Chelle Downey-Magee is the WFIS Representative on ELAC, Washington’s Early Learning Advisory Council.  Her report on the final ELAC meeting of 2018 follows:


The agenda for this meeting was quite forward looking–to the next legislative session, to the implementation of the aligned standards, and changes in policy and practice regarding child welfare.

The Family First Prevention Services Act and the subsequent evolution of HB1661 in WA State was presented by Vicki Ybarra and Frank Ordway from DCYF, The Department of Children Youth and Families.  FFPSA is a federally funded program administered by the state having to do with foster care. The goal is to interrupt the cycle of disfunction in families with preventative services, and to increase the quality of and capacity for congregate care for adolescents. It includes evidence-based programs in early learning, child welfare and juvenile justice that focus on prevention. Additional resources can be found at:

Frank continued with a forecast of the upcoming legislative session. The governor’s budget is most likely to come out the week of December 10, which will inform the budget proposed by the legislature. Many of the “lions” in the legislature retired, the vast majority of the newly elected are women. Committee membership and leadership are changing; early learning lost their strongest advocate when Ruth Kagi retired. However, early learning is a bipartisan issue. DCYF intends to ask for funding for programs that they do well and are proven to be effective–EACAP, home visiting and raising Working Connection rates. Funds for additional behavior rehabilitation services and institutional education will be requested as well. They’ll also ask for making the agency run more smoothly internally, with enough staff to answer and investigate calls to CPS, and to update IT throughout the agency. The goal is for agencies involved to work closely to serve families. 

The standards alignment and education campaign was on the agenda, but Debbie O’Neil, the scheduled speaker was not available. However, from her PowerPoint, the standards alignment is a state-wide collaborative including the DCYF Steering Committee, a State-Wide Advisory Committee, State-wide Community Engagement, and reaching out to diverse communities and other stakeholders. The initial community input for this project began in November 2015, and rule implementation is scheduled to begin in August 2019. Between now and implementation, DCYF is conducting an awareness and education campaign to convince providers that the new WACs are well-informed, achievable and child-focused. The nitty-gritty of the WACs will be covered in “deep dive” education opportunities all around the state, with providers and licensors learning the same things in the same room at the same time. Additional information can be found at:

During lunch we learned about the work of the Trauma-Informed Care Advisory Group. The group has met six times since it was formed in the 2018 legislative session. They’ve created a five-year strategy, a definition for trauma-informed child care, and a statement of purpose for the group. Their definition, adapted from The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is:

Child care in which providers

  • Recognize and respond to the impact of traumatic stress on those who have contact with the system (children, caregivers and service providers);
  • Infuse and sustain trauma awareness, knowledge and skills into the organizational culture, practices and policies of agencies and programs; and
  • Act in collaboration with all those who are involved with the child, using the best available science, to maximize physical and psychological safety, facilitate the recovery of the child and family, and support their ability to thrive.

The group is looking at the disparities in preschool suspensions and expulsions, levels of care, trauma-informed child care for children with neurodevelopmental differences, trauma-informed practices in Early Achievers, and parent awareness of trauma-informed child care. Next steps include reestablishing a trauma-informed care group with topic-specific subcommittees and to take trainings across the state. You can find additional information about the expansion of trauma-informed care in Washington state at: 

After a break, the group reflected on the work done in 2018, and provided suggestions for agendas in 2019.

Finally, Silvie Senauke, Government Performance Lab Innovation Fellow from DCYF’s Office of Innovation Alignment and Accountability spoke about child welfare. In 2017, the CPS hotline intake staff took 105,158 calls. Of those, 61,689 were screened out while 43,469 were screened in. Using structured decision making risk assessment, 23,492 were sent on for investigation, with 6,444 children placed in out-of-home settings. That’s a lot of calls, a lot of families and a lot of children! A new pilot program is being launched in December 2018, at two sites, with three goals:

  • Operationally link early learning and child welfare functions
  • Prepare vulnerable child population for academic success
  • Prevent subsequent maltreatment for families who reach us

In March a progress update and expansion decision will be made based on the outcomes and impact of the pilots.

The next ELAC meeting is scheduled for February 5, using a virtual meeting format.