There are more choices for early childhood education, care, and assistance which are not overseen by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF).
Department of Social and Health Services
The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) offers many programs for parents affected by temporary situations such as loss of a job, and local school districts provide free preschool services for children with developmental delays.
Families who are in crisis and in need of emergency child care for children ages 6 years and younger are able to access free crisis nursery care.
Crisis nurseries offer a safe, stable place for children when families are overwhelmed and need help. They also offer outreach, support and training to families to prevent child abuse and neglect and help families offer safe and nurturing home environments.
Families can use the service for up to 72 hours at a time. It is a free service that is available to parents who are experiencing stress due to parenting, illness, domestic violence, homelessness, employment, school, or other crisis situations.
Crisis nurseries in Washington include:
- Margie's Crisis Nursery, serving Mason, Lewis, Thurston Counties: 360.786.8907, ext. 100
- Gray's Harbor Children's Advocacy Center: 360.249.0005
- Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery in Spokane: 509.535.3155
- Safe Harbor, serving the Tri-Cities area: 509.783.5734
Local school districts offer free preschool to some children with special needs. Certified special education teachers, speech therapists, and other staff will help your child learn skills that will help them enter kindergarten ready to succeed.
If you aren't sure whether your child will qualify for a developmental preschool program, your local school district can provide a screening at no cost to you. Contact your neighborhood school to learn about the services in your area.
Private Preschools or Kindergartens
Private preschools or kindergartens offer primarily educational curriculum for no more than four hours per day. DCYF does not license or oversee private preschools. However, some private preschools and kindergartens are certified with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
A private preschool that operates more than four hours per day is subject to child care licensing and DCYF oversight. Some licensed child care providers may also offer kindergarten curriculum. You can learn more about these programs by searching Child Care Check.
Other programs may be accredited through their particular program approach, such as Montessori or Waldorf programs.