Fair Start for Kids Act – DCYF Updates

September 21, 2021
child playing

Exciting Changes for Families on the Horizon

The passage of the Fair Start for Kids Act in May provides DCYF with resources to stabilize child care, support providers in serving the children that come through their doors and allows more families to access affordable, high-quality child care.

High-quality child care provides children with access to early learning experiences that help them develop the skills they need to be successful in school and beyond.

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) will implement measures to decrease family copayments and increase income eligibility for families accessing child care subsidies.

The first measure will increase eligibility for the Working Connections Child Care subsidy program to 60% of the Washington State Median Income. This change provides more families with benefits, and by increasing family income limits, DCYF expects up to 2,100 additional families will have access to child care subsidies in the next 12 months.

Also critical for families, effective Oct. 1, DCYF will decrease family copayments based on a new copay scale. This will dramatically decrease copays on child care services from a current rate of up to 20% of a family’s monthly income to no more than 7%. This reduces the benefits cliff and empowers Washington parents with more options for early learning. As a result, DCYF expects up to 3,900 families will have more access to affordable, high-quality child care.

Under the Fair Start for Kids Act, a family of four enrolled in the WCCC subsidy program could make up to $5,088 and still qualify, capping their copay at $115 a month. For single-parent households, a family of two can make up to $3460 and still qualify for the $115 copay.

Another great outcome of the 2021 legislative session was the investment in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program. Increases to income eligibility and 500 new slots mean that more families are able to get access to this critical state-funded preschool program. Slots were awarded in the spring to ECEAP contractors, and programs are enrolling and beginning to serve children this fall.

Impacts on the Ground For Families

Recently, a parent called in with concerns about whether they would be able to afford both their rising housing and child care costs.

During the call, DCYF Contact Center staff informed the client that due to the Fair Start for Kids Act, their copayment would decrease from $637 to $115 beginning Oct. 1. At the end of the call, the parent was relieved that they would not have to choose between keeping a roof over their head and accessing the high-quality care their child deserves.

Coming Soon

DCYF will release stabilization grants this Fall for providers totaling almost $400M. This much-needed investment in child care supports economic recovery and helps to provide a fair start for kids.

Look out for these other efforts from DCYF:

  • Complex Needs Fund for ECEAP and child care providers
  • Equity grants for child care and other early learning programs
  • Revising community-based training pathways to a full training model called “PACE” (Provider Access to Community Equivalent)
  • Increased Early Achievers Scholarship availability

To follow DCYF’s ongoing work in implementing this legislation, visit our Fair Start for Kids Act webpage.