The Early Learning Advisory Council met on June 6, graced by our newest private school representative Jen Sandvig, Childcare Director at Sagebrush Montessori. ELAC’s goal is to provide feedback for goal-setting with DCYF.

Many comments about the DCYF licensing department were also reflected in the Provider Support Workgroup. Some thoughts shared at these meetings, and WFIS’ Early Learning Zoom are echoed here. The licensing department is the biggest problem for early learning providers. DCYF should overhaul the entire Department creating a culture that improves childcare. The licensing department needs more staff and for them to be better trained. Licensors continue to write up programs for minor infractions like a roller bandage missing from a first aid kit as if it is a major safety infraction. They waste Director’s time, showing up unexpectedly with the requirement that the Director stop their work for hours to cater to the licensors’ schedule.

The DCYF licensors should be efficient and effective in improving childcare in Washington. Instead, they waste everybody’s time, including their own. Their lack of training and leadership makes the lives of underfunded and overstretched childcare staff unbearable. DCYF has gotten much feedback on its licensing department, and unfortunately, this arm of the Department undermines the State’s childcare goals.

Public schools do not have to license their early learning programs. They don’t have to pay for mandatory changes to their classrooms. They don’t have to train their teachers according to DCYF mandates. They don’t have to abide by DCYF’s safety rules. If the public schools can be trusted to care for young children with limited oversight, so can the providers.

It is time for the DCYF licensing department to evolve into a valuable resource to ensure quality and safety or start over with a completely new structure.

Nucha Isarowong, Ph.D., LCSW, Director of the Advanced Clinical Training Program at the Barnard Center at the University of Washington, reminded the ELAC participants of the importance of relationships in creating a positive learning environment for children. This parallels the adult experience. If put under stress by the Department, is that paying off with healthy environments for adults? How do the Department’s processes contribute to staff stress that negatively impacts their work with children? Please hear his poignant comments here at 54:10 minutes.