Monday, June 18, 2018

ELAC members gather for last meeting under DEL

Members of the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) gathered for their final meeting under the Department of Early Learning (DEL) earlier this month. The council discussed topics ranging from the new early learning facilities grant program to the July 1 transition to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).

One of the meeting’s highlights was a discussion on the early learning facilities grant program. The program, administered by the Department of Commerce, will provide nearly $15 million in grants and loans for early learning facilities. These grants will reimburse child care providers for up to 75 percent of the total cost of capital projects. Grants can range from $10,000 to $800,000. Eligible providers include those who serve or intend to serve children through the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) or Working Connections Child Care.

The meeting also touched on aspects of the DCYF transition. Members received an update on the new department’s outcome goals and measures, which will serve as the basis for the work of the new department. The goals will focus on the education, health and resilience of children, youth and families in Washington state. ELAC members encouraged the Office of Innovation, Alignment and Accountability to focus on prevention and strength-based resilience measures as they move forward.

Council members also began the task of streamlining the stakeholder advisory process. Both DEL and Children’s Administration, which is also joining DCYF on July 1, meet regularly with groups of stakeholders such as ELAC to get recommendations on policies and programs. Under DCYF, stakeholder groups will be combined, eliminated and added as necessary to establish a more effective advisory system.

“July 1 is just the start date,” said DEL Assistant Director Frank Ordway. “It’s really the beginning of the next chapter of work.”     

Also on the agenda were updates on the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) and the standards alignment process. ELAC members wished a fond farewell to departing member Peter Finch, assistant superintendent at the West Valley School District, who has been an active member on the council for two years.

“I really appreciate the lens you bring, Peter, to this table. Your passion and your energy are very evident when you talk about young children in early learning,” said ELAC Regional Advisor Enrica Hampton. “We’re going to miss you tremendously.”

Although he is leaving the group, Finch said he hopes to attend future meetings as a member of the public.

The next ELAC meeting will be held August 14 in Spokane. For updates on ELAC’s activities, visit

Thursday, June 14, 2018

LCAS elects co-chairs at May meeting

The members of the Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee (LCAS) met for their second meeting May 15 in SeaTac. Members elected co-chairs, discussed their priorities for their coming meetings, and heard about the new Early Learning Facilities Fund.

One of the priorities of the meeting was the election of two co-chairs to lead the LCAS. The committee selected two co-chairs from five candidates. Brian Trimble, a child care center director and owner with a background in public schools, and Julie Schroath, a current child care center director and former licensed family home provider, were elected to the positions.

“What I bring to this co-chair position is the commitment to stay engaged and involved in advocacy for issues relevant to early learning centers,” Schroath said. “The staff at Creative Kids Learning Center support my shift in focus to issues larger than our center, because they understand that decisions being made for us, rather than with us, may be well-intended but are not always beneficial for children, families and the employees in the field. Their support is what makes my involvement possible.”

Trimble said he hopes to serve as a liaison between child care centers and the Department of Early Learning (DEL).

“I have a lot of different hats that I wear when it comes to this and I believe in approaching this with a solutions-based philosophy versus identifying problems,” he said. “I also want to be able to listen and take in what people have to say…We should approach it constructively and collaboratively.”

Both Trimble and Schroath are optimistic about the subcommittee’s partnership with DEL and their advocacy for child care centers around the state.

“This is another perfect example of excellent strides toward that partnership approach,” Trimble said. “This is tangible evidence that we’re making a lot of improvements and it’s through the efforts of people being more involved.”

Schroath emphasized the importance of policymakers and bureaucrats listening to those who are in the field.

“The creation of the Licensed Center Advisory Subcommittee provides the opportunity for various agencies and legislators to communicate directly with early learning educators who are providing services to the majority of children and families in Washington,” Schroath said. “As ideas and policy changes are being discussed, including those working directly in the field in these conversations will provide a necessary perspective, leading to more informed policy decisions.”

Trimble and Schroath will help execute the committee’s work plan and support its goals and purpose in coming meetings. During the meeting, the subcommittee reviewed their purpose statement, community agreements and draft work plan. The members noted several priorities for their next few meetings, including professional development, policy and rules development, and the new electronic attendance system requirements.

Schroath presented on her experience serving on the Equivalency Committee. She and other members spoke of the frustration many child care workers are feeling about the new professional development requirements and the strain those requirements will put on centers. Some members expressed a desire for an educated staff, but also wanted alternative options such as work equivalencies to keep qualified employees working. One member suggested that higher subsidy rates could help fund better-educated child care workers.

Subcommittee members also received an update on the Early Learning Facilities Fund project, which is providing nearly $11 million for competitive grants and loans for child care providers. Providers can request anywhere from $10,000 to $800,000 for capital projects, including real estate purchases and building construction. Members asked for clarification on which child care providers are eligible for the funding. The grants are issued for reimbursement only, a requirement the legislature places on capital grants, which some members felt would provide a big hurdle for many providers. The presenters took note of the questions asked and will address them at the upcoming LCAS and Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) meetings.

The next LCAS meeting is on August 13 in Spokane. The subcommittee is still recruiting members from several regions around the state. For more information, contact

Correction: A previous version of this blog post stated that Julie Schroath served in the negotiated rulemaking team. She actually served on the Equivalency Committee. While she attended several negotiated rulemaking sessions, she did so as a member of the public, not as someone serving on the team.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

DEL seeking comments on proposed aligned licensing rules

DEL is soliciting comments on its proposed aligned licensing rules. The purpose of the proposed rules is to:
  • align foundational standards of care for early learning programs administered by family home and center child care providers while accommodating unique differences between their environments;
  • better equip early learning providers with the necessary skills and knowledge to administer programs that fully protect the health and safety of children in their care while delivering the best possible care;
  • address critical health and safety needs of children enrolled in early learning programs;
  • promote cultural diversity; and
  • meet federal requirements.

The proposed rules and small business economic impact statement are available at

DEL will accept comments through June 27. Comments may be made online at, by email to, or in person at one of these hearings:

June 26
6:00 – 7:30
Everett Library Auditorium
2702 Hoyt Avenue, Everett
June 26
7:00 – 8:00
Chehalis Library Meeting Room
400 N Market Blvd., Chehalis
June 27
5:00 – 7:30
Yakima Room, Greenough Conference Center
33 S. 2nd Ave., Yakima

This is the first of three rule making phases under which DEL will adopt the rules negotiated by family home, center, and Head Start/ECEAP providers, families, and DEL Licensors. The three phases are:
  1. Proposed new sections in chapter 170-300 WAC and amended WAC 170-300-0005 Definitions filed in May 2019 with a planned adoption at the end of the comment period. Final rules will be filed with a delayed effective date of Summer 2019;
  2. Proposed amendments to current WACs 170-300-0148 Gardens in outdoor early learning program space, 170-300-0235 Safe water sources, 170-300-0291 Infant and toddler safe sleep practices, 170-300-0400 Application materials, 170-300-0410 License and program location, and 170-300-0465 Retaining facility and program records expected to be filed in February 2019 with a planned effective date of Summer 2019 to coincide with the new rules adopted in Phase 1; and
  3. In 2020, amend chapter 170-300 WAC to insert weights after a weight validated study is conducted.

Monday, May 14, 2018

DEL and the Dept. of Commerce Partner to Support Early Learning Facility Development

In 2018 the legislature invested in the Early Learning Facilities Fund to help providers “expand, remodel, purchase, or construct early learning facilities and classrooms necessary to support state-funded early learning opportunities for low-income children.” The Departments of Early Learning and Commerce are charged with developing the criteria for funding projects through this fund.

Many of you have been waiting anxiously for news about this program, and we are pleased to be able to share with you initial information about eligibility and funding opportunities. Capital grants will be available to eligible organizations including ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care providers, as well as licensed early learning centers not currently participating in ECEAP, but who intend to do so. Grants will cover facility pre-design, renovations, and major construction or facility purchase.

To learn more, visit This page will be your go-to resource for funding applications, technical assistance, and program guidelines. You can also sign up there to receive email updates when new information is available.

We look forward to the exciting projects this new resource will help fund!

Friday, May 11, 2018

May 11, 2018 is Provider Appreciation Day!

Friday, May 11 is Provider Appreciation Day! Today, DEL recognizes the invaluable role that child care providers and early learning professionals play for our children.

Started in 1996 by a group of volunteers in New Jersey, Provider Appreciation Day is appropriately celebrated each year on the Friday before Mother’s Day. The founding organizers saw the need to recognize the tireless efforts of providers who care for children of working parents.

Parents are children’s first and most important teachers but regular caregivers, child care providers and early learning teachers are a close second. It takes a dedicated, energetic and giving person to guide, play, redirect, comfort and teach our littlest learners…not to mention, the immune system of a super hero!  

Thank you for your commitment, your love for the children in your care, and for the positive impact you have on our children.

Click here to learn more about Provider Appreciation Day. Share your stories of great child care providers with us on Facebook or on Twitter @DEL_wa! #ProviderAppreciationDay

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Parent Advisory Group gathers for April meeting

At the most recent Parent Advisory Group (PAG), the Department of Early Learning (DEL) sought input from its parent advisers about budget priorities and long-term early learning goals. The meeting was held April 4 at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tukwila following the meeting of the Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) on April 3.

The day began with a discussion with Chris Stanley, DEL budget director. Stanley provided PAG members with an introduction to the budget process and sought input on DEL’s budget priorities. Parents praised DEL’s home visiting programs, Head Start and ECEAP programs, and parent engagement initiatives. They said they would like to see more funding to support behavioral health and provider training, for extended ECEAP services such as full-year, full-day, and extended-day services, and for subsidy rate increases, especially for infant and toddler care.

At lunch, Vickie Ybarra, director of the Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability at the new Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), discussed the early learning goals of the new department. DCYF will focus on three areas of child outcomes: education, health, and resilience. Ybarra sought ideas on specific goals and the measurement of those goals. PAG members emphasized the need to focus on reducing trauma and measuring family stability. Ybarra said she would return to the group at a future date to continue the conversation about DCYF’s goals and measurements.

PAG members also discussed the ELAC meeting the day before and heard from one member on her experience with the negotiated rulemaking process. The parents also participated in a focus group as part of DEL’s ongoing Parent Needs Assessment.

PAG members participated in a team-building exercise and closing questions before ending their day. They will reconvene for their next meeting this summer.
The next meeting may include some new faces: PAG is currently recruiting new members from across the state.

“This is such an opportunity for parents to engage,” said longtime PAG member Natasha Fecteau, who is also a member of ELAC.

For more information on the open PAG positions, visit the DEL website at:

The Parent Advisory Group serves as a sounding board for decisions, ideas and questions that shape the future of early learning in Washington. PAG is made up of parents and family caregivers of children in communities across Washington state. To find out more about PAG, visit

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

DEL explores outdoor preschool through pilot project

The Department of Early Learning (DEL) has begun exploring the possibility of licensing outdoor, nature-based preschool programs. Through a pilot project with more than a dozen of the state’s outdoor preschools, DEL seeks to collect and analyze data about child safety in outdoor settings.

Currently, there are more than 40 outdoor preschools operating in the state. Because these preschools are part-day programs, they are not subject to child care licensing regulations, but many of these programs seek to create full-day programs. DEL’s outdoor preschool pilot was established by the Washington State Legislature in spring of 2017 to investigate how outdoor preschools currently operate and how to adapt licensing rules to allow for the operation of full-day outdoor programs.

“For me the motivation is really about ensuring the health and safety of children and helping to promote the model as a whole and gain credibility for the field,” said Kit Harrington, pilot participant and director of the Fiddleheads Forest School at the University of Washington in Seattle. “I hope that it provides the opportunity for more families to access outdoor preschool programming.”

The pilot project began in July 2017 with the recruitment of 16 programs to be pilot participants who will advise DEL on the creation of licensing rules especially for outdoor programs. Participants will test out full-day services and aid in the ongoing collection and analysis of data. In the fourth year of the pilot, beginning July 2020, DEL will conduct its final data collection and analysis and submit pilot recommendations to the legislature.

The participants met for their first in-person meeting of 2018 on March 12. At the meeting, pilot participants learned the basic procedures for becoming licensed, including signing up for MERIT, Washington’s professional development registry, and beginning the portable background check process for the programs’ staff members. DEL staff and pilot participants also discussed some of the licensing challenges associated with outdoor preschools, including appropriate staff-to-child ratios and the assessment and use of outdoor spaces.

The pilot participants represent an array of outdoor-based learning environments. Some participants have indoor classrooms but emphasize outdoor time. Others are fully immersed in forests or other outdoor environments without any indoor space. Regardless of the environment, though, outdoor preschools feel they offer unique experiences to early learners.

“We let what’s going on around us shape our curriculum. That’s what nature-based means to us,” said pilot participant Caroline Cook, the early childhood education coordinator at the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center in Bellevue. “One of the most important things I hope kids get out of their time here is a strong connection to and love for nature that will stay with them throughout their lives.”

The outdoor environment allows children to engage in learning in hands-on ways, many participants agree.

“They get to have learning in context, so they’re learning not only what dirt feels like but also what it feels like when it’s wet or slippery,” said Sarah Salazar-Tipton, a pilot participant from Olympic Nature Experience in Sequim. “There are so many layers of learning.”

For some pilot participants, the benefits of participation extend beyond informing the creation of licensing standards.

“Our greatest goal is just to increase that network of support for nature preschools everywhere and to make sure nature preschool is something all children can access,” Harrington said. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to live and learn in an outdoor classroom.”

The pilot participants will continue to meet regularly with DEL staff in-person and over the phone throughout the four years of the project.

“I hope that everybody who is participating is excited with the outcome and that we feel like we’ve created opportunities for schools and programs to get involved,” Salazar-Tipton said. “It’s been great working with the Department of Early Learning. They’ve been very responsive and collaborative.”

For more information about the outdoor preschool pilot project or to read the 2018 legislative report on the pilot, visit