Monday, October 30, 2017

8 Stay-Safe Tips for Trick-or-Treating with Young Kids

Halloween is a night full of treats, tricks, and lots of fun for those who participate – as long as you play it safe. Dimly lit streets and costume mishaps can turn a delightful night into a potentially dangerous situation. Here are some important steps that parents and caregivers can take to protect their little pirates and princesses on All Hallows’ Eve.

Wear reflective clothing or bright costumes.
Even if you plan on heading out before dark, overcast autumn skies can make it difficult for drivers to see you on the sidewalks. Choose brightly colored costumes or attach reflective strips or accessories to you and your child. Bring along a flashlight in case you’re out later than expected.

Use non-toxic makeup and remove it before bed.
Make sure the makeup you choose is non-toxic and kid-friendly. If you’re planning on covering your child’s face, test it out on your child’s skin a day or two beforehand. Watch out for any redness or itchiness, because this may be a sign of an allergy. Make sure to remove all makeup before bed to prevent skin irritation.

Choose safe costumes and props.
Go for fire-resistant wigs and comfortable shoes. Tie shoelaces tightly to avoid tripping, and skip full-face masks – these can block your child’s vision and interfere with breathing. When choosing props, opt for flexible swords, wands, and other accessories.

Plan a safe route.
Choose a route in advance that has lots of lighting and sidewalks or wide shoulders. This way you’ll be able to be aware of your surroundings and away from busy traffic.

Always accompany young children.
Do not let your young children trick-or-treat on their own. Plan on walking with them or sending them out with another trusted adult. If you have older kids who are going out unsupervised, make sure you know their route and discuss safety in advance.

Practice street safety.
Remind young kids to hold your hand before crossing the street and use crosswalks when they are available. Keep your eyes on the road and not on your phone. If you plan on snapping shots of your kids in costume, stay alert and do so in a safe place away from the street.

Avoid unwrapped treats.
Before letting your kids dig in, check candy packaging to make sure it’s secure. Toss any candy without wrappers or with torn packaging.

Limit candy consumption.
With a bucket full of candy, it’s easy for kids to overdo it. Limit your child’s consumption to avoid an upset stomach later.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

ECEAP report highlights program’s successes

The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, more commonly known as ECEAP, is helping thousands of Washington children from low-income families prepare for kindergarten. The annual ECEAP outcomes report for the 2016-2017 school year reveals that the program is successfully guiding the majority of enrolled 3- and 4-year-olds to kindergarten readiness in all developmental domains.

“ECEAP continues to be one of the most important strategies for getting low income and at-risk children ready for kindergarten,” said Heather Moss, director of the Department of Early Learning, for the report. “The results are clear – this is a proven, effective program that is improving the trajectory of children’s lives across our state.”

At the end of two years of ECEAP, 67 percent of 4-year-olds are ready for kindergarten in all six developmental domains measured; 89 percent are ready in at least five of the six domains. Even after a single year of ECEAP, 82 percent of 4-year-olds are ready for kindergarten in at least five domains. Students are assessed three times a year in social-emotional, physical, language, cognitive, literacy and mathematics development using the Teaching Strategies GOLD® assessment.

Compared to other kindergartners from low-income families, ECEAP graduates have higher rates of readiness, even though ECEAP children come from families in greater poverty, on average.

Many parents have praised ECEAP for the difference it has made for their children.

“My daughter had the benefit of attending ECEAP at age 3 and 4,” said one parent, as quoted in the report. “She has developed all the skills that her brothers did not until at least half way through kindergarten or even in first grade. I believe that this program has had a massive lifelong positive impact on children’s lives.”

In addition to preparing Washington children for kindergarten, the ECEAP program also seeks to improve kids’ health outcomes and strengthen their families. Upon enrollment, 4 percent of ECEAP children lacked medical coverage and 16 percent lacked dental coverage. At the time of graduation, all children had medical coverage and only 2 percent lacked dental coverage. The vast majority of children who were behind on well-child exams and dental care also caught up by the time they exited the ECEAP program. Many ECEAP families set goals in areas such as developing parenting skills or increasing financial security. Families made progress on these goals through ECEAP’s Mobility Mentoring program.

“ECEAP has provided critical support to our family this year,” said one ECEAP parent quoted in the report. “It has greatly reduced the financial stress on our family, allowing us to meet medical needs and to maximize our work opportunities. Our family is functioning better overall thanks to ECEAP.”

During the 2016-2017 school year, ECEAP served 11,691 children in 352 locations across Washington state. A total of 80 percent of those students were at or below the federal poverty level. Most ECEAP children identify as Children of Color: 35 percent are Hispanic of any race, 12 percent are Black, and 4 percent are American Indian/Alaska Native.

The state of Washington plans to expand ECEAP to serve every eligible child – more than 19,000 kids – by the 2022-2023 school year. The written Expansion Plan will be available in late fall 2017. You can read the full 2016-2017 ECEAP Outcomes Report on the Department of Early Learning website.

Monday, October 23, 2017

ELAC's October meeting touches on DCYF, other topics

The Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) had a full agenda at its daylong October 3 meeting in SeaTac. The full room included ELAC’s newest members, state legislators, and visiting parents from the Department of Early Learning’s Parent Advisory Group.

One of the big questions on the table is how advisory councils like ELAC will evolve or change as DEL becomes the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). Councilmembers provided feedback on the transition and what they envision for the future of early learning in Washington state. Many members stressed the importance of keeping early learning a focus of the new agency, while at the same time putting DEL’s collaborative culture to work for even more Washington families.

For DEL and for many ELAC members, the transition to DCYF represents an opportunity to build even more relationships with Washington communities.

“I think the legislature recognized that in order to have a system that truly supports children, youth, and families that the new department needs to be both informed by, directly partner with, and be held accountable by communities in the state, and in particular communities that have the greatest needs,” said Frank Ordway, DEL’s assistant director of communications and government relations. “It’s just an unbelievable opportunity to reset the relationship between the state government and communities within the state.”

In the coming months, DEL will continue to seek the input of advisory groups as it transitions into DCYF, both during meetings and through other stakeholder outreach in the near future.

Other highlights of the October ELAC meeting included:
  • An update from the negotiated rulemaking team. This group of parents and providers is reviewing licensing regulations in an attempt to clarify, simplify, and remove redundancies in child care rules.
  • A discussion on the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) program and how to maintain continuous, uninterrupted services during the transition into DCYF. ELAC members stressed the importance of placing families’ needs front and center as part of the WCCC program moving forward.
  • An initial discussion on ELAC members’ priorities for 2018.
  • A panel of members of the Parent Advisory Group (PAG). Nine of the 18 parents in PAG attended the ELAC meeting and shared their views on choosing child care and on various types of childcare. They also answered questions from ELAC members.

One of those PAG members, Teneille Carpenter, was recently appointed to ELAC. She and her husband have been foster parents for 16 years, and 7 of their 9 children were adopted from Washington’s foster care system.

“Many of my children have come from trauma and have required special services,” Carpenter said. “In finding the services for my children, we have a lot of learning and growing to do as a family. It’s not intuitive and it’s not something we were prepared for from the beginning.”

Becoming a part of PAG nearly three years ago helped her give a voice to families like hers, she said. Now, as a part of ELAC, she can bring her perspective to a different group of influencers.

“What I love about ELAC is that they value the input of parents,” she said. “It’s a specific strength of ELAC and the Department of Early Learning in general, they just create an environment where you feel empowered to use your voice to change things but also to help inform people.”

Carpenter also hopes to bring her perspective as a parent in rural Grays Harbor County, where many families struggle to access care.

Carpenter is one of many new ELAC members. Carlina Brown-Banks was appointed to the committee by the Washington State Commission of African American Affairs. As the family engagement manager at the Road Map Project and a mother of 7 kids, she recognizes the importance of engaging children and families as early as possible.

“Early learning is the basis of the outcomes of families,” Brown-Banks said. “If we can get a strong early learning foundation for families…it will build better opportunities for children over the long haul.”

Brown-Banks, who has been recognized by the White House as a Champion for Change, also stressed the need for more diverse voices in discussions on how to support children and families.

Another new ELAC member is Susan Anderson-Newham, the early learning supervising librarian for the Pierce County Library System. As the Washington Library Association representative to ELAC, Anderson-Newham hopes to share with others what the state’s libraries can do for providers. It’s easy to forget all the free resources that libraries can provide – everything from trainings to pre-school story time, she noted.

Sharing resources, ideas, and perspectives can ultimately help Washington’s children, she said.

“If we could all start swimming in the same direction then we could create real movement in the water,” she said. “That’s sort of what we’re looking for is to try to sort of align, partner better, not recreate the wheel, share resources, share ideas.”

Also in attendance at the October 3 meeting were two of ELAC’s legislative council members, Senator Mark Miloscia of the 30th legislative district, and Representative Tana Senn of the 41st legislative district.

The next meeting of the Early Learning Advisory Council will take place on December 5. During this meeting, members will have additional opportunities to discuss their priorities for 2018 and the DCYF transition. More details about this meeting will be available in the coming weeks.

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