At the Department of Early Learning (DEL), we work to help children in Washington prepare for success in school and life.
DEL vision: Children in Washington start kindergarten healthy, capable, and confident in their ability to learn and succeed.
DEL mission: DEL offers voluntary, comprehensive, high-quality early learning programs and support to families and early learning professionals.
Our four strategic goals:
- Provide voluntary, high-quality early learning opportunities for children and families in Washington
- Support all early learning professionals with research-based professional development and resources to ensure high-quality early learning opportunities
- Build public awareness of and support for high-quality early learning opportunities
- Promote system excellence by ensuring DEL is well-managed and supportive of its employees
View the 2015-2018 Department of Early Learning strategic plan.
View the strategic plan overview.
What we do at DEL:
The Department of Early Learning is responsible for offering programs and services that support healthy child development and school readiness for the
approximately 90,000 children born in Washington each year. Many of our programs and services are for children who may be at risk of starting kindergarten not
ready to succeed. We are guided by Washington’s 10-year Early Learning Plan. Our work includes:
- Helping ensure high-quality, safe and healthy learning environments. Our child care licensors monitor about 6,000 licensed center
and family home child care programs for safety and health. Through Early Achievers, Washington’s quality
rating and improvement system, we work to improve quality beyond basic health and safety in child care and state-funded preschool, focusing on
teacher-child interactions and supportive environments.
- Offering comprehensive preschool education to vulnerable children. We fund preschool for 3- and 4-year-old children from low-income families, who are involved in child welfare
services or who qualify for special education. The Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) offers classroom
learning, as well as family support, and health and nutrition resources.
Providing family support and information. DEL partners with Thrive by Five
Washington to provide home visiting that helps families support healthy child development, strengthen
the parent child relationship, and promote early learning. Through our
Strengthening Families Washington initiative, we provide community grants and public awareness to prevent abuse and neglect. And through our
Medicaid Treatment Child Care program, we offer therapeutic child care and treatment to
children who are exposed to substantial environmental, familial, and biological risk factors that can impact their social development, behavior and overall
mental health. We also set policy for the Working Connections Child Care, Seasonal and Homeless subsidy programs, helping ensure
low-income children are in safe places while their parents work or look for work.
- Overseeing services for infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays. Our Early Support for
Infants and Toddlers program (ESIT) serves about 5,600 children ages birth to 3 at any given time.
- Supporting early learning professionals. We offer training,
scholarships and a professional development registry to ensure higher quality care for and interactions with children in child care and state-funded
DEL seeks advice from our Early Learning Advisory Council, which includes early learning coalition representatives,
parents, state agencies, child care providers, legislators, tribal representatives and special education experts.
DEL’s approximately 250 employees work at the state office in Olympia or in 16 field offices around the state. The current biennial budget is approximately $482 million in state,
federal and private funding.