Early Learning and Child Care

Frequently Asked Questions for Early Learning and Child Care Settings


General Questions

Governor Inslee designated child care businesses and workers as essential and exempt from the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Child care providers are not under a mandate to stay open or to close.

We encourage child care facilities to continue serving their communities and to make their educated decisions based upon what information and recommendations are coming from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

Because child care providers are independent business owners, decisions such as a voluntary closure during a health outbreak are business decisions each facility makes on their own.

March 18, 2020

The purpose of school closure is to maximize “social distancing.” Social distancing actions are taken to restrict when and where people can gather to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases in communities. The school closures will be most effective in slowing the spread of the virus if the overwhelming majority of children, including children under age 5, stay at home or in very small group settings throughout the closure period.

There are two main reasons child care providers are not included in the closure requirement. First, child care settings are often much smaller in numbers than in K-12 settings. Children in child care are in smaller groups throughout the day and not often in larger groups. Group sizes remain smaller in classrooms and there are not larger gatherings in hallways, gyms or cafeterias like we see in K-12 schools. Second, child care is a critical need for our first responders and essential personnel (nurses, doctors, law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, social workers, etc.) so they can continue to work to respond to the pandemic.

Closing schools statewide is aimed at temporarily slowing the rate of human interaction/movement across to the state to slow the spread of the virus so that we don’t overwhelm our health care system. And, while closing schools statewide helps achieve this goal, it also increases the need for child care for some families. During this time of crisis, we want to ensure that essential workers have access to safe child care so they can get to work. This the reality we are working in right now – trying to slow the spread of the virus and working to maintain critical services and functions in our communities. The hope is that parents who can keep their children home safely will do so and that those who need child care to get to work will have access to that care without question. We also anticipate that some parents will need intermittent care, but not necessarily full-time care.

To further support the goal of reducing the spread of the virus, parents may want to consider safe alternatives to the group-based child care that they might otherwise arrange when schools are closed, such as:

  • Family Friend & Neighbor care.
  • Exchanging child care with a neighbor or friend

March 18, 2020

At this time, the DOH would support a closure if someone with a novel coronavirus case spent time in child care and had contacts with other individuals in the child care setting while ill. In this situation, DOH and local public health department will work with child care leadership to consider the duration of the closure and to determine other steps that should be taken to limit spread.

March 18, 2020

Essential Workers and Supporting Providers

Child care providers can remain open and serve any child. If currently enrolled children need care, then you can serve them regardless of their parent's essential worker status. You can also enroll new children, both subsidy and private pay. DCYF encourages providers to prioritize children of essential workers and uniquely vulnerable children if there are more children than the provider can safely serve.

March 18, 2020

Please continue to provide care to already enrolled families, including families with school-age children.

March 30, 2020

Child care providers and community partners (libraries, parks and recreations, community centers) that are interested in organizing emergency child care for medical professionals and other priority workforce groups around the state, please contact EmergencyChildcare@dcyf.wa.gov or 509-544-5712. Medical professionals are one of the priority categories that we must continue to serve and provide child care, especially in the health emergency our state is facing. DCYF is looking for partnerships with hospitals and child care providers who are serving medical professionals.

March 18, 2020

Governor Inslee has designated child care and licensed pre-K as an essential function for essential workers and uniquely vulnerable children. While parents are encouraged to stay home with their children if they're able to do so, we understand that child care services for our frontline health care workers, first responders and other essential workers is necessary during this pandemic. You can find the full list of essential workers here. DCYF encourages child care professionals to follow DOH child care guidance on group size and social distancing.

March 30, 2020

If you are a child care and/or a foster care provider, you are considered to be an essential worker. Please see Governor Inslee’s declaration and a list of essential workers.

March 30, 2020

DCYF is working directly with first responder organizations such as hospitals and others that want to provide care on-site to stand up child care sites quickly through an emergency licensing process. This also includes some of our 24/7 state facilities. If you are interested in this resource, please contact emergencychildcare@dcyf.wa.gov or 509-544-5712.

March 30, 2020

In response to COVID-19, a special enrollment period is available through April 8, 2020, for uninsured individuals. This allows individuals who are currently uninsured to sign up for coverage through Washington Healthplanfinder.

To see if they qualify for special enrollment or Apple Health (which is open year-round), child care providers can call our Customer Support Center between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday - Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY 1-855-627-9604. Free language assistance/interpreters are provided.

More information is available at the COVID-19 FAQ page.

March 18, 2020

Licensing Modifications

If you are currently providing exempt child care services, including part day services, drop-in services, etc., and would like to start providing services for more than four hours per day and/or infant/toddler services, please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities.

If you are currently licensed and would like to extend the capacity of your services, start serving additional age groups or include additional working hours to your services, please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities. There are no fees for changing your license.

Please see the regional child care licensing offices contact information.

March 18, 2020

If you are currently licensed and would like to extend the capacity of your services, start serving additional age groups or include additional working hours to your services, please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities. There are no fees for changing your license.

If you are currently providing exempt child care services, such as part day services, drop-in services, etc., and would like to start providing services for more than four hours per day and/or infant/toddler services – please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities.

Please see the regional child care licensing offices contact information

March 18, 2020

DCYF Licensing Division has an emergency waiver process in place. Child care providers may request waivers for certain requirements. Please contact your DCYF Licensing Field Office for additional guidance.

March 18, 2020

Family Home providers are more than welcome to use the emergency waiver process for increasing capacity of their services.

On Monday (3.16.2020), the White House announced new guidelines, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. This guidance is based on new modeling on how the virus might spread, according to Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force.

For child care providers that remain open, it is crucial to minimize the risks of spreading coronavirus. Social distancing is one of the main strategies to slow the spread of the virus.

The DOH ‘group of 10’ guidance suggests to not have groups larger than 10 people total, including children and adults (for example, one adult and nine children, two adults and eight children, etc.) per classroom. The capacity waivers will be approved in consideration with the DOH guidance. Limiting the group size is an emergency measure that will help reduce potential coronavirus exposures and may prevent an entire program from shutting down if exposure does occur.

Please contact your local licensing office if you need technical assistance regarding emergency waivers.

March 25, 2020

We understand the staffing challenges that may occur during this emergency. You should continue to recruit and hire staff. If you are able, use fully qualified workers who have cleared a background check. Work with your local licensing office to get approval. Bringing children to work is okay as long as it’s meeting each program/service policies and procedures.

DCYF also has a substitute pool for licensed providers that offered by The Imagine Institute and will be expanding services. If you would like support from the state’s substitute pool, please email subpool@imaginewa.org.

March 18, 2020

Telephone and/or video consultations is a good workable solution. Please make the needed arrangements with the providers.

March 18, 2020

DCYF will not make changes to ratios across the board. Please work with your licensor and submit a request for a waiver, based on what you can provide.

March 18, 2020

The facility will not need to begin a new licensing process. Please contact your child care licensor to ensure that the COVID-19 closure is being tracked.

March 30, 2020

Screening, prevention and reacting to COVID-19 exposure

We recommend child cares take the precautions that are normally recommended to prevent the spread of viruses in child care. You can help children and staff reduce their risk of getting and spreading viral respiratory infections, including the flu and the common cold, by encouraging them to take simple steps that will also prevent novel coronavirus. In addition to the strategies noted above, you can screen children upon entry. Take the temperature and check symptoms for staff and children upon entry. COVID-19 symptoms primarily include a fever of 100.4°F or higher, cough and shortness of breath. Any child or staff member with symptoms should be sent home. Personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves or masks are not necessary for the person who takes temperatures and screens for symptoms of staff and children upon entry each day.
 
If forehead or disposable thermometers are not available, you can ask the caregiver to fill out and sign a form that reports their child’s temperature as taken at home (or affirming the child does not have a fever) and any symptoms.

Parents or caregivers who drop off or pick up children do not need to be screened for symptoms unless they will remain at the facility and in close contact (6 feet or less) with others who are there for an extended period of time (more than 10 minutes).

The latest DOH guidance for child care and early learning settings can be found here.

March 18, 2020

In emergency cases, please call 9-1-1. Follow your child care business and health policies and procedures.

DOH guidance says if a student or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at the facility, please isolate the person until they can leave the facility. If a student or staff member tests positive, you should close the facility and thoroughly clean before re-opening. Work with local public health to identify the close contacts who will need to quarantine. All members of the infected child’s or adult’s cohort would be considered close contacts.

For additional recommendations, please visit:

March 18, 2020

Please follow your child care business and health policies and procedures, and stay in compliance with the 72-hour rules being fever free from any fever over 100.4°F.

If you do choose/had to to close for any period of time, please notify your DCYF Licensing Field Office.   

For additional COVID-19 information, please visit:

March 18, 2020

The length of the closure will be determined based on multiple factors, including the number of cases and the number and types of exposure that other individuals in the child care may have had, as well as the underlying health of the student population served. A closure could ask anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks, depending on the circumstances.

March 18, 2020

Please follow the WAC 110-300-0205 in reporting to DCYF staff and the Washington State Department of Health. For Center for Disease Control (CDC) requirements and guidelines, please visit for additional guidance on how to monitor yourself and keep others around your healthy: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

March 13, 2020

Any person who exhibits flu-like symptoms (primarily fever of 100.4°F or higher, cough and shortness of breath) should not be at work or child care. Sick individuals should stay home and away from others and contact their health care provider. The health care provider can assess the individual’s risk and determine whether they should be tested for novel coronavirus.

If a child or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at the facility, please isolate the person until they can leave the facility. If at all possible, the unwell person should be moved into a separate room, and the child care provider who goes with the child should minimize the amount of time they are in close contact (6 feet or fewer for 10 minutes or more) with the person. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not recommended for the person staying with the unwell child.

If going to a separate room is not an option, either because a room is not available or there is not a second adult available, providers should create a minimum of 6 feet of space around the unwell person and do what they can to keep others in the room away from this person. 

If symptoms persist or worsen, they or the child’s family should call their health care provider for further guidance and in severe cases call 9-1-1. Advise the employee or child’s parent or caregiver to inform the facility immediately if the person is diagnosed with COVID-19.

March 25, 2020

Yes, if DOH or the local public health department is aware of a case in a child care, they will contact key personnel, such as the site director. Because testing has expanded in the health care system, it’s possible that families of students or staff will find out test results from their health care providers before DOH or the local public health department is notified. In these situations, we recognize that the child care provider may be notified directly by the family. If a director or owner is notified by a family, they should alert their local public health office and follow guidance about cleaning and notification to families.

March 18, 2020

Subsidy and Payment

Licensed providers will receive subsidy payment through April, based on enrollment, if they remain open or temporarily close their child care setting due to confirmed COVID-19 exposure. DCYF will not make subsidy payments to providers who choose to close for other reasons or who do not reopen after the health official’s recommended closure duration.

Child care providers will be paid through April, based on enrollment, even if some children are unable to attend or if you are required to temporarily shut down during the state of emergency.

Licensed child care providers receiving Child Care Subsidy will be paid based on enrollment from March 16 through April 30 if closed due to COVID-19.

Licensed providers will still receive subsidy payment based on enrollment from March 16 through April 30 when:

  1. The provider temporarily closes their child care setting due to COVID-19; and,
  2. The family remains eligible for subsidy, and the provider is authorized care

DCYF will not make subsidy payments to providers who choose to close for other reasons.

March 23, 2020

Families receiving Child Care Subsidy need to report provider changes within five days. Provider changes may be reported by calling 844-626-8687, or online at www.washingtonconnection.org. See the families FAQ for more guidance for families looking for care.

March 18, 2020

  • DCYF will automatically change all part day authorizations to full day authorizations. Families and providers do not need to notify DCYF to request this change.

March 18, 2020

Provide your Social Service Payment System Provider (SSPS) Identification number to families. The family must contact the Child Care Subsidy Contact Center at 1-844-626-8687 to report their new provider. Having the provider number will help speed up the authorization process. Providers may contact the Child Care Subsidy Contact Center Provider Line at 1-800-394-4571 or email providerhelp@dcyf.wa.gov with additional questions.

Please note Providers need to follow all subsidy billing rules as outlined in the Subsidy Billing Guides found online at https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/services/early-learning-providers/subsidy  

During this state of emergency, all providers who follow these steps will be eligible to receive Working Connections Child Care Subsidy payments regardless of their Early Achievers status.

March 18, 2020

We are exploring financial supports and funds for child care providers in consultation with the Governor’s Office. We will raise the question.

Washington State is waiving family copayments for the months of April, May and June. DCYF will pay the family’s co-payment requirement through the normal invoice process. For example, the family’s April copay will be included in the payment made for April services.

Please contact the Child Care Provider Line with any additional questions at 1-800-394-4571 or providerhelp@dcyf.wa.gov.

Enrollment based pay means that providers are able to claim the total amount of care that a family was eligible for and provider was authorized to provide. DCYF is allowing enrollment based pay from March 16 through April 30.

Most families receiving Working Connections Child Care are eligible for 12 months of care. At the end of their certification period families must reapply and remain eligible to continue another 12 months.

Families that do not reapply, or who reapply but are not eligible will not continue with the program.

Eligibility requirements include verifying changes that have happened in the household in the last 12 months, income and continuation of approved activities. DCFY is working to allow some flexibility for families with approved activities impacted by COVID-19.

No. A provider’s authorization is based on family eligibility. If the family is not eligible we cannot pay for their care.