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WSU Extension Health Center Receives $350,000 Grant to Test Childcare System

SPOKANE, Wash. – Washington State University Extension’s Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington has received a $350,000 grant from the State Department of Early Learning to field test “Seeds to Success” in Spokane County, one of five locations across the state where the department’s new voluntary childcare-quality rating and improvement system will be field tested.

The Seeds to Success system offers childcare providers coaching and funding to improve their quality of care, while providing families with information about the childcare programs in their communities.

AHEC, in partnership with Community-Minded Enterprises/Childcare Resource and Referral, will lead the Spokane County field test, which runs through June 2009.

“Over 450 licensed childcare providers care for thousands of young children in Spokane every day,” said Myah Houghten, QRIS site coordinator and AHEC project associate. “The large majority of those providers are essentially small business owners challenged with balancing their business model with known best practices for young children.

“The field test is an important way to examine a publicly funded, state-wide quality improvement system. Findings from this field test will help influence future early childhood quality improvement investment decisions.”

The DEL is recruiting more than 100 childcare providers around the state to participate in the eight-month field test of the new system.

Two public meetings were held in Spokane this month to answer questions about the field test process and offer incentives to randomly selected providers. Turnout at the meetings indicated a high level of interest.

“We encourage ongoing conversations and are available for one-on-one conversations with anyone interested who was not able to attend one of the meetings,” Houghten said.

Licensed childcare providers interested in receiving a QRIS field test application should contact Houghten at (509) 358-7606 or houghten@wsu.edu.

Funding for the project came from $4.75 million appropriated by the state in 2007 to design and field test a QRIS. During the system’s design phase, thousands of parents, caregivers and others in the five field-test communities provided information on what they wanted the system to look like.

Depending on funding, Seeds to Success may be rolled out statewide as a voluntary QRIS after the field test. A status report on Seeds to Success is due to the Legislature this December.

The WSU Extension Area Health Education Center of Eastern Washington promotes health and wellness for underserved and at-risk populations through research, education, and community development. For more information on the field test, go to www.qris.spokane.wsu.edu.

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Media Contacts

Myah Houghten, QRIS Site Coordinator, 509-358-7606