Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New ELAC subcommittee focuses on licensed centers

A new subcommittee will advise the Department of Early Learning (DEL) on issues specific to licensed child care centers in Washington state. This Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee (LCAS), a subcommittee of the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC), will address matters ranging from regulation improvement to staffing challenges, as well as region-specific concerns.

“We decided to support you in a different way by forming this subcommittee primarily out of the recognition that centers deliver the vast majority of our quality early learning service, in particular in service of families that are on the Working Connections Child Care system,” said DEL Assistant Director Frank Ordway at the subcommittee’s first meeting. The meeting was held online in November.

“It’s very exciting to finally see this coming together,” Ordway said.

ELAC has been discussing the formation of this subcommittee for at least two years as a way to give licensed centers more input into proposed policies that affect them, according to Lois Martin, a member of both ELAC and LCAS. This will be particularly important as DEL transitions to the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

“We want to make sure that all of our voices are still solicited, as well as heard, as we make this transition,” said Martin, who is the director of the Community Day Center for Children in Seattle. “We want to ensure that no one in any of these subgroups (at DCYF) is left behind.”

The new subcommittee will partner with DEL to have conversations about ongoing regulation improvement, rates and rate structures, staffing and professional development, and specific regional challenges, among other topics.

“Overall availability of [licensed centers] in your communities is critical to community health and to economic opportunity for families and so we need more of you,” Ordway told the committee. In particular, he stressed the importance of supporting an environment that is friendly to child care businesses so more providers stay in the market and new providers join.

“We need advice from [licensed centers] on how to do that better,” Ordway said.

For licensed centers, the new subcommittee will give them the opportunity for regular, focused conversations with DEL staff and leadership.

“I represent a lot of centers as well as my own in the Eastern Washington region and also statewide,” said Luc Jasmin, LCAS member and owner and director of Parkview Early Learning Center in Spokane. “It’s a way to really be able to bring thoughts, comments, and concerns to DEL and have that voice.”

Jasmin, who is also president and founder of the Washington Childcare Centers Association, pushed for the formation of the subcommittee to improve communication between licensed centers and DEL.

“My specific goals are to really be able to effectively communicate with the department and also with our membership base in a way that bridges that communication gap so that we’re streamlined and we’re on the same page,” he said.

At the first meeting of the Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee, members also discussed some of the DEL’s requests for the upcoming 2018 legislative session. Among the DEL’s priorities are to ask for investments in infant and toddler resources and in support for licensed care around the state.

The subcommittee currently has 26 members and 10 unfilled seats. The DEL seeks to find members from underrepresented regions of the state, including north central, southwest, southeast, and Olympic-Kitsap Peninsulas.

The first in-person meeting for the Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee will take place February 20. If you are interested in becoming a member of the subcommittee, contact slc@del.wa.gov

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

DEL begins drafting Child Care Development Fund Plan

Beginning January 2018, DEL began coordinating drafting of the state’s Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) Plan with the goal of submitting a Plan by July 1, 2018. So what does all that mean for Washington families and child care providers?

CCDF is a federal and state partnership program administered by states, territories, and Tribal Nations. They use CCDF grant funds to provide access to child care for low-income families so they can work or attend job training or educational programs. They also invest CCDF funds to build the skills and qualifications of providers, support child care programs to achieve higher standards, and provide consumer education to help families select child care that meets their needs. Working Connections Child Care is one example of a CCDF-funded program administered by DEL, but the grant also funds other DEL activities, including licensing, Early Achievers, and provider professional development.

Under federal law, Washington is required to submit a CCDF Plan every three years in order to continue receiving the CCDF grant. The Plan serves as the application for CCDF funds and describes the state’s child care program and all services available to eligible families. The Plan is developed in collaboration with numerous partners, stakeholders, and tribal governments to ensure that the state’s CCDF program period addresses the needs of families, providers and communities. Once approved by the federal Administration for Children and Families (ACF), it allows the state to continue receiving the CCDF grant.

Washington’s current CCDF Plan is set to expire in 2018, so a new plan must be submitted to ACF by July 1, 2018 and to be completely finalized by October 1. On December 8, 2017, ACF released a draft preprinted (Preprint) form to collect all of the required Plan information (see here). With the release of the Preprint, the path is now clear for DEL to begin coordinating plan drafting. Here is how the drafting process will work and how you can participate:
  • Starting in January 2018, DEL will convene an Executive Steering Committee (ESC) composed of representatives of early learning focused organizations, community partners, and government agencies.
  • The ESC will review initial Plan drafts, feedback from partners, stakeholders, and tribal governments, and from the general public, and approve a plan for submission by July 1.
  • In between, DEL will provide the Plan Preprint and Plan drafts to the Early Learning Advisory Committee (ELAC) and Indian Policy Early Learning (IPEL) group for their feedback, starting in February and concluding in April.
  • In May and June, DEL will convene one or more public meetings to receive further community Plan input.
  • Then in June, DEL will convene a public hearing, as required by federal law, to receive formal community input on the draft Plan. DEL will then submit the plan to ACF on July 1.
If it all sounds a bit confusing, take heart. DEL maintains a page on its site here where you will find important updates on the status of the Plan as it develops, as well as information on opportunities to give your feedback, and general information on CCDF. Stay tuned!