WFIS Representative Chelle Downey-Magee continues in her role on the Early Learning Advisory Council. Her report on the ELAC follows:
The meeting October 6 began with a quick round of introductions, then moved on to updates from State/Agency Partners and Regional Coalitions. The most recent information regarding mitigation strategies from the Department of Social & Health Services can be found at https://www.dshs.wa.gov/alert/covid-19-information and https://www.dshs.wa.gov/esa/policy-changes-response-covid-19.
Responding to COVID-19 and distributing CARES Act funds were the most common activities among the coalitions. The Department of Health launched the Birth Equity Project and continued the Healthy Eating, Active Living program. Collaborating with OSPI and the Department of Agriculture they’ve created Nourished & Active in Early Learning, which includes free STARS training.
Vicki Ybarra, from the DCYF Office of Innovation, Alignment and Accountability, spoke about the department’s strategic plan and its recent merging with the Racial Equity strategic plan. Link to DCYF’s detailed explanation of the strategic plans and priorities which are scheduled to be finalized in April.
DCYF’s Nicole Rose and Chris Parvin presented the progress of the Certificate of Parental Improvement (CPI) workgroup. The Senate Bill 5533 (companion bill HB 1645) that created the CPI didn’t make it out of committee in 2019 or 2020. http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2019-20/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5533-S4.pdf?q=20201013164431 This certificate apples to persons who have finding of abuse or neglect and expands individualized assessments. After a background check by the State Patrol, DCYF must consider character, suitability and competence to care for children, youth or vulnerable persons.
Tracie Kenney and Kelly Bohannan are currently drafting the Washington State Early Learning Plan as required by the Preschool Development Grant (federal funding). The age range considered for this grant are birth to 5 years. They are using the Early Learning Needs Assessment to inform their goals and strategies, as it contains both qualitative and quantitative information. The goals and strategies are organized in to five topic areas using wording from the federal grant:
- Healthy Children and Families
- Strong, Stable, Nurturing, Safe and Supported Families
- Positive Early Learning Experiences
- Supported Early Learning Workforce
- Powerful Communities and Responsive System
Within those topics there is room for DCYF to strategically work towards meeting the needs of children and families in Washington. For more about the Preschool Development Grant and its parts: https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/about/government-community/legislative-federal-relations/pdg
Finally, Alison Krutzinger from DCYF spoke about the fall grant using CARES Act funds not distributed in the spring. At a webinar on Oct. 20 Nicole Rose explained the pertinent details and process.
- Priority goes to centers which didn’t receive funding from the first grant, centers that have expanded services, and centers in areas of concern.
- Centers that did receive funds in the spring may apply for the grant if they’ve expanded service, or if the amount that they’d receive from the fall grant is greater than the amount they received from the spring grant.
- Information regarding the application process should be available on the DCYF website by mid-November.
The agency submitted three requests in early September: licensing modifications, juvenile rehabilitation and independent living for children in foster care. As for decision packages for the next session, it’s clear that agencies shouldn’t be asking for new money. The forecast in September looked better than the forecast from June. The governor is developing his budget, which has to be zero revenue, that comes out in December.
- 17% of licensed centers have closed at least temporarily;
- new providers are coming on line in response to the need in communities related to distance learning.
- Read DCYF Secretary Ross Hunter’s Oct. 6 newsletter addressing several of these issues.