years better than 1 year, or full-day better than part-day? Where are the greatest dosage gains made, and for which students?  
  • What are the assessment and instructional practices most effective for dual-language learners in ECEAP? What is the gap between what practices are most effective for students and what ECEAP provides? What are the professional development needs of early childhood educators working with dual-language learner students?

The statewide Early Learning Advisory Committee has established a Research Advisory Sub-committee to help advise DEL’s Research & Analysis Team on our work in progress. We’re also actively collaborating with partners at other state agencies, and we’d appreciate your feedback and ideas too. Feel free to contact us at: vickie.ybarra@del.wa.gov

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Public Records Office: A Cornerstone of Democratic Institutions

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is committed to transparency and excellence in records management. To accomplish this goal, DEL has a small but mighty public records team. The public records team is responsible for keeping DEL in compliance with public records laws, but also to serve as a resource for the communities we serve.  Any member of the public can request documents and records from our agency for non-commercial purposes, and the public records team will make sure the right documents are delivered.  With their hard work and expertise, they are the very essence of an open and transparent government, one of the cornerstones of a healthy democracy.

As a public agency, DEL is subject to the Washington State Public Records Act under RCW 42.56.  We work hard to be transparent in our operations because we know this makes us better at serving and protecting children in Washington State.

So what is a public records request? Requests come in many forms including email, fax, mail, and carrier pigeon. OK, that last one hasn’t happened, but we’re open to it. Members of the public can request documents about almost anything at our agency.  This can include:
  • Policies that interpret state or federal law and are put in place by DEL. 
  • Administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect how we work with the public.
  • Reports, surveys, or research conducted by DEL. 
  • Correspondence by DEL employees, both to other employees and to members of the public.
As you can imagine, even for a small agency like DEL, that adds up to a lot of records requests every year.  We typically process between 200-250 requests a year, or about 16-20 requests each month.  Each request can vary in the number of documents it entails; one of the largest requests submitted to DEL requested thousands of employee emails!  Before releasing records to the public, our team reviews all of the requested documents for possible exemptions. The public records team walks a tightrope to ensure transparency in the work DEL does for the public while also protecting sensitive information for the families and children we serve.

The work of our public records team isn’t flashy or glamorous, and you will never find a five-year-old child dressing up as a public records officer for Halloween or career day.  But a strong and effective public records team is the backbone of our commitment to transparency, and an integral part of our civic duty as a state agency.

Do you have a public records request to make?  Visit our webpage to learn more: https://del.wa.gov/helpful-resources/other-resources/make-public-records-request.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DEL is accepting applications for a Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is recruiting members for a new Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee of the Washington Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC). This new subcommittee will be tasked with providing input on licensing and subsidy rules and regulations. 

Membership Requirements 

Members will represent a licensed child care center and Washington’s regional, racial, and cultural diversity. Members will serve two-year terms that expire on June 30th of the second year. We anticipate that the subcommittee will initially meet quarterly, and then reassess the need after the first year. Members are expected to attend the majority of meetings and be prepared to actively participate. Participants who volunteer in additional subcommittees or work groups should expect to meet outside of the regular meeting dates. 

Supports for Members

Subcommittee members are eligible for mileage reimbursements to help support participation. Mileage will be reimbursed at current state travel reimbursement rates and in accordance with the State of Washington Office of Financial Management Travel Regulations. Current rates for travel can be accessed at: http://www.ofm.wa.gov/policy/10.90.htm#10.90.10.

If you are interested, please fill out the application and submit it in one of the following ways by September 30, 2017:

Dept. of Early Learning 
State/Local Coordinatio
PO Box 40970
Olympia, WA 98504-0970
Drop-Off at:
Dept. of Early Learnin
State/Local Coordination 
1110 Jefferson St SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Feel free to contact us (slc@del.wa.gov) with any questions. 

Process and Timeline

September 30, 2017: Recruitments due to DEL
October 9-13, 2017: Recruitment Review
October 23, 2017: Applicants Notified
November 1, 2017: Membership Terms Begin 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Early Achievers – August 1, 2017 Milestone

Story Time 
The Department of Early Learning (DEL) is proud to announce that Washington’s early learning system has reached another Early Start Act milestone!  In 2016, all early learning providers accepting state child care subsidies made a commitment to quality improvement through participation in Early Achievers, Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System.  With the support of Early Achievers coaches at our partner Child Care Aware of Washington, these providers have spent the past year working to complete the Early Achievers Professional Training Series before the August 1, 2017 milestone mandated by the Early Start Act of 2015.  We are thrilled to share, as of August 1, 2017, 97 percent of mandated providers met this important milestone in quality improvement.  

Reaching this milestone has been a team effort and we are incredibly proud of the work that our partners and participants have done to accomplish this latest achievement:

  • In the past year, more than 1,500 licensed child care providers completed Early Achievers Level 2 activities, meaning the vast majority of licensed providers who accept state subsidies met the recent Early Start Act milestone. 
  • Early Achievers participants received a combined 81,277 hours of coaching, technical assistance and consultation, offered in English, Spanish, Somali, Russian from our wonderful partners at Child Care Aware.
  • As of now, approximately 71 percent of all licensed child care providers are participating in Early Achievers.

Today, more than 3,900 early learning providers in Washington participate in Early Achievers. Their dedication to continuous improvement and ongoing evaluation has a direct impact on kindergarten readiness for children across the state and we are proud to support their efforts. DEL and its partners will continue to offer a variety of supports and resources as we prepare Early Achievers participants for their next milestone of rating Level 3 or higher by the end of 2019. We will also continue to evaluate the Early Achievers system to ensure the quality standards lead to the kindergarten readiness, at the core of our mission and purpose. This latest successful milestone brings us one step closer to our goal of getting 90 percent of kids ready for kindergarten by 2020.
Want to know what providers are saying about the Early Achievers experience? Watch Child Care Aware of Washington’s Impact video series here: http://wa.childcareaware.org/providers/early-achievers

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

DEL to Have Strong, Familiar Leadership During Transition Year

Heather Moss and Ross Hunter
Starting August 1st, I will officially begin serving as the Secretary of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).  While I’m excited about the opportunities we have to help improve outcomes for Washington’s most at-risk kids, I want to make sure we continue the crazy good work we’re doing here at DEL. I am pleased to tell you that Governor Inslee just offered our Deputy Director, Heather Moss, the position of DEL Director during this important transition year. 

Collectively, we have a lot of work to do in the next year to stand up the new DCYF, and I look forward to working with many of you to make this transition successful.  In the meantime, there is a lot of work still happening at DEL that needs the full energy and attention of a strong leadership team, and someone who knows the work intimately to steer the ship. I am extremely grateful to have Heather in this role.

In the almost two years that I’ve worked with her at DEL, she has been an excellent right-hand-woman, and she is well positioned to support DEL through this transition year. Below is a brief statement from her.  

Ross Hunter  

Dear DEL community,  

I am happy to serve as the Director of DEL during this important transition year. I am so proud of the work we all do here at DEL, and I have great respect for the partners, child care providers, Home Visitors, and everyone else who makes this a strong early learning system. As the Director, my focus will be on three areas:  
  • Hold steady on the important work we are currently doing here at DEL; 
  • Identify and celebrate the unique culture and values of the early learning field that we want to retain as we transition into DCYF; and
  • Partner with Ross and his transition team to manage a successful integration of DEL (and CA and JR) into DCYF. 
I have been at DEL for about 3 ½ years now and have seen our agency change, grow, and mature during that time. Since DEL’s inception 11 years ago there have been even more changes which have consistently improved the system, so I am confident we can successfully take on this new challenge of merging into DCYF. 

Our structure may look a bit different this year and next, but the work that each of you do is and will remain an important part of the early learning system in Washington State. We’ve got this! I am looking forward to working with you over this coming year; please reach out via email or phone to share your ideas and input!  


Heather Moss

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Success! Announcing Expansion of ECEAP, Washington’s Preschool for Vulnerable Children

After a very long budget year, we are excited to announce that more at-risk children and families will have access to high-quality preschool, health services coordination, and family support this fall as a result of new funding for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP). The Legislature invested $7,710,000 to create spaces for 800 more children for the 2017-18 school year. This funding will provide new “slots” of part-day services for 280 children, full-school day services for 480 children, and extended-day services for 40 children. In total, ECEAP will serve 12,491 children in 2017-18. 

As we outlined in a recent blog post which you can read here, ECEAP is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program that prepares 3- and 4-year-old children for success in school and in life. The Department of Early Learning oversees the program which is offered in more than 350 locations across the state. A 2014 evaluation by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found that children who participated in ECEAP as preschoolers had significantly higher math and reading test scores in the third, fourth, and fifth grades than similar children who did not participate.
  • Benton County – 164 slots
  • Clark County – 73 slots
  • King County – 135 slots
  • Pierce County – 143 slots
  • Snohomish County – 67 slots
  • Spokane County – 24 slots
  • Thurston County – 135 slots
  • Yakima County – 147 slots

The Legislature also funded 1,000 more slots for children beginning in the 2018-19 school year and recommitted to serving all eligible children whose families are interested by 2022. 
DEL’s work isn’t done once we award slots. Over the coming months, DEL will provide technical assistance to those interested in applying for ECEAP expansion in the 2018-19 school year. We’ll also continue to partner with Child Care Aware of Washington to provide training and technical assistance to licensed child care providers (centers and homes) interested in providing ECEAP in their communities. Our goal: by the year 2022 there are enough high-quality ECEAP programs to serve all eligible children. 

Want to join us in achieving that goal? Visit our ECEAP page at https://www.del.wa.gov/eceap

Friday, July 14, 2017

DEL and Thrive Complete Key Transitions in Home Visiting Work

For the past several years, more than 2,000 of the state’s most vulnerable families have received high-quality home visiting services through a partnership between the Department of Early Learning and Thrive Washington. 

Last summer, the partnership took a critical look at how we were structuring the delivery of Home Visiting services in our state. We decided that to bring Home Visiting to scale in Washington, we needed to make some changes. Because of the hard work of Thrive to get the system where it is today, we knew that it was time to make Home Visiting part of the regular portfolio of services that DEL administers. With this redefined partnership, we will ultimately expand services, increase efficiency, and elevate the visibility and importance of the home visiting field.  

In the past year, teams at both agencies have adapted and updated many elements that support our delivery system, including our webpages, our contracting mechanisms, and our data collection and reporting processes. Throughout this process, we reached out continuously to the Home Visiting field, getting feedback at each step along the way so that the changes we made we done with the input of our providers and families.  We’re extremely grateful to each and every one of the home visitors and home visiting leaders who helped guide us with their insights and feedback and, of course, their can-do attitude in helping us make this change real.  

Here are just a few examples of the improvements we’ve made with this transition: 
  • GRANTS, CONTRACTS AND REPORTS: In the biggest change to occur, DEL now oversees all grants, contracts and reporting processes. As of July 1, all home visiting contracts are now on the same cycle and every organization receiving funds has a single contract. Not only is this way more efficient on the DEL side of things, it provides more clarity and predictably for providers.
  • PAY FOR PERFORMANCE: We’ve begun testing performance payments in our contracts, exploring how this type of funding incentive can drive success in the areas of program enrollment and family engagement.
  • DATA COLLECTION: We’ve instituted common data collection to provide aligned measures across all home visiting models, giving us a clearer picture of how we’re doing on early indicators of kindergarten readiness. 
  • CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT: We’ve streamlined our reporting processes while amplifying our Continuous Quality Improvement requirements. This helps us place greater emphasis on factors that significantly impact child development, including maternal depression and intimate partner violence, family engagement, and parent/child interaction. All of these will help programs focus on key indicators of family well-being.
  • COACHING: With DEL now managing grants, contracts and reporting, Thrive will increase its coaching and training to help programs ensure high-quality services.
The official transition is complete, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us. In the coming year, we’ll be planning for the expansion of the Home Visiting system and continuing to look at effective models for performance payments. We will revisit how all of the state agencies that support home visiting can best work together and what kind of governance structure will give us the greatest coordination and efficiencies. 

With the creation of the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families we’ll be looking at better ways to partner with Child Protective Services and juvenile rehabilitation services to emphasize prevention and early intervention. 

This transition has brought us to a new and exciting place where, through our continued partnership, we are ready to begin the next, scaled-up phase of Home Visiting delivery in Washington. In this work, we will move further towards strengthening families, preventing child abuse and neglect, and achieving our goal of getting 90% of children ready for kindergarten by 2020. 

Ross Hunter                                                    Alan Cohen
Director, Department of Early Learning           President & CEO, Thrive


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Taking Steps to Understand the Child Care Market in Washington

Headlines have been running coast-to-coast about the rising cost of child care. Parents all across Washington are feeling the burden. If we are going to find solutions to this issue as a state, we need to have a clear picture of the problem.  A few big questions for DEL to explore: how much does it really cost to run a child care in this state, and what does this mean for the rates child cares are charging families?

DEL is gathering tuition rate and operating cost information from licensed providers in order to be a more effective advocate for improvements in the early childhood education market. The Cost of Quality project and Market Rate Survey are opportunities for providers to share their input about their experiences in the child care market. 

Invitation emails started going out last week to approximately 350 centers to take part in a survey that asks about the costs of operating a center and investments in quality. The survey will run through July 2017 with a report due out this fall. For in-home family child care providers, DEL plans on launching a survey next summer.

In addition, the Market Rate Survey is getting a makeover this year. Look for a trimmer simplified survey of child care rates coming this fall. We will include all licensed providers this year and will gather the same information from both centers and family homes. 

Want to learn more? Visit our research page to view past Market Rate Surveys, and keep an eye out there for future information about this work!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Legislative Session and Government Shutdown Update

Great news! The Legislature has approved the 2017–19 operating budget and will soon transmit it to Gov. Inslee for his signature. The governor will act on the budget by midnight, which will avert a shutdown of state government operations funded by the operating budget. Please continue to check the OFM website for more information as it becomes available. Watch this space next week for details on how the budget deal will impact the programs that DEL delivers. For now – enjoy the Independence Day weekend with the peace of mind that comes from knowing that programs and services for our state’s children and families are intact.


On Wednesday this week the state Legislature began its 3rd special session of the year. At the time of writing this, they have not yet come to an agreement on the operating budget, something they are constitutionally mandated to accomplish every two years.* This means that they have until midnight on June 30th to reach said agreement, or the State of Washington shuts down. By law, agencies cannot spend any state or federal funds without a legislatively approved spending plan. What does that mean for the Department of Early Learning, and all of the thousands of children we serve?

To start, we have not had a government shutdown in this state in history, and we don’t expect that we will have one this year. However, as an agency we are legally required to do certain activities to get prepared for the possibility. Families receiving subsidy for childcare and the providers who serve them have been sent notifications of the termination of their services. Agency employees are receiving layoff notices. Contractors are being told that the contracts they’ve prepared and signed with us for the new fiscal year won’t go into effect.

Even though we don’t believe the state will shut down, this prep work is a big challenge for the children, parents, and providers that DEL serves and partners with. We have nothing but the utmost compassion for and empathy with them about the immense stress these legally required activities have caused.

The following is an example of the services that would be effected in the event of a shutdown:
  •  Licensing activities for 5,600 child care programs would cease (only emergency on-call services for DLR/CPS investigations would be running).
  • Child care subsidy would be shut off for about 31,000 low-income families with about 52,500 children.
  • Work done by contractors for services like Early Achievers, Home Visiting, ECEAP, and ECLIPSE (the exception is ESIT services, which has a federal mandate to be uninterrupted).
  • All agency operations, including access to phones and email. There would be no DEL staff to contact during a shutdown.

Some of you may recall from the last budget agreement cycle in 2015 that the budget was enacted at the last possible moment, and then state agencies have to go about the business of reopening for business. It can be a frustrating process, but we are working hard to make sure that our clients experience the most minimal effects possible.

How do you find out if the shutdown has occurred, or if it has, when it is over? Visit the Office Financial Management’s website, www.ofm.wa.gov. They will be the clearinghouse for updates in the event of a shutdown.

To everyone that works tirelessly day after day to care for, support, and love the children of Washington, thank you for your work and patience as we plan through these scenarios. We’re hopeful that we will see a final budget soon and can move forward with the business of preparing our state’s littlest learners for the world ahead.

Ross Hunter

Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning

*Unlike Congress, which can pass continuing resolutions and partial funding bills to punt the responsibility down the line. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

ECEAP – Washington’s Comprehensive Preschool Program

As another school year draws to a close, we wanted to take a moment to highlight one of the key programs that DEL administers for our state’s littlest learners. We’ve posted about ECEAP often on this blog and in social media, but those of you who are new to the early learning system in Washington may be scratching you heads at this funky acronym and wondering “what does ECEAP do for children?” 

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) is Washington’s pre-kindergarten program that prepares 3- and 4-year-old children for success in school and in life. Children ages 3 and 4 are eligible for ECEAP if their family income is at or below 110 percent of the federal poverty level or if they are experiencing specific risk factors. For a family of 4, that’s $26.730 a year or less. 

Since 1985, ECEAP has focused on the well-being of the whole child by providing comprehensive nutrition, health, education and family support services to Washington’s most at-risk young children. ECEAP currently serves more than 11,500 children in 351 locations in Washington State. 

ECEAP and Academic Benefits 

  • A 2014 evaluation by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) found that children who participated in ECEAP had significantly higher math and reading test scores in the third, fourth, and fifth grades than similar children who did not participate. 
  • Children who participated in the 2015-16 school year showed significant progress in social-emotional, physical, language, and cognitive development and early literacy and math skills. 

ECEAP – Beyond the Classroom 

ECEAP text boxECEAP’s comprehensive approach goes far beyond the children’s classroom. Parents receive support through the program as well. ECEAP “truly helps future kindergarteners and parents” says Maria, an ECEAP parent. Parents have opportunities to develop leadership skills and work towards their personal goals with the help of program staff. ECEAP staff also assist families with the transition to Kindergarten. 

Nicole, whose son attends the Kennewick School District ECEAP program, describes his tremendous progress since attending ECEAP. “The school and teachers worked hard to accommodate our family’s specific needs,” she explains. Another parent adds that “ECEAP made it possible for our daughter to catch up to the level she should be at.” 

Enrolling in ECEAP

Enrollment for ECEAP services happens at the local level. Each ECEAP program is unique and tailored to the community needs. Interested families are encouraged to contact an ECEAP program to learn more and apply for admission. 

Learn More

Visit the ECEAP webpage to learn more about the program at https://www.del.wa.gov/eceap. For general questions contact ECEAP@del.wa.gov or call 360-407-3650.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Creating a Digital Child Care Attendance System

“Teacher: [taking attendance] Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?"
"Student: Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.”
                   – Scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Taking attendance has always been problematic for teachers. Now, the federal government is requiring us to improve our attendance records for child care subsidies. Since they provide the bulk of the funds we use to pay for the subsidies we have to take this seriously.

We’re taking the opportunity to modernize this process in order to make providing child care easier for providers, easier on program administrators, less expensive to tax payers, more accurate and take less time for everyone involved.  

We know that child care providers don’t go into business dreaming about taking attendance and administrative red tape. Storing paper attendance records, submitting requested records via fax, reconciling attendance and subsidy billing; these are all headaches that take time to untangle. For providers, this is time that could be better spent engaging with children, taking advantage of education opportunities, or doing the thousand other things they need to run a successful business. 

There are a lot of important questions we’re considering as we go through this project: will the data collected from the system be secure (absolutely); will the attendance system we’re purchasing be available in languages other than English (we’re working on that); will providers have to pay for the system (the software will be free); and many more. The team working on it has put answers to many of these questions on a new webpage, found here

We’re not replacing the painful billing system yet, but collecting attendance electronically is necessary before we can do that. Replacing billing is high on our priority list for improving the system.

We don’t yet have a set date when all providers accepting subsidy have to begin using the new digital attendance system, but we’ll have more information about implementation dates by August of this year. Keep an eye on the project webpage (https://www.del.wa.gov/Attendance-Project) for timing and ways that you can be involved in the project. 

Ross Hunter
Director, Washington State Department of Early Learning