Early Start Act

With the passage of the Early Start Act on July 6, 2015, lawmakers provided an opportunity for all children to arrive at school ready to learn; for families to break the cycle of poverty; and for state communities to reap the rewards and the return on investment we know comes from high-quality early learning. This act has been a driving force for new initiatives and improvements at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (formerly Department of Early Learning).

Major Components of the Early Start Act

Early Start Act Annual Report

Every year DCYF (formerly Department of Early Learning) submits a report on the progress of implementing Early Start Act mandates.

Standards Alignment

The Early Start Act mandated that DEL (now DCYF) update our WAC so that the early learning system has a unified set of regulations that are easy to understand by providers.

Early Achievers Participation

Beginning August 1, 2016, licensed child care and early learning providers offering services to children and families that qualify for Working Connections Child Care subsidies must be enrolled in Early Achievers to maintain subsidy authorization.

12 Month Eligibility for Subsidy

Families qualifying for state subsidized Working Connections Child Care now automatically receive 12 months of eligibility. This will give providers a better sense of the number of children they’ll be serving over a longer, and more consistent period of time, and means a more predictable source of income.

Child Care Check

DCYF (formerly DEL) created a single source of information for parents and caregivers to access details on a provider's early achievers program rating level, licensing history, and other indicators of quality and safety that will help parents and caregivers make informed choices.

ECEAP Requirements

Washington's state-funded preschool program, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program or ECEAP, was bolstered as part of the Early Start Act.

Research Based Cultural Competency Standards

The Early Start Act charged us with recommending guidelines for culturally responsive early learning professional training. Read the report we produced and learn how you can incorporate these guidelines into your practice.

Racial Equity and Diversity

The Early Start Act has numerous, strong mandates for supporting diverse providers and families. Check out our Racial Equity Initiative webpage to learn how we’re doing at fulfilling those mandates, and how we’re developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to strengthen DCYF's capacity to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities in child outcomes. 

Research, Data, and Analysis

The Early Start Act ensured that DCYF's (formerly DEL) policy decisions and funding of programs would be grounded in strong data and analysis. To find out more about how we're improving our understanding of provider, children, and family experiences and outcomes, go to the Office of Innovation, Alignment, and Accountability.

Early Learning Advisory Council and the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee

Early Learning Advisory Council members provide input and recommendations to DCYF so our strategies and actions are well informed and broadly supported by parents, child care providers, health and safety experts and interested members of the public.

The Early Start Act charged a subgroup of the Early Learning Advisory Council to monitor our progress in implementing the Early Achievers system.

Joint Select Committee on Early Achievers

Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative

Building on investments in early learning, as part of the Early Start Act, the Legislature approved a pilot to explore how best the state can support providers serving children before and after school with training and resources needed to encourage high-quality programming. The Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative (formerly known as the Out-of-School Time Quality Initiative) builds on the success and lessons learned from Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system. Fifty programs including licensed family homes and child care centers (who serve school-age children and families) already participating in Early Achievers, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and other programs serving youth between the ages of 5-18 years from four counties (King, Pierce, Spokane, and Walla Walla) participated in a quality assessment and improvement process.

DCYF worked in partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), School’s Out Washington, Child Care Aware of Washington, and the University of Washington to provide training, coaching and assessment using the best national research on promoting youth outcomes. 

A report including a summary of evaluation findings, recommendations, and next steps was submitted to the Washington State Legislature October 2017.