reported by WFIS’ Early Learning Advisory Council Representative Chelle Downey-Magee, Director of Issaquah Montessori School 

The October 1 Early Learning Advisory Council (ELAC) meeting took place at the Oxford Suites in Yakima. Attendance by members was lower than at recent meetings on the west side of the state. The Parent Advisory Group ( participated in the meeting as well. Frank Ordway, who most often presents the legislative update, was unable to attend the meeting due to illness.

After the typical introductions, feedback loop and updates from state agencies, partners and regional coalitions, Leslie Carroll from the Department of Health (DOH) spoke. She stressed that the DOH does its work with a preventive lens, works to help systems work better, and doesn’t provide direct services. Right now the agency is working with the Essentials for Childhood Initiative ( to ensure that all children in Washington state thrive in safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments. Project LAUNCH is taking off, creating a state-wide system for developmental screening of all Washington’s young children. The Bezos Foundation is working with the DOH to create Vroom, a web app, and to embed it in programs and initiatives. Vroom helps parents and providers make changes in their practice to improve brain development; it also explains the science behind the activities.

Members of the Parent Advisory Group participated in a panel about the challenges of parenting and using state-funded supports. Many of the group were teen parents, some with children with special needs. Each one spoke frankly, bravely about their experiences, and their hopes for their children. They asked to be treated with respect, to not be judged, to have help navigating the myriad of support systems, and to be welcome in the environments where their children receive care.

During the lunch break members of the Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition spoke about their efforts in developmental screening and STEAM family engagement nights. They’re doing good work connecting families with science, literacy and resources!

The final scheduled presentation of the afternoon was about the renewal of the Preschool Development Grant. The grant is due at the start of November and is anticipated to start at the end of December. Right now, the team is gathering community input, then they’ll begin writing. Areas addressed in the grant application include: healthy children and families; strong, stable, nurturing and supported families; positive learning experiences; a responsive early learning system; and a supported early learning workforce. A conversation around each of the goals occurred as groups moved around the room, writing their ideas and refining the ideas of other groups. Many large sheets of paper were filled with input from many perspectives.

The meeting coordinator reminded us about a Legislative summit on Monday, November 4 at the Lacey Community Center where the issues of early learning, family supports and adolescent services, child welfare, and juvenile rehabilitation will be addressed in 90-minute sessions. Should you be interested in participating you may contact for additional information.

Finally, State Senator Claire Wilson, from the 30th district, provided a spontaneous peek at her legislative plans for next session. She’s collaborating with State Representative Tana Senn, from the 41st district on an omnibus bill with provision for systems within early learning. Senator Wilson worked in Head Start for many years, and currently serves as the vice chair of the Early Learning & K-12 Education committee. It looks to be a short but packed 2020 session!

The next ELAC meeting is scheduled for December 3, in SeaTac.