What We Do

At the Department of Early Learning (DEL), we work to help children in Washington prepare for success in school and life.

DEL vision: Our state offers world-class, developmentally and culturally appropriate early learning opportunities for all of Washington's youngest learners, so each child enters kindergarten with a solid foundation for success in school and life.

DEL mission: The Department of Early Learning develops, implements and coordinates system oversight to early learning policy and programs that create safe, healthy, nurturing learning experiences for all Washington children.

Our four strategic goals:

  1. Provide high-quality, safe, and healthy early care and education opportunities for all children.
  2. Partner with and inform parents, families and communities about early learning.
  3. Support early learning professionals with professional development and technical assistance.
  4. Promote excellence and hold the system accountable for results.

View the 2011-2014 Department of Early Learning strategic plan.

What we do at DEL:
  • We license and monitor Washington's 7,400-plus licensed child care settings in family homes and centers that serve about 174,000 children. Our licensors support child care business owners and their staff in offering safe, healthy care, and take action if settings are found to be unsafe for Washington's children.
  • We oversee the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), the state-funded preschool program that helps prepare low-income 3- and 4-year-olds for success in school and life. Since 1985, ECEAP has focused on the well-being of the whole child by providing in-depth nutrition, health, education and family support services.
  • We set policy for child care subsidy programs, which let parents know their children are well cared for while they are working, in school or looking for work. We partner with the Department of Social and Health Services, the state agency that decides who is able to receive subsidy benefits and makes the payments to child care providers.
  • We coordinate early intervention services for children birth to age 3 who have disabilities and/or developmental delays through the Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT) program . These services may include specialized instruction, speech therapy, occupational therapy, or physical therapy that can help young children. The program also supports parents as the most critical influence on their child’s early learning and development.
  • We partner with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to oversee the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS), which helps ensure smooth transitions into kindergarten.
  • We lead the statewide effort to deliver home visiting services to vulnerable children and families.
  • We oversee the state professional development system to help ensure that for those who care for and teach young children continue to increase their skills and education levels.
  • We work to boost the quality of early learning programs around the state and share information with families about quality through our state.