reported by WFIS’ Early Learning Advisory Council Representative Chelle Downey-Magee, Director of Issaquah Montessori School
The DCYF Early Learning Advisory Council met on June 2, virtually rather than in person in Wenatchee as originally scheduled.
The meeting began with a moment to reread and ask questions about updates from state agencies, partners and regional coalitions. Those updates can be found at:
Phil Wiltzuis, from the Department of Health spoke about the immunization requirement changes that go in to effect on August 1, 2020. The most important change is that immunization documentation, medically verified, is due on or before the first day of attendance. There is no longer leeway or a grace period. If a parent completes that handwritten form it must be signed by a heath care provider, with medical records attached. A myriad of information about immunization (and forms) can be found at: www.doh.wa.gov/scci.
Allison Krutsinger, Deputy Director of Government Affairs at DCYF, began by speaking about the successes of the past legislative session. She cited the legislature’s investments in early learning, increasing both provider rates and family access. They began to implement the legislated changes involving teen parents, homeless families and a 12-month authorization period. Then COVID hit, and the governor signed vetoes that affected the DCYF budget. The agency began to pivot, tried to support the early learning community. Many of the children’s services, although modified, continue to serve children and families. The Office of Financial Management requested DCYF to do a budget reduction exercise, to reduce their budget by 15%.
Allison talked about current issues, including the dispersal of the remaining $29 million of the CARES Act funds. She emphasized that both the agency and legislators understand that there is a fiscal impact to running a facility at reduced ratios. Allison suggested reminding our legislators about the financial implication on the sustainability of our businesses. Along that line, she addressed the new WAC that requires providers to update their vacancies in WA Compass. The request to update, along with the information that it was mandatory in a WAC was sent to providers on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend, without context. She gave the context of the new WAC, and agreed that the messaging could have been much better, and assured the group that it would be better going forward.
Dealing with COVID-19 has derailed much of the agency’s preparation for the next legislative session. There’s speculation about the timing of a special session, and lots of questions about the realities of a budget with a huge deficit in revenues. In looking at the long session, that begins in January, the agency has been instructed to put nothing forward that costs money. The agency is working with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to talk about what fall looks like. What do different scenarios look like for parents and providers? All the changes will have to get bargained at the local level—some districts have 4 or 5 different unions—clearly bargaining impact. Allison will be back in August with information about the legislative sessions.
DCYF Strategic Plan
Vickie Ybarra, Director of the Office of Innovation, Alignment and Accountability, presented an update on the agencies strategic plan. This strategic plan aligns with and informs the agency’s Racial Equity Strategic Plan and the Statewide Early Learning Plan. Despite impending budget cuts the agency wants to be intentional about not retreating on the things they want for families and kids, “They need us to do what we do really well, more than ever.” She feels that the priorities are solid, although the tactics have changed substantially, and the needs and tools have changed too.
Vickie asked, “Are these the right priorities?”:
- Safely reduce the number of children in foster care
- Successful transitions into adulthood for youth/young adults
- Create high quality integrated B-5 system
- Improve quality and intention of practice
- Improve quality and availability of provider services
What should we consider about the “how” given the new realities?”
- DRAFT Strategic Plan
- Strategic Plan Alignment One-Pager
Vickie also addressed the topic of transitional kindergarten; she’s heard comments about quality. The public schools don’t report to the same part of the government as early learning centers, they have different standards. School districts can do this now, but she’s not sure how the current challenges are going to allow them to do so. She’d appreciate thought about concerns; we need to ensure that conversations about those concerns are happening at the local level. Senator Claire Wilson added “School-age care is not something that employees have had to look for…school has been their care setting. We cannot negate a huge need we’re going to have in the K-6 range.”
Racial Equity Strategic Plan
This was a really interesting week to talk about racial equity! After a centering exercise the presenters, Evette Jasper, Dae Shogrun and LaToya Holmes-Ware took us through the Racial Equity and Social Justice Framework. https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/sites/default/files/pubs/HR_0003.pdf. They spoke about the work of the Center for Children and Youth Justice https://ccyj.org/. Lastly, they shared about their work on the racial equity and social justice framework: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/sites/default/files/pubs/HR_0003.pdf.
Regional Coalition Deep Dive
In order to give ELAC members a better sense of the work of the regional coalitions, representatives from the coalitions provided details. Sarah Holdener started the conversation, talking about Washington Communities for Children. Their mission is: Connecting local and statewide efforts to improve the wellbeing of children, families and communities; it’s a response to families and providers saying that system navigation is too hard in Washington. https://www.washingtoncfc.org/home Help Me Grow is a strategy that recognizes that we can do better with what we have. The family resource and referral landscape is currently complicated (behavioral health, basic needs, child care, child development concerns, Medicaid-eligible programs), but Help Me Grow simplifies the landscape. Families get the right resources at the right times. https://withinreachwa.org/help-me-grow-washington https://www.parenthelp123.org/. Lindsay Boswell, the final presenter reminded the group the advocacy for children takes on many forms and doesn’t just happen in Olympia. She cited an op-ed written by a childcare provider that ran in The Columbian, diaper banks in Pierce County and concluded with the thought that childcare needs to be part of the recovery conversation.
Preschool Development Grant
Tracie Kenny, Preschool Development Grant B-5 Coordinator, also noted that COVID-19 has caused their timelines to slip as well. She provided updates about the statewide needs assessment and the early learning strategic plan. The draft deadline moved from June to August and is expected to be published in October. The strategic plan needs more outreach; it was written by white people and People of Color need to see themselves in it. She wondered “How can we conduct outreach that is respectful and reasonable during this pandemic? We don’t want to add stress, but we need their input.” For more information about the combinations of plans and timelines, go to: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/sites/default/files/pubs/IAA_0001.pdf
Adassa, the PDG program evaluator spoke about the performance evaluation plan, it’s goals, verification processes, and indications that programs achieved the goals. For more about the PDG, go to: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/about/government-community/legislative-federal-relations/pdg
Market Rate Survey
Matt Judge, Child Care Administrator, provided a bit of background on the market rate survey. It’s a requirement of the federal Child Care Development Fund grant, that’s renewed every three years. This year the plan is to make the survey short and focused, to enable providers to respond quickly on a cell phone. Ideally a provider should be able to complete the survey in 7-10 minutes. The sections of the survey include capacity, schedule and hours, discounts and subsidies, private pay rates by age and fees, and, programs and staffing. Response rates below 50% are considered to be suspect, 65% or better is considered to be best practice. DCYF is working with Western Washington University to create and deploy the survey. According to the draft timeline, the survey will be deployed in September 2020, over the winter the data will be analyzed, and the report published on July 1, 2021. For more information about the Child Care and Development Fund, go to: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/about/government-community/legislative-federal-relations/ccdf