Standards Alignment: The Foundational Quality Standards for Early Learning Programs

July 25, 2019
Teacher with students doing activities around a table

The Early Start Act of 2015 mandated that the Department of Children, Youth & Families (DCYF) update the child care licensing rules so that the early learning system has a unified set of foundational health, safety and child development regulations that are easy to understand. The standards alignment process created one clear progression of quality standards across DCYF's programs.

DCYF worked collaboratively with the child care provider community on updates to the Family Home and Center licensing standards that go into effect on August 1, 2019. Through the work of an active Advisory Committee; 45 community meetings; 10 months negotiated rulemaking process with teams of parents, providers, and licensors; and more than 2,000 public comments, these revised WACS are well-informed by a large, engaged and diverse group of people in Washington State who contributed their ideas, expertise and experience.

Per the consensus-based decision of the negotiated rulemaking teams, the decision was made to postpone implementation of the rules and use time from May 2018 – August 2019 as a grace period supporting the diverse communities of providers to prepare and be ready for implementation of the rules on August 1, 2019. 

Throughout this process, DCYF has understood that changes to regulations can be overwhelming. In ongoing efforts to prepare for the August 1 implementation, DCYF has provided a number of online and in-person supports to inform providers and licensors about the standards.

In partnership with Voices of Tomorrow and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), DCYF worked directly with the Somali community in King County to develop standards alignment resources for Somali providers. Similar work is underway with the Spanish speaking communities in the Tri-Cities, Yakima and Wenatchee.

DCYF realizes how important it is to make sure licensing actions are consistent. New processes for licensing staff were implemented to ensure there is a consistent, shared understanding of the standards and how to use licensing tools, and that staff know how to monitor and support provider compliance.

From day one, starting with the passage of the Early Start Act, through the years of preparation for the issuance of updated licensing standards, this process has allowed providers of all types, parents, stakeholders and licensing staff to work together and learn together. DCYF will continue to work with advocates to champion more supports and resources for providers to be able to do their jobs well.