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

The Early Start Act


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With the passage of the Early Start Act on July 6, 2015, lawmakers provided an opportunity for all children to arrive at school ready to learn; for families to break the cycle of poverty; and for state communities to reap the rewards and the return on investment we know comes from high-quality early learning. This act has been a driving force for new initiatives and improvements at the Department of Early Learning (DEL). Learn how we are accomplishing all of the mandates set out in the Early Start Act by reading below.


Early Start Act Annual Report
Every year the Department of Early Learning (DEL) submits a report on the progress of implementing Early Start Act mandates. To read the latest report, click here
To read past reports and executive summaries, click here
Standards Alignment
The Early Start Act mandated that DEL update our WAC so that the early learning system has a unified set of regulations that are easy to understand by providers.  Learn how DEL is streamlining and aligning standards for Family Homes and Centers here.
Learn how we’re creating a progression of standards and regulations between licensed childcare, Early Achievers, and ECEAP by clicking here
Early Achievers Participation
Beginning August 1, 2016, licensed child care and early learning providers offering services to children and families that qualify for Working Connections Child Care subsidies must be enrolled in Early Achievers to maintain subsidy authorization. Learn more about the supports and benefits of Early Achievers here
12 Month Eligibility for Subsidy
Families qualifying for state subsidized Working Connections Child Care now automatically receive 12 months of eligibility. This will give providers a better sense of the number of children they’ll be serving over a longer, and more consistent period of time, and means a more predictable source of income. Find out more here.  
Child Care Check
DEL created a single source of information for parents and caregivers to access details on a provider's early achievers program rating level, licensing history, and other indicators of quality and safety that will help parents and caregivers make informed choices.  Visit Child Care Check here
ECEAP Requirements
Washington’s state-funded preschool program, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program or ECEAP, was bolstered as part of the Early Start Act. Learn more about ECEAP participation in Early Achievers and how we’re expanding the system here
Research Based Cultural Competency Standards
The Early Start Act charged DEL with recommending guidelines for culturally responsive early learning professional training. Read the report that DEL produced and learn how you can incorporate these guidelines into your practice here
Racial Equity and Diversity
The Early Start Act has numerous, strong mandates for supporting diverse providers and families. Check out our Racial Equity Initiative webpage to learn how we’re doing at fulfilling those mandates, and how we’re developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to strengthen DEL’s capacity to advance racial equity and eliminate disparities in child outcomes. 
Research, Data, and Analysis
The Early Start Act ensured that DEL’s policy decisions and funding of programs would be grounded in strong data and analysis. To find out more about our Research and Data Analysis team and how they’re improving our understanding of provider, children, and family experiences and outcomes, click here.
Early Learning Advisory Council and the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee
Early Learning Advisory Council members provide input and recommendations to DEL so our strategies and actions are well informed and broadly supported by parents, child care providers, health and safety experts and interested members of the public. Find out about ELAC members and committee meetings here.
The Early Start Act charged a subgroup of the Early Learning Advisory Council to monitor DEL’s progress in implementing the Early Achievers system. Read more about the Early Achievers Review Subcommittee here
Joint Select Committee on Early Achievers
When the Washington State Legislature convenes this committee, we’ll link to it here. 
Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative
Building on investments in early learning, as part of the Early Start Act, the Legislature approved a pilot to explore how best the state can support providers serving children before and after school with training and resources needed to encourage high-quality programming. The Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative (formerly known as the Out-of-School Time Quality Initiative) builds on the success and lessons learned from Early Achievers, Washington’s quality rating and improvement system. Fifty programs including licensed family homes and child care centers (who serve school-age children and families) already participating in Early Achievers, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and other programs serving youth between the ages of 5-18 years from four counties (King, Pierce, Spokane, and Walla Walla) participated in a quality assessment and improvement process.
DEL worked in partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), School’s Out Washington, Child Care Aware of Washington, and the University of Washington to provide training, coaching and assessment using the best national research on promoting youth outcomes. 
A report including a summary of evaluation findings, recommendations, and next steps was submitted to the Washington State Legislature October 2017. You can view the Full Report, along with an Executive Summary and Appendix which includes the full evaluation summary conducted by University of Washington’s Cultivate Learning.
Efforts will continue this year as DEL and partners work on implementation of a comprehensive statewide learning system committed to quality education from birth to age 18.