Childcare providers in Washington State are required to be licensed by the Washington State Department of Early Learning (DEL) unless they are only providing child care on a casual, informal basis. For instance, the neighbor who watches your kids so that you and your spouse can enjoy a night out or the teenager who provides an hour or two of after-school care in your home don't have to be licensed. But if you're using child care on a regular basis for your preschool aged children, it's in your best interests to make certain the facility you choose has the proper license so that you can have the assurance that your child is in the best possible hands. Following are 5 advantages to using a licensed child care provider in Washington State.
Comprehensive Background Checks
The DEL performs comprehensive background checks on child care providers prior to issuing a license. The licensing rules include employees of the child care center as well as the owners and their family members if the child care facility is located in a private home. Providers and those over the age of 16 are required to complete background checks every two years and to report any arrests to the DEL within 24 hours.
Basic Stars Training
Owners of child care facilities and their employees are requires to complete basic STARS (STep Ahead Recognition System) training. Topics included in STARS training are:
- Child growth and development.
- Health, first aid and safety.
- Family interactions.
- Planning appropriate and engaging programs.
- Basic business management.
Those with STARS certification are required to update it on an annual basis, ensuring that providers have current, fresh knowledge.
Ongoing Professional Development
The DEL offers professional development for those who hold child care provider licenses in Washington State, meaning that the child care providers you choose have access to resources that can help them do a better job! The Washington State Professional Development System offers licensed providers tools such as a training library, the ability to earn awards and recognition in their field, and scholarship and grant opportunities.
Subsidy Programs for Parents
Child care is a major expense for the majority of working parents, which is why the DEL offers subsidy programs for qualified parents who choose to take their children to licensed child care providers. You may also be able to receive assistance with child care costs if you are a student. Subsidy programs include those for seasonal workers, those for parents whose income is at or below the federal poverty level, and those for homeless families. Contact the DEL for information about subsidy programs that you may be eligible for.
The DEL conducts regular safety inspections to ensure that the children are cared for in as safe as environment as possible. They look for things such as basic structural soundness, appropriate placement of hazardous materials, and an appropriate first aid kit. They will also check the outdoor play area for possible safety hazards and may require that regular water testing take place if the facility uses water from a well as drinking water or for cooking. Applicants for child care providers' licenses who live in Thurston, Pierce, or King counties must agree to testing for lead and arsenic on the soil's property. Child care providers licensed through the DEL must also agree to unannounced visits that may occur at any time during normal business hours to verify compliance with health and safety regulations.
Although many parents are able to find unlicensed child care providers that suit their purposes, seeking out a licensed facility such as Kid's Country Child Care & Learning Center is advisable unless you've got extended family or friends who can supply your childcare needs.