Archive for September 2010

Working Connections Child Care eligibility changes to take effect Oct. 1

Eligibility for the Working Connections Child Care (WCCC) subsidy program will be reduced to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level effective Oct. 1. This program helps low-income families pay for child care while adults work, look for work or attend training.

The new level (a monthly income of less than $2,670 for a family of three) is reduced from 200 percent of the poverty level and is expected to affect about 2,500 families using the program.

"These are real parents and kids who depend on this program to provide safe places for their children during the workday," DEL Director Bette Hyde said. "The Governor made a very tough decision in order to balance the budget and still protect the most vulnerable families."

The change is part of $51 million in cuts to the WorkFirst program for the rest of state fiscal year 2011. WorkFirst is our state’s “welfare to work” program, which helps low-income families become self-sufficient through training and support services. Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the cuts in August, as a result of increased WorkFirst demand and decreased state resources. Cuts to WCCC are expected to save about $16.8 million.

Families will not immediately lose benefits but will be reevaluated against the new level when the time comes to renew. Eligibility for the Seasonal Child Care (SCC) program also will be reduced to 175 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

Click here for more information and for ways to give input on these changes.

Families who are looking for child care can contact their local Child Care Resource & Referral agency. There are also resources for children cared for by family, friends or neighbors.

Last “Learning for Life” segment features WaKIDS

For more than a year, our private nonprofit partner Thrive by Five Washington worked with KING 5 News to produce weekly segments about early learning topics here in our state. Today was the last in the series and featured our exciting kindergarten readiness pilot project.

Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) began this year in 120 classrooms around the state. It involves people important in helping kids achieve school readiness: parents, kindergarten teachers, child care providers and other early learning professionals. They meet together throughout the year and share information about a child’s strengths and needs.

As the kindergarten teacher in the KING 5 clip explains, it’s important to learn about the family, such as what language is spoken in the home and if books are available.

These discussions are about more than just if a child knows her letters and numbers, but how she learns, plays with others and uses her body. This assessment process becomes a baseline to help show what kids know when they enter kindergarten and how to support them through their education.

DEL, Thrive and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction worked together to design this pilot to support school readiness in both schools and communities. For more information about WaKIDS, including which schools are participating, visit

DEL signs agreement with federally recognized Tribes

DEL Director Bette Hyde recently joined leaders from several of Washington’s 29 federally recognized Tribes in Spokane to sign communication and consultation protocols. These agreements guide how DEL communicates with and seeks input from each of the tribes as sovereign governments.

Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman
and DEL Director Bette Hyde sign the agreement.

Tribes have long been leaders in early childhood development and education, and DEL has worked hard to build strong partnerships that support culturally relevant early learning opportunities for all children, including Tribal children.

Both protocols are aligned with the Centennial Accord and New Millenium Agreement—agreements between Tribes and the State of Washington to ensure productive government-to-government relationships.

Read the consultation and communication protocols—and learn more about the way DEL supports and collaborates with Tribes—by visiting our Tribal Nations page.

Benefits of pre-k-3rd grade continuum featured at House committee work session

State officials and local school districts are working hard to “bridge the gap” between early learning and K-12. That was the message Wednesday during a House Education Committee work session on the importance of building a strong learning continuum for children pre-k through third grade.

DEL Director Bette Hyde opened the session by making the case for eliminating—not just reducing—the education achievement gap.

When Washington kindergarten teachers say about half of children enter kindergarten not ready, that doesn’t bode well for further success in the K-12 education system, Hyde said.

“Get rid of an achievement gap by never letting it start,” she said.

Hyde also talked about reducing the “fade-out” effect, which occurs when benefits gained in high-quality early childhood programs weaken over time. We can mitigate “fade-out” by helping ensure children have high-quality early learning opportunities and smooth, intentional transitions into kindergarten through 3rd grade, she said.

Also at the hearing, Annie Pennucci from the Washington State Institute for Public Policy presented preliminary research on how preschool opportunities impact test scores, graduation rates and other factors for low-income students.

DEL Deputy Director Bob Hamilton and Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction WaKIDS Coordinator Dana Ziemba shared an update on the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), being piloted this school year in 120 classrooms around the state.

A key component of the WaKIDS pilot is creating connections among the child care and preschool programs, parents, kindergarten teachers and school districts. Listen to Katherine Cove, preschool cooperative director, discuss what success can look like from the Toppenish School District.

To view the entire work session, click here.

Seattle Times helps spread the word about Early Learning Plan

Here at DEL, we couldn’t help but be excited that local Seattle Times columnist Jerry Large shared the good news about the statewide Early Learning Plan with his thousands and thousands of regular readers.

You can check out his column “Getting kids off to good start” here, which ran in today’s paper.

The Early Learning Plan was released Sept. 1 after more than a year of work with partner agencies and stakeholders and feedback from Washington residents. It is our state’s roadmap for early learning.

We couldn’t have said it better than Mr. Large, who wrote:

“Washington state is putting what we know about building a strong foundation for children into practice in a more organized, coordinated way with a new early-education plan. The plan will get parents, day-care providers, educators and myriad social organizations talking to each other and working together.”

He further continues:

“All this is being done because brain-development research has made us increasingly aware of how important those early years are for children, and how important it is for the rest of us that children get on a good path early.”

You can see the plan and an executive summary at

The plan may be finished, but the work is just beginning. Keep watching for more updates!

Statewide toll-free number experiencing difficulties

The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) reports that its statewide toll-free number, 1-877-501-2233, is experiencing major technical difficulties. This is the phone number for clients to call about public assistance benefits, such as cash, food, medical and Working Connections Child Care subsidies.

Callers are reporting being dropped from the call before they hear menu options. A temporary fix is in place; however, the state is expecting very high call volumes during the Labor Day weekend. DSHS is encouraging customers to delay calling if possible or be prepared for long waits.

In Eastern Washington, callers are experiencing poor sound quality and disconnected calls. Please be prepared to share your phone number at the beginning of the call so DSHS staff can call you back.

DSHS is working to fix these issues as quickly as possible.

The Washington State Early Learning Plan is born!

After more than a year of work and extensive outreach, the Washington State Early Learning Plan is now available. Visit to read the plan and learn more about our state’s 10-year roadmap for helping ensure all children start school ready to succeed.

We at DEL want to thank the Early Learning Advisory Council for leading this work, and to the staff at DEL, Thrive by Five Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and other partners for their incredible work on making this plan a reality.

DEL, Thrive, OSPI and others worked hard to make sure Washington residents were able to weigh in on the plan as it was drafted—through online surveys, town hall meetings, meetings with key policymakers, ethnic groups and stakeholders, and other community gatherings. We are also proud that the plan was reviewed by a cultural competency expert to help ensure it reflects and honors the rich diversity of our state.

Keep watching for more information on how our state will begin implementing the plan—and how YOU can help!