The following summarizes the conversation between the DCYF Licensing Department Lead, Judy Bunkelman, and the private schools’ early learning directors. This is an overview for those who missed the meeting.
Thank you to Judy Bunkelman for joining the meeting!
The DCYF licensing department is making some changes for this year beginning July 1, 2022.
- Return to in-person, surprise monitoring visits.
- All programs will have the same checklist for the coming fiscal year.
- The checklist will consist of the riskiest items and those required by Child Care and Development Fund Guidelines.
- Licensors will be authorized to complete portions of the visit online following the initial in-person visit. (Paperwork and so forth)
- Judy et al. will set parameters for the length of the visit. These decisions are dependent on program size and compliance issues noted, but 2 hours should be about the maximum.
Licensees have the right to ask that the visit be continued at another time if it is going “too long.” Too long is subjective, but the licensee gets to determine that. If the licensor gives any pushback, please let DCYF know.
Regardless of your most recent visit date (or lack thereof), the monitoring visit clock resets on July 1 this year. The department acknowledges that they will not visit all programs during the 2021-22 fiscal year. However, their goal is to visit each program each fiscal year.
Judy gave an “it’s out of our hands” response to the questions raised about background checks and the length of time it takes to clear them. She acknowledged the tight spot providers are in. DCYF background checks focus on adverse findings, including abuse/neglect issues. She contends that OSPI checks do not.
She suggests programs take up background check issues with the background check team. (WFIS is in contact with these folks; programs directors should be as well.)
Training and communication within the agency:
The department is currently at about 2/3 of its pre-pandemic licensing staff level. They have new hires in the pipeline, but not up to 100%.
The agency has a monthly newsletter for licensing staff. Travis and Judy communicate directly with staff and supervisors. Area administrators share important information with licensors. They also have robust policies and procedures on which all staff is trained.
The licensing chain of command at DCYF is Licensor, Supervisor, Area Administrator, Judy, then Travis. Program directors should dispute monitoring compliance violations in that order. The department is close to training licensing staff on the Inter-Rater Reliability project. Hopefully, that will be ready to go soon. Licensors have no requirement to have been in the early education field themselves, although many have. However, they must have a degree in ECE or a related field. In addition, they complete training like Childcare Basics, which focuses more on the technical aspects and is “very rigorous.”
Montessori training as an alternative education pathway was briefly discussed and Judy suggested that this topic be “taken up with MERIT and the professional standards team.”
Judy concurs with the program directors that the WAC requires refrigeration, not a refrigerator. Therefore, ice packs in an insulated lunchbox are completely acceptable. Programs can avoid this incorrect interpretation of the WAC by including the requirement for ice packs in their policies/handbooks. Judy stated that she would make sure that all licensors know that ice packs are perfectly fine.