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Joel Ryan CCF Board Member

Many new parents can relate to the challenges my wife and I faced finding high-quality child care for our daughter.

We had a long list of criteria–and high standards. It needed to be a safe, warm, compassionate environment. We wanted a daycare that placed emphases on our child’s cognitive and social development.

Our search wasn’t easy. We spent countless hours talking with other parents, touring daycares and accosting parents with dozens of questions as they picked up their kids to get the real story. And the good places all had long waiting lists.

As we searched, I wanted a good place, but was secretly searching for the place that would commence our daughter’s path to the Ivy League. My wife likened our search to the movie Baby Boom in which Diane Keaton’s character is informed that if a child didn’t get into the right daycare she wouldn’t get into the right kindergarten and so on.

New child care rating system makes the search easier.

Over the last couple years, legislative Children’s Champions dedicated to helping parents find great child care centers have made important improvements. The Washington State Department of Early Learning recently launched Early Achievers, a ratings system structured similar to hotel or restaurant ratings.

Parents visiting the Child Care Aware of Washington website can research the license and ratings of local child care providers. Read more about Early Achievers on the Dept. of Early Learning website.

Not all child care providers are currently included on Early Achievers. For providers needing a boost to meet standards, additional coaching or financial incentives are available.

A new legislative session begins in January, but conversations are already taking place with lawmakers and early learning advocates about what can be done to ensure that all children start kindergarten ready for school.

A primary goal for many Washington lawmakers is to maintain and expand our state’s successful early learning rating system so all providers can participate. Federal funds supporting the endeavor cease in 2015 making it urgent that Olympia steps in to support Early Achievers.

Early learning for at risk children is a solid return on investment.

Next session, lawmakers are also tasked with expanding Washington’s high quality preschool program for at risk children called Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program or ECEAP.

Washington Institute of Public Policy found that early learning programs, such as ECEAP, save taxpayers $4 for every $1 invested because attending children are less likely to need expensive remedial assistance or get held back a grade. These children are more likely to graduate high school and go on to college than peers who did not participate. But despite these advantages, ECEAP only serves about half of the preschool age children eligible for the program.

Teaching valuable parenting strategies during home visits.

Continuing brain development research makes the case for increasing funding for at risk pregnant women, infants and toddlers. The Home Visiting in Washington State programs are incredibly effective in helping these populations.

Trained nurses, social workers and child development experts visit a family once or twice a week depending on the model. They teach the new or soon to be moms and dads effective parenting skills, monitor the child’s development and support the new parent during the challenging first few years.

Early Achievers, ECEAP and home visits by child development experts are a helpful, but more Champions for Children are needed to create an effective system.

Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-Shoreline), a legislative force for early learning in Washington and Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, are working on legislation to establish a more integrative system. The goal is make it easier for parents to find quality child care while knitting the various early learning funding streams together to create more efficiency and influence.

All of this work only happens if we continue to elect Champions for Children.

The next legislative session will bring focus to how to fund the K-12 system and meet legal mandates. Some lawmakers would fund K-12 by slashing critical services for children including early learning. (SEE the CCF Scorecard) while others would close outdated and wasteful tax loopholes to fund K-12 and early learning.

This November, Washington voters decide which approach they support.

As a board member of the Children’s Campaign Fund, I urge you to take a hard look at the candidates running for office. Ask them tough questions. Urge them to support funding early learning programs so all Washington’s children enter kindergarten at the same starting line. Read the CCF 2014 endorsements on our website.

And thank you for your continued support for the Children’s Campaign Fund, so that we can invest in candidates that will invest in children!

Jon Brumbach CCF Board Member

For many graduating high school seniors the month of June is a time of excitement and achievement. Their hard work will be rewarded with a diploma and near endless possibilities. However, not too long ago, a young person in foster care who was lucky enough to graduate from high school faced very different possibilities.

For many years, a foster youth’s 18th birthday or high school graduation meant the state no longer had any responsibility to care for them. Foster parent maintenance payments ceased, and foster youth would be left with a garbage bag full of their belongings and a bus ticket. Instead of the possibilities of college, a career and independence, former foster youth faced homelessness, jail and continued dependence on state services. They aged-out of the system, but at an age few are ready to be on their own. Our youth in foster care deserve better.

When we have failed to reunite these youth with their families or find them loving adoptive families, we must ensure that they enter adulthood safe, stable and supported.

Since 2006, Washington state has endeavored to help these young people by extending foster care to age 21. It began with a pilot, allowing 50 young people per year to remain in care to pursue their post-secondary education.

The benefits were clear, not only did the youth achieve greater outcomes, but it provided a positive return-on-investment for tax payers.

Congressman Jim McDermott saw these benefits and sought to elevate the model to the federal level. He drafted the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, allowing states to receive federal support for extending foster care to age 21.

Since the bill passed in 2008, Washington state has incrementally gone from a pilot program to the Extended Foster Care program. Starting 2011, the legislature has approved the following populations of foster youth to enroll in Extended Foster Care:

  • 2011: Youth pursuing their high school diploma or GED

  • 2012: Youth pursuing their post-secondary education (college or vocational/technical)

  • 2013: Youth participating in programs that reduce barriers to employment

  • 2014: Youth working 80 hours per month or more (to go into effect March 2015).

These expansions have come despite some of the most difficult budget environments our state has ever faced.

Now, over 330 foster youth are celebrating the possibilities of higher education and a career from the safety and stability of home.

But our work is not done yet, there are still youth who are unable to participate, and they are our most vulnerable. Those with documented medical conditions that make them unable to work or go to school are not eligible for the program.

Children’s Campaign Fund is working hard to ensure our elected leaders are champions for this issue so every foster youth can celebrate their 18th birthday and the possibilities to come.

Mercedes Elizalde CCF Political Strategy Committee Chair

YES on I-594!

A couple months ago, I was in Olympia with a group of affordable housing and homeless prevention advocates meeting with their legislator to discuss more comprehensive funding. While we were there, I recall seeing a lot of people. And I mean A LOT of people. The housing and homelessness advocates were nearly outnumbered by people who came to speak in support (and against) additional background checks for gun safety.

Currently, Washington state law requires people who are purchasing guns from licensed dealers to complete a background check. The requirement is very clear. People with a history of violent crime or severe mental illness are not able to buy a gun. Makes sense.

What doesn’t make sense is the loophole you could drive a semi-truck though. If someone, who for example has a history of domestic violence, decides they wants gun they only need to find someone else–anyone else including online sellers and dealers at gun shows–to sell them a gun. No background check required.

I-594 legislates what the majority of Washingtonians (and Americans in general) believe. This loophole is costing lives and it’s time to institute a background check for all gun sales.

The Children’s Campaign Fund endorses I-594. The Board believe this simple step will save lives and protect children from violence.

Children across Washington experience gun violence directly as victims. They are also exposed to long-lasting trauma when family members are victims of gun violence.

From 2007-11 in Washington, 2,903 people died from gun violence (source). Firearm deaths now outpace vehicular deaths (source). Just as we have worked to make cars safer, we must make our communities safe from gun violence.

We know background checks work. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) has stopped over 2 million gun sales to people who are prohibited from possessing guns (source). Presently, those prohibited because of the NICS system are able to go online or to a gun show and get the weapon they are seeking.

But with I-594, we can close these loopholes.

Check out the facts and vote smart this November.

YES on I-594! And NO on I-591.

  • Yes on I-594 “This measure would apply the currently used criminal and public safety background checks by licensed dealers to all firearm sales and transfers, including gun show and online sales, with specific exceptions.” – Source: I-594 website

  • No on I-591 “An act relating to protecting gun and other firearm rights.” – Source: I-595

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