Alert: Beginning July 1, 2018, the Department of Early Learning will become the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). After June 30, 2018, this website will no longer be updated. For the latest information on early learning, visit the DCYF website at

Glossary of Common Terms and Acronyms


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Unsure about a word or term you saw on our website? Check out this list of common acronyms. If you still have questions, email

ALJ or Administrative law judge: The Office of Administrative Hearings is an independent state agency made up of 74 administrative law judges who conduct impartial administrative hearings for Washington's citizens and governmental agencies.

BCCU or Background Check Central Unit: Part of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Conducts background checks for agencies providing services to children and vulnerable adults.

CA or Children's Administration: A division of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services dedicated to working with children and families to ensure safety and well-being of children.

CCDF or Child Care and Development Fund: Federal program that gives block grant funds to states, territories, and Tribal Nations to assist eligible families in obtaining child care so they can work or attend school/training. Funding also may be used to improve the quality of child care and offer additional services to parents, such as resource and referral counseling regarding the selection of appropriate child care providers to meet their child's needs.

Child Care Check: Department of Early Learning service that provides basic information about licensed child care facilities, including information about valid and inconclusive complaint findings for licensing complaints. Parents and others can access Child Care Check either online or by phone.

DECA or Deveraux Early Childhood Assessment: Nationally normed assessment of children ages two to five that gives early childhood professionals and families strategies to promote young children's social and emotional development and to enhance the overall quality of early childhood programs.

DEL or Department of Early Learning: State agency created in 2006 to elevate the focus on the importance of a child's earliest years, and integrate early learning efforts. Pronounced "D-E-L"

DLR/CPS or Division of Licensed Resources/Child Protective Services: Part of the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Investigates allegations of child abuse or neglect by someone licensed by the state to care for children, including child care providers.

DOH or Department of Health: Washington State department that offers programs and services to help prevent illness and injury, promote healthy places to live and work, provide education to help people make good health decisions, and ensure our state is prepared for emergencies.

DSHS or Department of Social and Health Services: Washington State department that offers protection, comfort, food assistance, financial aid, medical care, and other services to eligible children, families, vulnerable adults, and seniors.

Early Achievers: Early Achievers is the name for Washington's quality rating and improvement system, a voluntary program in which child care providers can earn incentives and get free coaching to improve early learning for children in their care. Participating providers earn a rating from 1 to 5, which families can refer to when choosing child care for their children.

ECE or Early childhood education

ECEAP or Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program: DEL's ECEAP (pronounced E-Cap) is the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, a preschool program that provides free services and support to eligible children and their families, including preschool, family support and parent involvement, and child health and nutrition services.

ELAC or Early Learning Advisory Council: Created by the Legislature in 2007, ELAC representatives from around the state meet regularly to provide input and recommendations to the Department of Early Learning so our strategies and actions are well-informed and broadly supported by parents, child care providers, health/safety experts, and interested members of the public.

ESIT or Early Support for Infants and Toddlers Program: Located in the Department of Early Learning, ESIT provides early intervention services, including family resources coordination, for eligible children from birth to age three and their families.

FamLink: Information system built by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. The Department of Early Learning (DEL) uses this information system for licensed child care information.

FFN or Family, friends and neighbors: Grandparents, aunts, uncles, elders, older siblings, friends, neighbors, and others who help families take care of their kids on an informal basis.

HSSCO or Head Start State Collaboration Office: Head Start is a national preschool program that promotes school readiness by providing educational, health, nutrition, social, and other services to enrolled children and families. The Head Start State Collaboration Office at DEL helps develop partnerships that benefit low-income families and children in healthy family development. The office coordinates federal, state, and local policy to help ensure a unified early care and education system.

Home Visiting: Home visiting programs offer voluntary, family-focused services to expectant parents and families with new babies and young children. Home visiting supports the child and family by buffering the effects of risk factors and stress in the family. Evidence shows that when families receive home-based support, their children are born healthier and are less likely to suffer from abuse or neglect. It has also has shown a strong return on the investment of funds in this area of prevention and early learning support.

MERIT or Managed Education and Registry Information Tool: The Managed Education and Registry Information Tool (MERIT) is Washington’s online tool for early care and education and school-age professionals to find training, information on career pathways, and track their career progress. MERIT also identifies trainers who provide education to early care and education and school-age professionals.

MLR or Minimum licensing requirements: Washington state regulations for licensed family home child care providers, child care centers, and school-age programs that detail what these licensed programs must do as providers of licensed child care.

NRM or Negotiated rule making: The Negotiated Rule Making process is intended to solicit broad input from interested stakeholders. Currently, the Department of Early Learning is in the middle of the negotiated rule making process for licensed family home child care providers about issues that affect the health, safety, learning, and quality of the home child care environments. The negotiated rule making process is intended to lead to rules that are easily understood so both the licensors and providers will have a clear idea of what is expected.

PAG or Parent Advisory Group: Group of parents who meet regularly via phone or in person to provide feedback and information to help ensure the Department of Early Learning is serving parents well.

QRIS or Quality Rating and Improvement System: Voluntary statewide system currently in pilot phase that will provide incentives and resources for child care providers to improve the quality of their programs, while offering parents valuable information about child care programs available in their community.

R&R Child Care Resource & Referral: The Washington State Child Care Resource & Referral Network oversees 18 sites in communities around the state. The local R&Rs offer information to parents on licensed child care providers in their community, and tips on how to find high-quality child care. The local R&Rs also provide training, scholarships, and other resources to licensed child care providers

RCW or Revised Code of Washington: Compilation of all permanent laws now in place for the state

STARS or State Training & Registry System: Career development system designed to improve child care through basic and ongoing training for child care providers. Linked to the state's minimum licensing requirements.

Strengthening Families Washington: Strengthening Families Washington is an initiative within the Department of Early Learning (DEL) that focuses on helping families strengthen family bonds, understand childhood development, cope with the challenges of parenting and develop positive discipline skills. Strengthening Families Washington's public awareness campaigns include Speak Up When You're Down (postpartum depression), Have a Plan (shaken baby syndrome), Heirloom Birth Certificates and Keep Kids Safe license plates.

WAC or Washington Administrative Code: Compilation of all state regulations.

WCCC or Working Connections Child Care: Program that provides child care subsidies, mainly for families who are working and have incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level.