This article describes Washington’s efforts.
When the pandemic arrived, Washington was able to tap into several existing mechanisms for stakeholder engagement to understand the emergent needs of families and providers and identify strategies to respond. These included:
- The Parent Advisory Group convened by the Department of Children Youth and Families
- The State Early Learning Advisory Council which includes representation from 10 regional early childhood coalitions as well as having a provider subcommittee
- The Parent Institute for Engagement (PIE) is a dynamic group of parents engaged in building skills to become better leaders, advocates, public speakers and active members of our state
- The Home Visiting Advisory Committee (HVAC), a standing advisory group with representatives from Home Visiting programs
- And relationships with key partner organizations such as Child Care Aware of WA, SEIU 925 which represents family child care providers, and the Washington Parent Ambassadors, among others
Input from these multiple sources as well as strong internal state agency coordination helped to inform decision-making regarding how best to utilize American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, and served to highlight areas of need for infants, toddlers, and their families.
Ways ARPA resources are specifically supporting babies and their families:
- Child care: the state is providing an enhanced payment rate for infants under 12 months receiving child care subsidy which is available to licensed centers, family child care homes, and Early ECEAP providers (Early ECEAP is a state program modeled after Early Head Start). The decision to specifically target enhanced payments to providers serving infants was based on recognition that the cost model for infants was the most challenging even before COVID and the pandemic significantly exacerbated the challenges facing providers. Washington is using ARPA resources to expand access to IECMH consultation for licensed providers participating in Early Achievers (Washington’s Quality Rating and Improvement System).
- Home visiting: Washington used a combination of ARPA and state dollars to provide funding for concrete needs like diapers and formula to families participating in home visiting programs, as well as providing bonus payments for home visitors and home visiting supervisors who worked during the pandemic.
- Child abuse and neglect prevention: Washington is expanding funding for community-based parenting supports, family resource centers, and initiated new funding for a tribal fatherhood initiative. All three of these initiatives were funded through a competitive application process, prioritizing funding for geographic and demographic groups most impacted by child welfare system involvement, including families with American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, families with young children and communities with historically highest rates of child welfare system involvement.
- IDEA Part C: ARPA dollars are supporting training in early childhood relational health for IDEA Part C providers including extending training opportunities to enhance providers’ ability to support children with complex needs in foster care, returning from hospital to home and to improve skills to work within the neuro-relational framework in support of the infant parent relationship.
In order to promote equitable access to resources, Washington committed to not only translating resources to other languages but ensuring that information consistently is released at the same time as English versions.
As is the case across states, Washington navigated a variety of challenges related to implementing ARPA activities. Lack of staff capacity, turnover, and state-level infrastructure combined with the timeline associated with the influx of ARPA funding created challenges. The time-limited nature of the funds poses the most significant challenge. These are short-term projects addressing long-term needs. The lack of sustainable federal investment raises difficult questions about how to minimize losing the progress that has been made and how to avoid damaging trust and relationships between government agencies and communities, providers, and families. Additionally, while ARPA resources enabled important progress, incentives and resources for the birth to three workforces in particular remain below what is needed.
Additional ARPA Resources
Interested in learning more about how states are using ARPA to support babies? Visit our landing page to read the summary brief, States are Leveraging ARPA to Move the Needle for Infants and Toddlers, and the full series of state articles (featuring Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Minnesota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin).