Olympia – (March 13, 2020) —The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) are working in lockstep to maintain and quickly and safely support expansion of child care including relative, and Family, Friends, and Neighbor care to serve kids who otherwise would be in school. DCYF is working hard to create a coordinated response with state, county and city agencies, school districts and child care provider groups.
Child care facilities (centers and family homes) and Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program(ECEAP), and community based before and after school programs are strongly encouraged to remain open, subject to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines around closure. We encourage schools to keep their existing child care and early learning programs in operation if at all possible. This includes the programs for school-age kids and those programs in schools that serve 3 and 4 year-olds, such as ECEAP & Head Start (some of the poorest and most vulnerable children) and developmental preschool programs. We must continue to provide care for economically and physically vulnerable children, children in foster care, support for families for whom telework and paid sick leave is not available, and ensuring that high risk individuals continue to be protected must all be addressed. DCYF is considering priority populations for care beyond health care workers and first responders so that school closures do not impact their ability to work.
DCYF is exploring a wide array of options in this emergency to temporarily increase flexibility and supports for child care providers while still ensuring kids’ health and safety, in consideration with the social distancing approach.
The agency is also exploring creative solutions in licensing to accommodate emergent situations focusing on extending current capacity of the early learning diverse mixed delivery system, as well as developing additional capacity by collaborating with the community partners and stakeholders, that include:
- Flexibility in meeting licensing regulations to accommodate emergent situations (ideas include seasonal camp model, physical space, capacity and staffing ratios)
- Emergent Waiver process in place for providers
- Subsidy reimbursement & incentives for child cares to stay open and serving children subject to CDC guidelines
- Recruitment and deployment of qualified or experienced staff to support capacity needs in open facilities
- Centralized information for open and closed facilities reporting to support family needs
- Coordinating with OSPI & local school districts to maximize transportation resources and encourage local sharing as needed to get kids to and from and to deploy nutritional resources to neighborhoods.
DCYF is committed to fulfilling its mission to protect children and strengthen families so they flourish.