Thursday, August 6, 2015

DEL Hosts Early Start Act Q&A Panel at Starting Strong

This past week's Starting Strong Institute conference welcomed early learning professionals from across the state and featured many valuable break-out sessions, including the one featured in Tuesday's blog post with WA early learning partners. 

DEL hosts Early Start Act Q&A panel at Starting Strong
During Tuesday's lunch, between break-out sessions, the Department of Early Learning (DEL) hosted a panel dedicated to the passing of the Early Start Act. The panel was dedicated to answering questions regarding the Early Start Act's mandates and to highlighting the level of support the public will receive while adjusting to the new law.

Lawmakers, education advocates, state communities and families have provided ongoing support to the Early Start Act that integrates the latest research findings on how children learn into the everyday lives of Washington’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers. 

The panel was comprised of:

  • Dr. Bette Hyde, Director of DEL 
  • Rayanna Williams, Budget Assistant -- Office of Financial Management
  • Luba Bezborodnikova, DEL’s Assistant Director for the Early Start Act
  • Rachael Brown-Kendall, DEL’s Quality Rating and Improvement System Administrator 
  • Nicole Rose, DEL’s PreK-3/ECEAP Administrator
  • Matt Judge, DEL’s Subisdy Policy Supervisor
  • Mary Kay Quinlan, DEL’s Statewide Licensing Administrator
  • The panel was moderated by Justin Montermini, DEL’s Government and Community Relations Manager.

    Click here to see the presentation that accompanied the panel: Early Start Act Panel Presentation.

    The following are the first four questions that were posed to the panel during Starting Strong. For a full listing of Q&As, visit the Early Start Act pages on DEL's website. In the near future, more questions and answers will be uploaded to those pages.

    1. How does the Early Start Act's "call for quality" engage childcare providers to participate in Early Achievers?
    Answer by Racheal Brown-Kendall: Early Achievers is not a set program, instead it is a framework to help  early learning professionals strive to provide higher quality care and education that aligns with their own program values.  This means that the provider is in the driver seat and they can choose how to demonstrate quality.  And while they are in the driver’s seat, they are not alone on the journey.  By design, Early Achievers has built in supports.  And the Early Start Act sustains critical resources for Early Achievers that target this flexibility and the supports to help programs implement continuous quality improvements.  Here are three critical resources included in the Early Start, that I believe reflect provider choice:
    --pre-rating supports—needs based grants –and a Statewide substitute pool.
    • Pre-rating supports includes customized onsite technical assistance—tailored to meet each provider’s needs; baseline assessments in the Environment Rating Scales and Classroom Assessment Scoring System; and targeted rating readiness coaching based on the results of the baseline assessments 
    • We have been able to offer needs based grants in the past but with the Early Start Act we will be able to offer more needs based grants than ever before. And with these grants, early learning professionals have the opportunity to select the materials and resources that will improve their specific program’s quality 
    • The development of a Statewide Substitute Pool will help early learning professionals continue to operate a high quality program even when staff are out sick or in order to engage in professional development.
    2. Does the Early Start Act provide resources and supports for P-3 alignment, especially P-3 activities for home-based providers?
    Answer by Nicole Rose: The Early Start Act formally recognizes that the Working Connections Child Care programs policies shall focus on supporting school readiness for young learners, as well as promoting stability and quality of care for children from low-income households.

    The Early Start Act requires:
    • All ECEAP contractors/providers to maintain a high level of quality (Level 4 or 5) when providing services to some of our youngest and most vulnerable children based on the following timelines: 
      • Existing ECEAP providers – March 1, 2016 
      • New ECEAP providers – within 12 months of enrolling in EA (with the exception of licensed or certified centers or homes) 
      • Licensed or certified centers or homes – within 18 months of enrolling in EA. 
    Having one common definition of quality across all early care and education setting supports P-3 alignment and sets the stage for increased school readiness. 
    • DEL to prioritize ECEAP located in low-income neighborhoods within high-need geographical areas. This strategy pairs a high-quality preschool experience with a state-funded full-day kindergarten experience, which should lead to greater long-term child outcomes. 
      • DEL must prioritize organizations offering Extended Day, those offering services to children diagnosed with special needs and those involved in the child welfare system. 
    • DEL to create a pathway for licensed centers and homes by December of 2015 
    • DEL to assess the need for Full Day programming and report to the Legislature annually
    • Contracted slots: 
      • Located in a low-income neighborhood 
      • Consist of at least fifty percent of children receiving subsidy, 
      • Until August 2017 DEL shall assure an even distribution for children birth to age 5
      • Awarded in a competitive process.
    3. One of the biggest wins of the Early Start Act is the authorization of the 12 months eligibility. How is DEL planning to approach this amazing change in our childcare policy and practice?
    Answer by Matt Judge: The Early Start Act mandates alignment with Child Care Development Block Grant Act Reauthorization. This initiative:
    • Focuses on Continuity of Care: Data tells us children do better when they stay with the same quality provider/program on a continuous basis (current state is a family may be kicked off child care subsidy during their twelve month eligibility period for losing employment or bringing in too much income)
     Reauthorization requires states to either:
    • Never terminate WCCC subsidy payments prior to 12 months for loss of work or going over income; OR 
    • Only terminate subsidy payments prior to 12 months if family loses work. Even then, the state must give the family 3 months continued eligibility until they find work. 
    This part of the Early Start Act embraces a strong commitment to continuity of care.
    • This provision of ESA is effective July 1, 2016. 
    • DEL will partner with the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) (DEL is the policy lead, DSHS implements)
    • DEL maintained consistent communication with DSHS during legislative session when ESA was being considered - the WCCC Reframe Work Group was created with DEL and DSHS.
    The possible impacts of subsidy with the Early Start Act: Wait List
    • WCCC subsidy is a capped program: 33,000 households per month 
    • Once the cap is reached, a Wait List goes into effect 
    • 12 month eligibility will result in caseload increases beyond the 33,000 household cap because families that would have exited WCCC stay on, while families continue to enter the program at the same rate as before. 
    Part of the work of the WCCC Reframe Work Group was determining how to ensure services to our most vulnerable families by exempting them from the Wait List. DEL and DSHS will continue to work together to ensure an efficient, customer friendly implementation of the Wait List. DEL is committed to serving families and will continue seeking ways to avoid the Wait List.

    4. How does the Early Start Act consider the WA state early learning mixed delivery system with a variety of different standards and regulations?
    Answer by Mary Kay Quinlan: DEL Licensing Division licenses three types of child care facilities:
    • Family Home Child Care licensed for 6 to 12 children ages birth through 12 yrs of age; 
    • Child Care Centers licensed for 13 children and up ages one month through 12 years of age;
    • and School Age Programs ages 5 yrs through 12 yrs and attending school. 
     We work with many diverse providers of service that range from private proprietors, individual ownership, corporate, non-profit, all with varying educational philosophies. Our licensed facilities provide healthy and safe care for the diverse populations of the state with an awareness of meeting the cultural needs of the community.

    We are moving forward with the exciting work of aligning licensing basic health and safety requirements with ECEAP standards within the framework of Early Achievers standards. Licensing has always encouraged awareness of best practice and ways of implementing best practice while of course meeting basic licensing requirements. With the alignment of standards and with the Early Achievers framework we will have a more formal support system in place to reach high quality early learning and care programs for the children of the State of WA.

    As DEL moves forward with the Early Start Act implementation plan, they strategically focusing on cultural relevancy and federal, state and local collaborations in delivery of early learning services. 

    For a full listing of Q&As, visit the Early Start Act pages on DEL's website. In the near future, more questions and answers will be uploaded to those pages. If you have questions about Early Start Act support or requirements, email

    The Early Start Act is about opportunity for children to arrive at school ready to learn; for families to break the cycle of poverty; and for the state communities to reap the rewards the return on investment we know come from high-quality early learning.

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