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