Home visiting supports have meaningful impacts on the lives of children and families. Start Early Washington supports new and existing home visiting programs with coaching, consultation, training and professional learning to ensure the highest quality home visiting services for families.

Our staff includes professionals whose expertise is enriched by lived experiences and practical knowledge. As one of our proudest achievements, Start Early Washington staff hold over 165 years of combined home visiting experience!

This blog post introduces our senior home visiting manager, Cassie Morley, who draws from nearly three decades of home visiting experience to oversee a talented team that supports 63 home visiting programs statewide.

Cassie swinging with her 5-month-old granddaughter, Loveday (2021)

Spark of Inspiration

Cassie discovered her passion for home visiting as a college student preparing for a theater production of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.” As part of the pre-production process, the director organized a workshop with the renowned childbirth educator and author Penny Simkin to help students perform their roles authentically. The director’s Saturday workshop might otherwise have been a footnote in Cassie’s career, but instead, it sparked inspiration and changed her life’s course. Cassie was captivated to learn about the multifaceted roles doulas and midwives play and how meaningful it felt to support the birthing process during such a transformative time in people’s lives.

Cassie pursued a career in midwifery as soon as she graduated college.

Partnering with Families

After completing her training as a midwife and practicing as a doula, Cassie furthered her passion for working with families as a home visitor with Parents as Teachers, and spending many years as a family resources coordinator, supporting the parents of infants and toddlers with disabilities and developmental delays.

Cassie’s career continued to flourish as a Parents as Teacher home visitor working with tribal families across the South Sound region. Her love for partnering with tribal families deepened her insight into the essential roles that language, culture and community norms play in early childhood development. Connecting with families in this capacity was a life-changing experience and led to many years of collaboration and support for tribal nations in Washington state.

Firsthand Experiences

Cassie noted how the support from a home visitor, trusting relationships, and access to resources are instrumental for new parents in making those first few years more manageable. “People with new babies are busy trying to survive and reinvent themselves; it can be hard to advocate for yourself. The demands of being a parent are constantly changing, personal growth is hard work and having someone there to support you along the way is critical.” As a single parent raising a child diagnosed with epilepsy and intellectual disabilities, Cassie experienced firsthand how incredibly challenging and complex it can be to care for a young child.

Cassie holding her 2-month-old daughter, Ash (2001)

While Cassie’s firsthand experiences as a parent and home visitor fueled her passion for removing barriers for parents, years of evidence of the impact of home visiting solidified her belief in its role in positively influencing lifelong outcomes for children and their families.

“Change is a constant in home visiting work. Infants and toddlers grow and change rapidly; parents have to stretch and grow to support their ever-changing children. Home visitors are continually learning new skills, making adjustments and fine-tuning their support of families. In turn, home visiting supervisors are continuously striving to change and improve the quality of support provided to the families they serve.”

Parallel Process and Positive Change

Cassie’s accomplished career supporting families includes doula, home visitor, home visiting program supervisor, Parents as Teachers state lead — and her current role at the systems-level, where she influences meaningful outcomes for children and their families across Washington state.

Because of these experiences, she has a unique ability to understand the implications and effects of program and policy change, allowing her to advocate for children and families alongside partners at multiple levels.

“Start Early Washington’s home visiting team supports programs across the state. We are always refining our work and making incremental changes. Meaningful change is possible because of the authentic relationships we foster. Our work is grounded in emotional support, role clarity, honesty, trust and safety.” — Cassie Morley

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Visit our main page to learn more about Washington’s home visiting team.

As requested by the Legislature, Washington state’s Home Visiting Advisory Committee — consisting of home visiting providers, advocates, state agency partners and other allied professionals — recently outlined an ambitious path to strengthen the state’s home visiting system. Submitted to the Washington state Legislature and the Department of Children, Youth and Families, this plan makes essential recommendations to improve equity in the home visiting system, ensure a skilled and sustainable workforce and expand home visiting access to additional families.

Many of the recommendations identify strategies that are within the Department of Children, Youth and Families’ administrative power to implement while others will require additional investment from the Legislature.

Recommendation Highlights

A comprehensive overview of the recommendations is available on the Department of Children, Youth and Families website. In summary, the recommendations focus on the following areas of improvement:

Promote Equity: Washington must support a range of home visiting programs that meet the needs of diverse communities; ensure parent, community and provider voice is embedded in decision-making; and recruit and retain a workforce representative of families served.

Strengthen the Workforce: Home visitors have continued to provide essential supports to families, yet the workforce is under tremendous stress with higher than usual attrition in the past two years. The recommendations include investing in wages – including addressing racial and positional wage disparities; increasing access to professional development; and assessing home visitor caseloads and administrative burden.

Systems Improvements: To create a stable, sustainable and scalable home visiting system, the recommendations include completing a cost study to inform contracting to better reflect the true cost of the service; funding adjustments that promote equity; and streamlined data strategies.

Start Early Washington supports the recommendations submitted by the Home Visiting Advisory Committee. We are committed to working with our public and private sector partners to create comprehensive implementation plans with a strategic direction to build an equitable home visiting system that supports children and families in Washington state.

 

Excited to Learn More?

Check out our work in Washington state and stay connected; we’d love to grow our engagement with you.

Washington state capitol building in summer(Photo Credit: Erica Hallock)

A Reminder …

Start Early Washington publishes “Notes From Olympia” periodically throughout the legislative interim. During this time, we are replacing trivia with “deeper dives,” looking at innovations and issues that intersect with policy. This edition’s deep dive focuses on recommendations the Home Visiting Advisory Committee recently submitted to the Legislature and the Department of Children, Youth and Families to improve equity in the system, ensure a skilled and sustainable workforce and serve additional families.

A Look at the State’s Revenue Picture

Two important updates impacting our state’s budget outlook were released in June – the first being the caseload forecast (projecting the state’s spending commitments for entitlement programs) and the other is the revenue forecast (projecting how much money the state has available to spend).

Caseload Forecast

The June 15 Caseload Forecast provided updated projections from the last forecast in February related to a number of state programs. These include projections for K-12 enrollment, state prisons and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program – all major cost drivers in the state budget. Forecast reports are used by the Governor to build his proposed budget as well as by legislative budget writers in their adoption of budget numbers.

Interestingly, K-12 enrollment has not yet bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. For specific early learning programs, the following changes are forecasted:

  • ECEAP enrollment is projected to increase by 2.1% from the February forecast, growing by 309 children, bringing the caseload to 15,199 in state Fiscal Year 2023 (state Fiscal Year 2023 runs from July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023). The forecast notes ECEAP enrollment has been impacted by COVID-19 and labor market developments. (It is fair to say COVID-19 was noted as a risk in every program forecast).
  • Working Connections Child Care participation is expected to decline by 4.2% from the February forecast (a decline of 1,105 families) bringing the caseload to 24,999 in state Fiscal Year 2023. The forecast accounts for the increased eligibility provided by the Fair Start for Kids Act. Risks to this forecast include COVID-19 and changing patterns in work and child care usage.
  • Special Education Preschool is projected to increase by 2.3% from the February forecast. The percentage of eligible children in this age group participating in Special Education preschool is projected to recover to exceed pre-pandemic levels from 2022-23 to 2024-25, but the actual caseload will not reach pre-pandemic levels due to declining birth rates.

Currently, the caseload forecast does not include a specific projection for the Transitional Kindergarten caseload. As a reminder, the 2022 supplemental budget included funding and a directive for the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) to complete an evaluation on a number of items related to Transitional Kindergarten (TK) by Dec. 1, 2023, including the number of school districts offering TK and the number of children participating in the program (to the extent data is available).

Revenue Forecast

If the remarks from State Economist Dr. Steve Lerch at the June 22 meeting of the Economic Revenue and Forecast Council were put into a “word cloud generator,” the words “caution” and “slowing” would likely come out the largest as they were the most frequently cited.

In short, while the state’s revenue continues to grow beyond previous projections, expected growth is accompanied by a number of asterisks. Washington state continues to experience stronger than projected revenue collections, but there is concern about where our economy is headed. The largest concerns are around inflation, rising gas prices, a drop in retail sales, a potential slowdown in residential construction and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict. The potential for a recession in our state is a possibility.

In terms of the official revenue forecast, revenues for the 2021-23 biennium (our current biennium) are up $1.457 billion over previous projections, and revenues for the 2023-25 biennium are up $632 million over previous projections. The variance between the two biennia demonstrates the expected slower, more moderate growth for our state’s economy.

Dr. Lerch also produces “alternative forecasts” including optimistic and pessimistic projections. The odds of the pessimistic forecasts for 2021-23 and 2023-25 outweigh the optimistic ones, and notably, the pessimistic forecast for 2023-25 projects a potential $6.2 billion drop in revenue.

Back to the proverbial word cloud – caution and slowing.

Primary Election Coming Soon

The state’s Aug. 2 primary election is quickly approaching, with ballots in the mail by July 15. Washington state has a top two primary system, which means the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will advance to the Nov. 8 general election.

Candidate filing week occurred from May 16-20 with hundreds of aspiring elected officials throwing their hats into the ring for offices ranging from Secretary of State to every seat in the House of Representatives as well as 24 of the 49 State Senate positions. The Secretary of State office is up for election in this “off year” because Secretary of State Steve Hobbs was appointed to replace Kim Wyman, who left her elected position post midterm to lead cybersecurity efforts for President Joe Biden.

Even before candidate filing week, we knew the makeup of the 2023 Washington state Legislature would be significantly different with more than 20 sitting lawmakers announcing they did not plan to run again for their current position. Many of these legislators are running for an open State Senate seat or the U.S. House of Representatives, but a significant number are retiring from elected service (at least for the 2022 election cycle). These retirements include a number of veterans such as the lead Capital Budget writer in the Senate David Frockt; House Majority Leader (and key budget negotiator) Pat Sullivan; and the long-time chair of the House Health Care Committee, Eileen Cody.

In addition to the retirement of veteran lawmakers, we saw an unusually high number of newer legislators, largely Members of Color, opt out of running for state legislative office in 2022. Newer lawmakers cited part-time employment reimbursement for what is really a full-time job, lack of support as well as frustration with the institution as impacting their decision to not return in 2023.

With some very crowded primary races, we will have a better picture of the November general election competitions after Aug. 2.

Ballot Initiatives

In the upcoming November general election, voters will also be asked to consider various initiatives. Initiative sponsors have until 5 p.m. on July 8 to submit signatures to the Secretary of State from at least 324,516 registered voters supporting the proposed initiative. The signature gathering process is time intensive, complex and costly.

One initiative that will not appear on voters’ ballots is the proposal to repeal the state’s recently enacted Capital Gains tax that was passed to support components of the Fair Start for Kids Act and other education related items. As reported in the June 10, 2022 Washington Wire, backers of the initiative decided not to pursue a ballot initiative, instead opting to place their bets on the legal challenge that is headed to the Washington State Supreme Court. The Wire piece cites the high costs of signature gathering as a reason for the decision.

Deep Dive: Home Visiting System Recommendations

The 2021 adopted state budget directed the Home Visiting Advisory Committee established in RCW 43.216.130 to submit recommendations to the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and the Legislature by June 1, 2022, containing strategies for improving equity in the home visiting system, ensuring a skilled and sustainable workforce and serving additional families.

The Home Visiting Advisory Committee (HVAC) includes home visiting experts, government and health department representatives, tribal community liaisons, service providers and research and evaluation experts. Its current membership is listed on Page 27 of the HVAC recommendations. (I represent the Home Visiting Advocacy Coalition on this committee).

The HVAC worked over the past year to develop recommendations that focus on three areas: 1) Workforce Development; 2) True Cost of Services; and 3) Data Enhancement. The recommendations build on work done to date, center community voices and prioritize strategies to better support under-resourced rural communities and organizations led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The HVAC is committed to a home visiting system that includes a range of home visiting models, programs and providers to ensure home visiting meets the needs of Washington state’s diverse communities and populations.

Implementing many of these recommendations is within DCYF’s purview; however, some will involve additional investment by the Legislature. While it will take time to implement the full array of recommendations, in its submission letter, the HVAC urged the Legislature and DCYF to take immediate action to address specific challenges facing the home visiting workforce, particularly related to compensation and the recruitment and retention of a workforce more representative of the children and families served.

Background on Home Visiting in Washington State

The recommendation document includes helpful background on the evolution of home visiting in our state, including the following “fast facts:”

  • The Home Visiting Services Account (HVSA) was created in statute in 2010, requiring all federal, state and private dollars the state receives for home visiting be deposited into this dedicated account.
  • Today, 44 local implementing agencies (also often referred to as “programs”) serve about 2,800 families statewide with funding through the HVSA.
  • An additional 6,000 families are served statewide with funding outside of the HVSA. The largest non-HVSA funding sources are Best Starts for Kids in King County and Early Head Start Home Based option.
  • Primary HVSA funding includes federal Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV); the State-General Fund; Fair Start for Kids Act funding; a portion of I-502 cannabis dollars; and funding from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to serve families participating in that program.
  • Washington has adopted a “portfolio” approach with the HVSA funding supporting nine different home visiting models to meet the varying needs of families. Additional home visiting models are funded by non-HVSA sources.

Summary of HVAC Recommendations

The recommendations contain a key detailing estimated budgetary impacts and a timeline for each recommendation (immediate, short-, medium- and long-term). The accompanying document includes further detail on the rationale for the specific recommendation, what authorizing authority is needed to implement, as well as further detail on budgetary impacts and timing. Most of the recommendations are within DCYF’s authority to implement, and many will need additional funding from the Legislature. The HVAC expressly stated their interest that implementation of several of the recommendations go beyond just HVSA-funded home visiting slots and support the larger home visiting system.

Overarching Recommendation: Community-Supported Portfolio Approach

  • This overarching recommendation encourages DCYF to continue supporting a portfolio of models to meet community needs. (Again, a portfolio approach supports multiple home visiting models to meet the varying needs of families and communities).
  • Specifically, the recommendation includes the development of a framework for the selection of models that prioritizes investing in under-resourced rural communities and organizations led by Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
  • DCYF should ensure selection of models and programs/decisions/design include deep community engagement that centers community, parent and provider voice.

Workforce Development Recommendations

Like other health and human service sectors, the home visiting workforce is under stress with higher than usual attrition in the past two years. Top concerns include:

  • Inability to recruit and retain staff due to low compensation.
  • Insufficient access to ongoing training and comprehensive professional development.
  • Balancing working directly with families and the lack of time to access professional development opportunities.

A study cited in the recommendations notes that 49% of the home visiting workforce in Washington earns less than $20/hour and the pay disparity is greater for home visitors identifying as Black, Indigenous or Person of Color.

Recommended strategies include:

  • Invest in home visiting workforce wages to specifically address racial and positional wage disparities.
  • Build in time for home visitors to access professional development that addresses the full needs of families (this could involve adjusting caseloads to account for time to engage in professional development opportunities).
  • Develop and implement strategies to recruit and retain a workforce more representative of families served.
  • Focus on workforce well-being with a focus on trauma-informed and healing-centered practices.

True Cost of Service Recommendations

Unlike many early learning programs, home visiting is not funded with a set rate structure. For example, newly contracted and recently expanded contracted local implementing agencies are often funded at higher levels compared to established local implementing agencies that are locked into years of static funding.

Recommended strategies include:

  • Complete the cost study that is underway within 12 months to inform the development of a customizable, community-driven cost model. It will be important to engage the Home Visiting Advisory Committee as well as HVSA-funded and non-HVSA funded programs in the cost study design and implementation.
  • Provide funding adjustments to local implementing agencies to bring equity and sustainability.

Data Enhancement Recommendation

Data is an area complicated by various funding streams and model-specific requirements. Many local implementing agencies cite the time intensive nature of the current data collection requirements as burdensome and have expressed concern that some data points are duplicative, or even unnecessary. Finally, there is interest in more transparency and disaggregation in the data collected.

Specific strategies include:

  • Alignment of data requirements, with particular attention to reducing duplicative or unnecessary requirements.
  • Increase capacity to manage and use data.
  • Develop a data infrastructure plan.

What’s Next?

Development of these recommendations was a collaborative effort between members of the HVAC as well as staff from DCYF and Department of Health (which manages the data function). A point of personal privilege – I would like to give a special shoutout to the DCYF and DOH teams and the HVAC members who stepped up to lead the recommendation development. A tremendous amount of work went into their development and identification of critically needed action steps.

So where do we go from here? With DCYF’s focus on prevention as a key component of its agency charge (amplified by the recent passage of landmark child welfare legislation), we expect DCYF to submit a prevention-oriented decision package this fall that includes home visiting for consideration in the Governor’s budget. We hope to see the more immediate recommendations that require state investment reflected in that decision package.

Home visiting advocates are digesting these recommendations and beginning the process of developing their 2023 legislative asks. What is clear is the urgent need to address the home visiting workforce and ensure the system is strengthened to better include the voices of communities, parents and providers alike so the system can expand to serve more families.

If you are interested in learning more about home visiting advocacy efforts, drop me an email; we would love to grow engagement with this important work.

Looking for more? Here’s a home visiting advocacy overview document sharing home visiting advocacy coalition membership, benefits of home visiting and the current state of services in Washington.

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“My personal experience with ParentChild+ will last a lifetime!” Marcella shares her memories as one of many families who benefited from working with an early learning specialist through the ParentChild+ program.

Marcella and her daughter Taylor-Corrine participated in the ParentChild+ (PC+) program more than 16 years ago. Marcella admired the program’s ability to support the whole family in shaping a bright path for her daughter’s future. As a result, she was inspired to become an early learning specialist for PC+, supporting other families to build strong foundations and thriving futures. Currently, she is the PC+ program manager at Start Early Washington, where she supports 16 PC+ programs with technical assistance, professional development, coaching and consultation.

How Positive Reinforcement Builds Confidence

Positive reinforcement amplifies what is already working well and PC+ early learning specialists do that in numerous ways. They remind families that they are already doing a fantastic job with their child. Conversations are always positive, confidence building and reassuring to families that they know their child best. Marcella noted this as an element she appreciated most as a participant. “I knew that someone wasn’t coming into my home to judge me or my parenting style.”

As a new mother, Marcella learned to use high quality parent-child interactions in everyday moments that are often overlooked as learning opportunities, such as parent self-talk and narrating routine activities. For example, Marcella experienced how easy this could be while talking aloud in the grocery isles about ingredients on her shopping list to her daughter Taylor-Corrine.

She quickly realized the value of her simple teachable moments when a stranger at the grocery store commented, “I love how you interact with your daughter.” That acknowledgment further reinforced that she was doing a fantastic job as a parent. “It elevated my confidence to a new level.” This positive feedback loop continued throughout the program and Taylor-Corrine’s life.

Shared Language and Culture Fosters Meaningful Relationships

As a unique component of the PC+ program, early learning specialists are matched with families who share their culture and language. A shared culture often plays an intricate role in fostering meaningful relationships. Notably, early learning specialists are hired from within the communities where they work and 25 percent of early learning specials are former parents who participated in the program.

“An authentic relationship and cultural match with our specialist was really important to our family when we participated,” Marcella noted fostering a trusting, authentic relationship with families is vital for successful engagement. “Families are more comfortable discussing difficult topics and asking for support,” she added.

Families develop a close bond with their early learning specialists over the course of 2 years. During that time, they receive 96 home visits and acquire several high quality books and educational materials selected specifically for their child’s age group, ranging from 2 months to 5 years of age. In addition, they receive various guide sheets to help facilitate learning through play.

Strong Foundations Lead to Future Success

The PC+ program aims to improve parent-child engagement and connect families with culturally appropriate information and materials to support school readiness, early literacy and lifelong success.

Access to culturally appropriate books and toys provided by the program opened an entirely new world for Marcella and her family. Books such as “Please, Baby, Please,” by Spike Lee and his wife, Tonya Lewis Lee, allowed Taylor-Corrine to be surrounded by characters who looked and felt like she did. “It was the first book Taylor-Corrine saw herself in,” Marcella explained.

Marcella noted that key representation through her child’s learning helped Taylor-Corrine feel inspired and confident to try new things. “It was life-changing for her, in so many ways, PC+ helped us provide the tools our daughter needed to be successful throughout life.”

Marcella’s testimony of her family’s experience offered a few tangible examples of strong foundations leading to future success. Marcella leveraged the many tools provided by the program to make learning fun and effective for her daughter. As a result, by the time Taylor-Corrine entered kindergarten, she loved learning and Marcella was confident in communicating Taylor-Corrine’s academic needs with her teachers.

 

I know the approach works and changes lives because it did for me.

— Marcella Taylor
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Today, Taylor-Corrine is thriving as a sophomore at the University of Southern California studying African American Studies, Philosophy, Politics and Law. She plans to practice law as a civil rights attorney someday.

Picture of Taylor-Corrine, 2022 Taylor-Corrine
(2022)

Taylor-Corrine continues to inspire her mother every day: “I am so proud of the woman she has become — I look at her and say, I want to be her when I grow up! She is independent and comfortable owning her space as a Black woman; she is confident and never questions if she belongs. Her success moves me forward to do better every day!”

Although the credit goes to Taylor-Corrine and her family, it is evident from speaking with Marcella that strong foundations were likely set in action through teachable moments discovered and supported through their participation in the PC+ program over 16 years ago.

Marcella and Taylor-Corrine explored Alki Beach after receiving an ocean-themed puzzle from their early learning specialist.
(2005)

A Reminder…

Start Early Washington publishes Notes From Olympia periodically throughout the legislative interim. During this time, we are replacing trivia with “deeper dives,” looking at innovations and issues that intersect with policy. In this edition, our deep dive highlights equity efforts in home visiting. But don’t worry – trivia will be back.

Governor’s Action on Budgets and Bills

On March 31, Governor Jay Inslee completed action on the budget and policy bills passed by the Legislature during the 2022 session. Start Early Washington’s bill tracker has been updated to reflect the bills signed into law. You can find the enacted bills at the top of our resource page.

In one of his final bill actions, Governor Inslee issued a partial veto of the supplemental operating budget, ESSB 5693. Among the Governor’s vetoes was the rejection of the Legislature’s directive that the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction establish rules for Transitional Kindergarten and that Transitional Kindergarten funding remain at the FY 2022 funding level.

In his veto message, the Governor explained that he could not support this budget proviso because it “…would limit school services for our young learners during and after the pandemic.” He went on to request that the Office of Public Instruction, “… upon the conclusion of a Washington State Institute for Public Policy study, work with agencies and stakeholders … to further define how school districts may grant exceptions to the uniform entry qualifications [for kindergarten] based on the ability, of the need, or both, of an individual student….”

A budget summary containing a complete list of investments is on Start Early Washington’s resource page.

New Faces Heading to Olympia in 2023

When the 2023 legislative session commences Jan. 9, 2023, we will see a number of new faces in the Senate and House of Representative Chambers. As of the most recent count, upward of two dozen current lawmakers have announced they do not plan to run to retain their current seats. These lawmakers fall into three categories – those retiring, those running for another elected office and newer legislators (largely members of color) who cite the long hours, inadequate compensation and the culture of the institution as reasons for not running again.

KUOW/NPR published an interview with Olympia correspondents Austin Jenkins and Shauna Sowersby to get their take on what these changes could mean. Jenkins and Sowersby highlighted the loss of institutional memory with retirement of longtime legislators as well as the opportunity their departures bring to diversify the Legislature and open up more leadership positions. In addition, the Seattle Times ran a column that focuses on how the structure of the legislative process disadvantages legislators of color.

Some of these lawmakers could change their minds and decide to run again. Candidate filing week is May 16-20, and we will have a better idea of how the races are shaping up after filing week.

Early Learning Facility Funding Announcement

On April 13, the Department of Commerce – in partnership with the Department of Children, Youth and Families – announced $43.2 million in grants to 69 early learning facilities across 22 counties to increase the number of children served in ECEAP and Working Connections Child Care. The Department of Commerce received 143 applications requesting $72.9 million in funding.

A total of $80,000 was awarded to four programs for pre-design (maximum award amount of $20,000); a total of $1.68 million to 11 programs for minor renovations and pre-development (maximum award level of $200,000); and a total of $41.52 million was awarded to 54 programs for new construction/major renovations (maximum award amount of $1 million).

Funding for these grants came from the state budget adopted in 2021. The budget recently signed by Governor Inslee contains an additional $23.137 million in competitive grants and $18.5 million in one-time federal funding for minor renovations. The Department of Commerce will start the distribution of this new funding shortly.

Deep Dive: Equity in Home Visiting and ParentChild+

Parent clapping as child learns to walk

Home visiting and supporting strong families in Washington

Home visiting is a voluntary, proven way to support and strengthen families in the first years of life. Trained home visitors and parents develop a trusting relationship and work together over several years to address prenatal and infant care, child development and parenting skills. It is a multi-generational approach that has the power to positively change the trajectory of an entire family.

Research shows that home visiting programs increase children’s literacy and high school graduation rates, as well as how much parents read to their children. In addition, home visiting programs increase positive birth outcomes for children, improve the likelihood that families have a primary care physician and decrease rates of child abuse and neglect.

Washington state offers nine different home visiting models, each with different outcomes and approaches. Roughly 9,000 families in Washington state participate in home visiting services funded by federal, state, local and private dollars.

Start Early Washington’s home visiting team works in concert with the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and other public and private funders in the areas of home visiting, family engagement, program implementation and community service coordination. Grounded in a strengths-based approach, our team (many of whom were home visiting program participants AND home visitors themselves) supports home visiting programs statewide with coaching, consultation, training and general professional development to ensure the highest quality of services to families.

What is ParentChild+?

ParentChild+ is one of the home visiting models supported by Start Early Washington. ParentChild+ has been operating in Washington for 16 years, reaching over 1,400 families and 31 family child care (FCC) providers annually through 17 program sites in King, Yakima and Pierce counties. Supported with funding from the United Way of King County, Best Starts for Kids, the City of Seattle, the Stolte Family Foundation and DCYF, ParentChild+ focuses on reaching families living in under resourced communities with culturally relevant, community-based early learning experiences.

ParentChild+ is an evidence-based school readiness model, working directly with parents as well as Family Child Care and Family Friend and Neighbor (FFN) providers, which preempts the opportunity gap by providing young children and their parents with culturally relevant learning tools and skills. The program reaches families where they are, with two different models:

  • Core Model: 92 twice-weekly 30-minute home visits to support healthy development and educational success. Local partner sites prioritize hiring community-based early learning specialists who share a linguistic and cultural background with families. Early learning specialists provide families with high quality learning tools to stimulate parent-child interaction, develop language, early literacy, social and emotional skills, connect families to community resources and build school readiness. It’s very common that participants go on to become early learning specialists themselves.
  • Family Child Care: The ParentChild+ FCC model is a 24 week program providing twice-weekly visits to participating FCC and FFN providers. It is an innovative professional development and enrichment approach because it takes place in providers’ homes during their workday. Providers can practice new skills with the children in their care in real time, under the mentorship of an early learning specialist.

ParentChild+ and Race Equity

Since its founding 57 years ago, ParentChild+ has aimed to equalize access to quality early childhood education and support to ensure school readiness. As part of its ongoing commitment to advance racial equity in ParentChild+, the following are some values inherent in its approach:

  • Carefully choose literature and materials for home visits that portray multiple cultures and match family values. Home visiting professionals hold great power in selecting materials that allow families to celebrate who they are, including cultural norms, skin color, hair texture and so much more.
  • Biases shape our worldview. Identify, unpack and address internal and external biases to ensure the highest-quality and most inclusive services to families.
  • Support families in speaking their home language. Speaking to children in their home language is a powerful factor in building and retaining secure parent-child attachments. Embedded within this is the value of hiring staff who reflect the families served.

Developing a pipeline of FCC providers through ParentChild+ engagement

Recently, Start Early Washington received a grant from the Department of Commerce to facilitate a partnership with four other organizations to engage in a community planning process to explore the best ways to create a pipeline of potential FCC providers using ParentChild+’s Core Model and FCC Models as the basis for engagement, outreach, training and support.

As a community-based model focused on working with families and FCC providers from diverse communities and matching them with early learning specialists who share their cultural and linguistic heritage, ParentChild+ is uniquely suited to support the development of new, high quality providers in historically underserved communities.

Partners in this project include Atlantic Street Center (ASC), a Seattle-based ParentChild+ provider focused on reaching African American families; Horn of Africa Services (HOAS), an agency focused on serving African immigrant and refugees in Seattle; Child Care Resources (CCR) which, among its other roles, supports FCC providers and the vast Family, Friend and Neighbor Network in King and Pierce counties; and the ParentChild+ National Office which supports the implementation of the ParentChild+ program

The Department of Commerce grant supports a robust community planning process, utilizing this diverse network of partners, to explore the best ways to create a pipeline for FCC providers in historically underserved communities, many of which were already child care deserts pre-COVID-19. This deep partnership is uniquely situated to examine the possibility of building expanded networks of FCC providers from among parents in the community who have already experienced coaching and support on being their children’s first teachers and now are ready to share their knowledge and skills with other children and families in their communities.

The focus of the project is on:

  1. Identifying successful ways to build a robust FCC provider pipeline utilizing assets in the community.
  2. Building a career path for ParentChild+ parents.
  3. Providing much needed child care in under-resourced communities across King County and Washington state.

Have a suggestion for an Interim Deep Dive? We would love to hear it!

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Olympia Capitol building

Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Trivia

What significance does March 7, 1927 hold in the history of the Washington State Legislature?

That’s a Wrap!

Sine Die. The Latin term Sine Die means “without a day to reconvene” and is used to signify adjournment at the end of a legislative session. Under Washington state’s Sine Die tradition, the doors to each chamber are opened so they can see the other body, the lawmakers line the aisles, and the presiding officers of the Senate and House simultaneously pound their gavels to mark conclusion of another legislative session.

House on Sine Die March 10, 2022
Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Final Budget Compromise Released. On Wednesday, the details of the $64.1 billion operating budget compromise were released prior to affirming votes in the Senate and the House. See our summary of what items were funded in the final budget (this link includes updated information).

The final budget amount came in lower than the House’s proposed $65.2 billion budget and higher than the Senate’s proposed $63.5 billion approach. The final budget includes $800 million in reserves as well as an additional $2.75 billion designated for COVID-19 related or other emergency responses.

Legislative Update. The Senate and House spent the week wrapping up final business, sending a slew of bills to the Governor for signature. Check out Start Early Washington’s bill tracker on our resource page to get the final tally of which bills made it to the Governor’s desk.

An important follow-up item relates to the status of designating pickleball as the state’s official sport. I’m pleased to share that SB 5615 made it through the legislative process and is on its way to the Governor for signature.

Now What?

We’re not quite done yet… While there is an audible sigh of relief after Sine Die, our work is not complete as attention turns to the executive branch, with Governor Inslee and his team beginning the process of reviewing the bills and budget details awaiting his action.

Like with every aspect of the legislative process, there are rules associated with the Governor’s consideration of bills, including the timeline for action dependent upon when a bill reaches the Governor’s desk. Many of these rules were developed for pre-electronic times when official paperwork was physically signed and delivered (and could get lost or misplaced – on accident or perhaps purposefully). At this stage, the Governor generally has 20 days to sign or veto bills once they reach his office. Sundays are not counted in that timeline, but Saturdays and holidays are included.

Governor Inslee’s office maintains a schedule of bill actions on his website where you can track which bills have been acted upon, and which bills are scheduled for signature. We do expect bill signings to continue to be largely virtual affairs this year, but track his website if you are interested in the status of a particular bill.

Election season is coming. 2022 is an election year with every House of Representatives seat and half of the State Senate seats up for election. Additionally, because Secretary of State Steve Hobbs was appointed to complete an unexpired term, the Secretary of State office will be up for election this year. Key dates include the candidate filing deadline of May 20, the primary election Aug. 2 and the general election Nov. 8.

Timing of Future Notes from Olympia. With the conclusion of the legislative session, we will pause the release of weekly updates and move to an “as needed” basis to share information. Expect our next update after the Governor’s action on bills and the budgets.

Trivia Answer

Photo Credit: Washington State Archives

March 7, 1927 represented the first day the Washington State Legislature met in the newly constructed – but unfurnished – Legislative Building.

Despite hope that the Legislature could begin their 1927 session in the new $6.5 million building, they only worked there for the final four days. This delay was attributed to fighting over the building’s furnishings (and its cost) among the three members of the Capitol Committee – Governor Roland Hartley, State Auditor C.W. Clausen and State Land Commissioner C.V. Savidge.

As an aside, not everyone was thrilled about the transition to the new digs in the waning days of session. According to Don Brazier’s recap of the 1927 legislative session, older legislators groused about having to make the trek “up the Hill” during the final days.

The final days of legislative sessions are often filled with tension and personal disagreements that can spill over into policy and budget decisions. The 1927 session appeared to have a heightened level of drama, largely driven by Governor Hartley’s disdain for his fellow elected officials in the Legislature as well as other statewide offices. In fact, Governor Hartley convinced the Legislature to investigate Land Commissioner Savidge for allegedly improperly executing his duties. (The investigation found no illicit conduct.) Soon thereafter, charges were leveled that Governor Hartley misused funding intended for maintenance on the Governor’s residence for furniture. The Attorney General ruled that Governor Hartley had misused the funds, and would need to reimburse the state.

Another example of the hard feelings between elected officials again involves Governor Hartley, but this time relates to the Governor’s long-standing feud with his outspoken opponent, Senator Oliver Hall of Whitman County. Senator Hall’s brother Elmer was an ally of Governor Hartley (not his Senator brother) and also worked as an assistant Sergeant of Arms. When Elmer’s son applied to be a legislative page, his uncle, Senator Hall, made sure he did not get the position. Governor Hartley, in turn, secured a job for the young man so he could come to Olympia.

Because the move to the new Legislative Building occurred during the final days of session, the expected celebratory events were put on hold (given the animosity, this may have been a wise move). The big issue on Sine Die in 1927 involved negotiations on a highway appropriations bill which was proving problematic. A cover was placed over the clocks at midnight on Sine Die, allowing negotiations to continue. After a 30-hour session, plans for an Ocean Beach Highway were scrapped in favor of funding for the Aurora Bridge in Seattle.

Apparently still harboring grievances, Governor Hartley ultimately issued a total of 59 vetoes, including a veto of an appropriation for dedication of the new Legislative Building.

Elizabeth Varnell and Virginia (Ginna) Varnell Dunn
In front of the Legislative Building Under Construction

Photo Credit: Patrick Dunn, grandson of Elizabeth Varnell and son of Ginna Varnell Dunn

Start Early Washington’s government affairs teammate Patrick Dunn kindly shared this picture of his mother and grandmother on what we think is the northside of the Legislative Building circa 1926-1927. His family lore holds the Varnells were driving to Portland and stopped in Olympia to check on the building’s progress. Little did they know one of their family members would spend his career right here!

Sources: Washington State Archives and “History of the Washington Legislature 1854-1963,” Don Brazier.

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Olympia Capitol buildingPhoto Credit: Erica Hallock

Trivia!

March serves as Women’s History Month. This week’s trivia focuses on Washington state’s first female Governor, Dixy Lee Ray, who served one term from 1977 to 1981. Governor Ray began her career in a non-political field, earning a doctorate from Stanford in what subject area? Bonus points if you know the topic of her dissertation.

Dixy Ray posterDixy Lee Ray Campaign Poster (1976)
Photo Credit: HistoryLink.org

Highlights of the Week

Capital Gains Tax Ruled Unconstitutional. On March 1, Douglas County Superior Court Judge Brian Huber ruled the Capital Gains tax initiated by SB 5096 of 2021 unconstitutional. Intended to provide funding to support the Fair Start for Kids Act and schools, Attorney General Bob Ferguson immediately signaled the state’s plan to appeal. Crosscut ran a great piece summarizing the key issues, the ruling and potential next steps. More to come.

Hurry Up and Wait? With a near solid week of fiscal committee meetings concluding Monday and a quick pivot into marathon Floor sessions Tuesday, those involved in the legislative process had ample time to practice their waiting game. This is the point of the legislative session when scheduled hearings and Floor times become fluid as legislators retreat to caucus to be briefed and discuss bills while lobbyists’ phones fill with texts trying to track it all – “Did the House come back? Are they still in caucus?”

With the clock ticking toward the 5 p.m. deadline today for bills to pass out of the opposite house, interested parties want to ensure their favored bills do not fall through the cracks and instead make it over the finish line. During this week, time is not our friend as there are simply not enough hours in the day to debate and vote on all the outstanding bills. They call the legislative process sausage making for a reason!

Be sure to check out Start Early Washington’s Bill Tracker on our State Policy Resources page for the latest bill information.

More Cars in the Parking Lot. Following the Senate decision last week, the House of Representatives also moved to bring more House members back to the Floor for in-person debates and open their galleries to more observers. The campus is not anywhere close to its normal level of activity, but there are certainly more cars in the lots for these final days.

Washington State House Chamber

The House of Representatives Chamber awaits the partial return of members for Floor debate March 1, 2022
Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Saying Goodbye. It is not unusual for lawmakers to announce they do not plan to run for reelection during the short, 60-day session. This year, though, seems to have brought an unprecedented number of retirement announcements, including from some long serving legislators. As we are looking at the calendar for the final days of this session, we can also expect time built in to honor these retiring lawmakers’ legacies.

What’s Up Next?

The Final Sprint. After tonight’s cutoff deadline for bills to pass out of their opposite house, focus will shift to finalizing and approving the supplemental budget and reviewing how bills were changed in the opposite chamber.

Bills that were amended in the opposite body must return to the house of origin for what is called “concurrence.” Concurrence represents the opportunity for the house of origin to affirm changes made in the opposite body. If the house of origin does not agree with the changes made in the opposite body, the bill then goes to “conference” where three members from the Senate (2 Democrats/1 Republican) and three members of the House (2 Democrats/1 Republican) meet in a conference committee to resolve differences, resulting in a conference report. The conference report must then be approved by each body by an up or down vote. Depending on how many bills were amended and how many require conference committee review, this step can eat up quite a bit of time.

We do not know exactly when Senate and House budget conference committee members will release the agreed-upon budget proposal, but I would guess it will likely be public early next week. Both chambers will then approve the agreed-upon budget prior to Sine Die March 10 – again by an up or down vote.

When the final budget is released, we will send out a summary with key details related to early learning.

Trivia Answer

Governor Dixy Lee Ray earned her Ph.D. from Stanford in Biology. The bonus question was clearly a softball as her dissertation was about the lanternfish and was titled “The peripheral nervous system of Lampanyctus leucopsarius.” This built on her master’s thesis “A Comparative Study of the Life Habits of some Species of Burrowing Eumalacostraca.”

I went deep into learning about Governor Ray while the Senate and House fiscal committees caucused for extended time periods. The following represents perhaps more than you wanted to know about Governor Ray, but I found her story fascinating. I learned she was known for her memorable quotes – quotes that reflected her intelligence, sense of humor and willingness to challenge the establishment. You will see examples of some of these quotes below.

Governor Ray was born Marguerite Ray. Family members called her “little Dickens” (Devil) and when she turned 16, she legally changed her name to a shortened version of her nickname and added the middle name Lee in a nod to her descendent Robert E. Lee. She began accumulating the title of “firsts” as a child when, at age 12, she became the youngest girl to summit Mt. Rainier.

Following her educational pursuits, Governor Ray worked as a professor at the University of Washington where she again was a first, this time the first female professor in Zoology. She also served as the Chief Scientist on the schooner SS Te Vega during the International Indian Ocean Expedition. In the early 1960s, she was brought in to turn around the Pacific Science Center – where she kept a police whistle at her desk to run off any “hippies” hanging around. Around this time, PBS asked her to host “Animals of the Seashore.” In 1967, the Seattle Maritime Society named Ray its Maritime Man of the Year – the first time the award did not go to a man.

Governor Ray was a longtime supporter of atomic energy. In 1973, President Nixon appointed her Chair of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and, later, President Ford appointed Ray the Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environment and Scientific Affairs. While she was Chair of the U.S. Atomic Commission, she lived out of a motor home in rural Virginia. Every day, she was chauffeured from her motor home to her office in Maryland, along with her 100-pound dog Ghillie and her mini-poodle Jacques. She resigned from her role as Assistant Secretary of State after just six months, citing Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s unwillingness to take her advice – or even meet with her. She left the nation’s Capital advising, “Anything the private sector can do, the government can do worse.”

Gov. Ray and her dogsDixy Ray and her dogs at the Hanford nuclear reservation
Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Ray decided to throw her hat in the political ring at the state level and, in her first political race, defeated Republican King County Executive John Spellman in the 1976 gubernatorial race 53-44%. Previously unaffiliated, Ray ran as a Democrat. When asked why she opted for the Governor’s seat in her first run, Ray replied, “I was much too old to start at the bottom, so I decided to start at the top.”

Here are some quick fast facts about Ray’s time as Governor:

  • She hosted NINE inaugural balls.
  • She split her time between the Governor’s residence and her trailer on Fox Island.
  • Prior to the Mt. St. Helens eruption during her tenure, she established blue and red “danger zones” that were credited with saving many lives.
  • In 1977, smoking was banned in legislative committee rooms for the first time (note smoking was still permitted in the Senate and House Chambers).
  • Despite being the first female Governor in Washington state, Ray did not campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment and signed Referendum 40 which abolished the Washington State Women’s Council.

From the start, Ray experienced a tumultuous relationship with the press and the Legislature. She ended the previous tradition of daily morning press conferences, and she once sent an intern to a House Energy Committee to convey the message that Governor Ray would not accept the committee making any changes to her energy legislation. As expected, neither move went over well in those largely male establishments.

Tensions grew between Governor Ray and the Legislature during her tenure. One source of contention was the length of the legislative sessions and the Governor’s insistence that the Legislature should complete their work within their allotted 60 days. In 1978 Ray refused to call a special session and that was the last year a legislature did not meet in the second year of a biennium. Soon thereafter, the Legislature passed an amendment to the Constitution to change the cadence of the legislative session from 105 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years. This timeline continues to this day.

Governor Ray’s frayed relationship with the Democratic Party led to (then) Democratic State Senator Jim McDermott running against her in the 1980 Democratic primary (“Nixy on Dixy” was a campaign slogan used against her). McDermott prevailed in the primary and went on to lose to John Spellman in the 1980 general election.

In my research on Governor Ray, every article mentioned her personality with an array of adjectives and most referenced her personal clothing style. It wasn’t until my last resource document that the author raised the question that was on top of my mind – do articles on male leaders talk about their clothing style or any eccentricities? Of course not.

“We shouldn’t accept things just because somebody says so.” Governor Dixy Lee Ray

Dixy Ray photoOfficial Gubernatorial Portrait of Governor Dixy Lee Ray
Photo Credit: Wikipedia; Washington State Archives

 

Sources: “History of the Washington Legislature 1965-1982,” Don Brazier; Wikipedia; Washington State Secretary of State; and HistoryLink.org.

 

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Flags lining the street on the Capitol campus

Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Trivia!

On the East of the Legislative Building sits a tree honoring the late Cal Anderson. What is Cal Anderson’s connection to Washington state history?

Cal Anderson tree

Cal Anderson Tree
Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Highlights of the Week

Washington potato image

Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Potato Day is Back! During “normal” legislative sessions, nearly every day is some sort of organizational lobby event. From auto dealers to home health care workers to massage therapists, groups converge on the Capitol campus to make their case to lawmakers.

For those working at and around the Capitol, free food days are particularly special. Some Capitol staff and lobbyists live for beef day, while others covet dairy day when free ice cream is distributed. Others cite potato day as their favorite.

After a one-year absence, a modified potato day returned this week on the North side of the Legislative building. On a sunny, but frigid day, the Washington State Potato Commission offered the limited number of people on campus a prepackaged box filled with a baked potato with all the toppings. (Author’s review – my potato was delicious).

Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Next Wednesday is beef day, so I would say things are looking up.

Senate and House Budgets Released. On Monday, the Senate and House released their proposed operating budgets. In addition, the House released its Capital Budget Monday. The Senate’s Operating Budget includes $63 billion in spending while the House’s Operating Budget contains $65 billion.

Both the Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committees held public hearings late into Monday evening where they received feedback on their respective approaches. On Wednesday, the committees met again to review and adopt amendments. These amendments (81 in the Senate and 53 in the House) could be technical in nature (cleaning up errors) or requests to include omitted items. We have updated our Early Learning Budget Summary to reflect amendments adopted Wednesday.

For next steps, the Senate and House are expected to debate and vote on their respective budgets over the next couple of days. After that point, budget writers from both bodies will meet via conference committee to reconcile their approaches. They will release a final budget for the Senate and House’s consideration prior to Sine Die March 10.

Legislative Updates

Last Thursday was the cutoff for bills to pass out of policy committees. In advance of this deadline, policy committees held jam-packed hearings to pass out bills from the opposite body. This is another time in the process where some bills do not advance. There are a number of reasons this could happen, including simply not having enough time to work through differences. As we have seen fewer “companion bills” introduced in the past two years (companion bills are Senate and House versions of the same policy), more time is needed to bring legislators in the opposite chamber up to speed on the contents of bills, which is also a factor in some bills stalling.

It is common practice for budget writers to include funding for bills continuing in the process with a fiscal impact. For example, the House budget includes a total of $563,000 to fund the components of 2SHB 1890 (relating to children and youth behavioral health) and the Senate budget contains $489,000 to support SSB 5838 (relating to a monthly diaper subsidy for families participating in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

Be sure to check out Start Early Washington’s Bill Tracker on our State Policy Resources page for the latest bill information.

What’s Up Next?

We are rapidly approaching Sine Die (adjournment) March 10. It is hard to believe there are less than two weeks left – 60 days go by quickly!

With fiscal cutoff upcoming Monday, we expect another weekend of Senate Ways and Means and House Appropriations Committee meetings. The opposite house cutoff is a week from today – Friday, March 4 – so next week will be filled with floor activity. Let’s also not forget negotiations on final budgets will continue as well. While this is another unusual legislative session given its hybrid nature, the realities of imposing deadlines and limited time remains.

One other item to note – beginning today, a limited number of the public will be allowed in the Senate gallery after displaying proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The House is still considering changes to their plans.

Trivia Answer

Cal Anderson

Late Senator and Representative Cal Anderson (1948-1995)
Photo Credit: Eric Ishino, Historylink.org

Cal Anderson was the first openly gay member of the Washington State Legislature.

Anderson was born in Tukwila, WA, in 1948 and from a young age, he was shown to have an interest in politics. At the age of 16, Anderson helped his father win his position on the Tukwila City Council by writing letters to each constituent advocating for his father’s candidacy.

He started his own political journey immediately after graduating from high school when he worked for the Chair of the King County Democratic Party before he was drafted into service in the Vietnam War. Following his military service, he resumed work for Seattle City politicians, before running for the Washington State House of Representatives in 1987.

In his time in the House, Anderson fought vehemently for the civil rights of LGBTQ people all while battling AIDS himself. He found himself watermarked by the title “first openly gay” legislator and was the subject of a great many homophobic ad campaigns. Anderson and his partner, Eric Ishino, frequently received threats and found their home graffitied as a result of Anderson’s activism. He was invested in seeing civil rights extended and providing a voice for the LGBTQ community and, despite threats, he never wavered.

Anderson also avidly supported fair housing in his district and did what he could to provide housing to Seattle’s homeless populations. Anderson was able to curate relationships with people from both sides of the aisle and had a clear moral compass which guided his political decisions.

His sense of humor was also very well known. He frequently jested about his sexuality, making light of the attacks thrown at him. His openness and willingness to engage in conversation, usually with a light touch, allowed him to work issues and gain respect with members on both sides of the aisle. Anderson and his sense of humor were widely respected in Washington politics, and in 1994, when Janice Niemi decided to leave the Senate, Anderson won her seat easily.

Shortly after taking his seat in the Senate, Anderson was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of his AIDS diagnosis. His absence from the Senate resulted in a Republican majority, however, his fellow members insisted that Anderson not be pushed out and be given time to recover. Anderson lost his fight with AIDS August 1995. His loving partner of 10 years and 2,000 others attended his funeral. In 2003, the City of Seattle dedicated the Cal Anderson Park in his honor. This park was the site of the CHAZ/CHOP autonomous zone during the racial unrest in 2019-2020.

 

Cal Anderson plaque

Plaque accompanying the Cal Anderson Tree on the Capitol campus
Photo Credit: Erica Hallock

Today, the Legislature has a bicameral, seven-member LGBTQ caucus working to build on the legacy of establishing and protecting the rights of LGBTQ people. In 2020, the House of Representatives selected Laurie Jinkins as its first lesbian Speaker of the House. In recent years, the LGBTQ caucus members led the fight to ban “conversion therapy” and ensure the rights of same-sex couples to adopt children, among many other landmark policies.

On Feb. 13, our state celebrated the 10-year anniversary of marriage equality becoming the law of the state of Washington. The Spokesman Review ran an excellent piece that not only highlighted this historic win but also detailed the years of work that paved the way. Here is a link to the moving floor speech by former Representative Maureen Walsh in support of marriage equality that went viral.

Source: Historylink.org

 

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As the world shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countless families were left in crisis. Suddenly, parents were full-time caregivers, employees and teachers; they needed support more than ever. When Gaby Rosario began working as the new Parents as Teachers state leader for Start Early Washington last year, she admired how home visiting programs quickly and effectively adapted to virtual visits to continue meeting the needs of families.

Gaby sledding with her nieces (Jan. 2022)
Gaby sledding with her nieces (Jan. 2022)

Flexibility is Key

Home visitors strive to build strong relationships with parents and encourage positive parent-child engagement to support healthy child development and future outcomes. One of the most powerful tools they have is connecting with families face to face, but when all in-person services shut down due to the pandemic, physical contact was no longer an option.

“Challenges brought on by the pandemic allowed us to stretch our minds and creatively support home visiting services,” Gaby highlighted. Home visiting programs pivoted to individualized services meeting the unique needs of families from a safe distance. “We shortened check-in periods and checked in more often, utilizing various methods of engagement such as email, text messages and phone calls to support families as they worked through learning and reflection.”

Conducting home visits on a virtual level meant staff had to think outside the box to ensure all the required components for a visit were still in place. Parental engagement unexpectedly increased for many families. “It was deeply meaningful when parents shared videos and pictures of their children thriving with the individualized activities created specifically for them. Gaby shared, “Our relationships with families deepened and it was rewarding to witness the positive parent-child interactions.”

3 year old shucking corn
Activity: Utilize family environment to support sensory and fine motor development.

With social distancing precautions in place, home visitors’ roles during visits shifted dramatically. They relied on families to lead parent-child interactions, which brought unexpected benefits as families took on leadership in the learning process. Home visitors leaned into coaching, supporting, answering questions and facilitating rather than leading home visits.

Gaby described, “We saw a new level of enjoyment with families that chose to participate virtually; parents’ confidence in leading individualized activities grew and we saw deeper connections between parents and their children. Parents’ messages of excitement, ‘Look what my child did today!’ were so inspiring.”

Reaching Rural Families

“One of the key things the pandemic taught us was that we could reach families further away through virtual systems.” As an expert in serving families in rural communities, Gaby was determined to partner with her team to harness technology-based services. By offering virtual home visiting services, they managed to overcome the challenges of long-distance travel and access to remote areas in bad weather.

Staff repurposed travel time to spend more time intentionally individualizing services for families. “Without the need to be physically present, home visitors provided more flexibility, accommodating family scheduling constraints or last-minute changes, if necessary,” explained Gaby.

Some families did not have access to technology at all. To meet this challenge, programs developed innovative solutions, including purchasing tablets and providing families with internet and cellphone assistance. Other strategies included scheduling virtual meetings at community agencies or public libraries, where families accessed broadband and technology-based services.

A few families lived in extremely isolated areas. Consequently, home visitors preplanned connections with families when they traveled into town and had access to virtual services. Gaby added, “One family lived deep in the mountains on the outskirts of the small city of Tonasket. When it wasn’t possible to connect in town, staff journeyed into the mountains to drop off activities and make a personal connection, even if that meant they had to share stories from 6 feet apart. We made every effort to ensure families had what they needed during this difficult period of isolation.”

Letting Families Know They’re Heard

Although bilingual resources were available for families, not all programs had home visitors that spoke languages other than English. Fluent in English and Spanish herself, Gaby understood the importance of connecting with families in a language they felt most comfortable. Before the pandemic, programs arranged in-person translation and interpretation or utilized call-in services for interpretation during in-person home visits. However, with social distancing precautions in place, it became necessary to adapt this practice. As a result, programs pivoted to virtual translation and interpretation tools, which took extra planning but were well worth the effort. Staff coordinated within agencies to share translation and interpretation services, and translators provided services over three-way calls or virtual platforms.

Gaby shared, “There was a learning curve as teams and families navigated multiple platforms and new methods of technology. Families tried new things they never thought they would try, and we continued to provide the one-on-one support they needed to feel comfortable.”

The technical support provided by staff did more than help with home visiting services; it offered families a window to the outside world again. Gaby explained, “The assistance we provided for a Spanish-speaking mother living in Brewster gave her confidence to support her three school-age children with their virtual classes. At the time, families did not know what virtual engagement looked like or how to navigate tools like Zoom. Together, we made sure her tablet settings were in Spanish, downloaded useful apps and walked through navigating virtual engagement.”

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

- Oprah Winfrey
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The world has had to find new ways of navigating everyday life since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and Start Early is no exception.

“One of the most significant things we learned during this new period of virtual-based engagement is that a willingness to be flexible is essential to both the home visiting support teams and families,” Gaby reflected.

Washington’s home visitors continue to work on adaptations needed to meet program requirements. In support, Start Early Washington curated a list of resources for home visitors to guide technology-based engagement.


Gaby Rosario supports professional development, training, technical assistance and coaching for 27 Parents as Teachers home visiting programs statewide.

In partnership with public and private organizations, Start Early Washington supports comprehensive prenatal-to-five learning experiences for children and families statewide with a unique focus on home visiting services. We are thrilled to share what we have been up to:

Home Visiting Highlights

Fostering Relationships Virtually. Building on innovative strategies to maintain relationships in a virtual setting remains a key priority as we navigate home visiting service delivery throughout the ongoing pandemic. Gaby Rosario, Parents as Teachers state leader, shares innovative ways to engage with families virtually. Read more.

Advancing Racial Equity. ParentChild+ is one of the state’s home visiting models supported by Start Early Washington. Last quarter home visiting professionals gathered for a biannual professional development workshop centered in racial equity as part of an ongoing commitment to advance racial equity in this model. Here are a few recommendations they shared for home visiting professionals:

  • Carefully choose literature and materials for home visits that portray multiple cultures and match family values. Home visiting professionals hold great power in selecting materials that allow families to celebrate who they are, including cultural norms, skin color, hair texture and so much more!
  • Biases shape our worldview. Identify, unpack and address internal and external biases to ensure the highest-quality and most inclusive services to families.
  • Support families in speaking their home language. Speaking to children in their home language is a powerful factor in building and retaining secure parent-child attachments.

Approaching Difficult Conversations. Many families are weighed down by stress and anxiety during this complex period of uncertainty. [email protected]’s lead facilitator, Quen Zorrah is an expert at approaching difficult conversations with parents, especially during times of trauma. Her blog powerfully highlights how home visitors can repair interactions with families utilizing strategies that lead to authentic and trusting relationships.

Looking for more on respectfully and effectively addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) with families? Visit our [email protected] page for additional publications and resources from our experts.

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Visit us at Start Early Washington to learn more about our work.
You can also find us on Twitter @StartEarlyWa.