Early Learning and Child Care

We recognize that child care providers are facing many uncertainties at this time as a result of the coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19). We want to update you on a few things to help you continue to serve children and families.

Frequently Asked Questions for Early Learning and Child Care Settings


Temporary Actions in Response to COVID-19

  • Licensed providers are temporarily allowed to claim for their Child Care Subsidy payment based on enrollment rather than attendance from March 16 through June 30, 2020.
  • Washington State is waiving family copayments for the months of April, May, and June 2020 for families receiving Working Connections Child Care (WCCC). DCYF will pay the family’s copayment requirement to the provider through the normal invoice process. For example, the family’s April copay will be included in the provider payment made for April services.
  • Authorizations for school-age children have been automatically increased to full-time care. The increase will be added to the April supplemental invoice for March. More guidance >>.
  • Families reapplying for WCCC in March, April, and May may maintain eligibility when they are not in an approved activity due to COVID-19. Families still need to reapply when required to access this flexibility.  DCYF encourages families to reapply to maintain eligibility so families can access child care when it is needed in the future. Families may reapply online at www.washingtonconnection.org or by calling the Child Care Subsidy Contact Center at 844-626-8687.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has slowed or closed many of our contracted electronic fingerprint vendor and local law enforcement agencies. This is preventing or significantly delaying our providers from completing the required fingerprint-based background check.

    DCYF’s background check team is implementing several changes so the department can reduce turnaround times, safely remove barriers and effectively assess individuals who may provide care to children. View the details >>
  • Licensed child care providers must now provide a current accounting of all program closures within 24 hours of the closure, and vacant slots for each group the provider is licensed to serve.
  • Providers must update this information in the WA Compass provider portal within 48 hours of capacity changing in any age group the provider is licensed to serve.
  • To learn more, visit DCYF’s emergency rules webpage.

Child Care COVID-19 Grants

Thank you for your interest in a Child Care COVID-19 Grant, which provided critical support and stabilization for more than 3,600 licensed child care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this time, the grant funding is depleted and the grant application is no longer available.

Grant questions can be directed to dcyf.covid-19@dcyf.wa.gov.

The Child Care COVID-19 Grant provides support and stabilization for child care providers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any licensed child care provider in Washington that is open on the date they submit an application and who are providing child care. Providers must remain open until July 31, 2020.

The amount is based on licensed capacity – small (up to 49), medium (50-99) and large (100-150+) – using WA Compass and MERIT data. Providers may apply to receive these funds one-time. DCYF will disperse funds as follows:

  • $6,500 to small and open providers
  • $11,500 to medium and open providers
  • $14,000 to large and open providers

Providers must be open and providing care but do not need to operate at a fully licensed capacity.

Yes, the grant is available until June 30 or until the $29 million in funding is exhausted, whichever comes first.

Beginning May 15, providers will log into the WA Compass Provider Portal and select the Child Care COVID-19 Grant tab.* The provider will answer a short series of questions and agree to continue to provide child care. All questions must be answered for the application to be submitted. Once a provider submits a completed application, it will move to the “accepted” status.

Spanish and Somali-speaking providers will have a translated application file available to them in the Provider Portal and on the DCYF website. This may be printed and submitted to DCYF via emailed photo, scanned file or by mail. The application will be manually entered into WA Compass by DCYF where it will resume the process. Additional supports are available to non-English speaking providers by contacting the local Child Care Aware of Washington office.

*For questions about WA Compass access, please email dcyf.providerportal@dcyf.wa.gov.

Child Care Aware of Washington (CCA of WA) is ready to help with interpretation services and other assistance. Contact your local CCA of WA office: https://childcareawarewa.org/about-us/#RegionalPartners

Once a provider submits a completed application, the status will change to “accepted” and the provider will receive an email confirmation to the email address listed in the provider’s WA Compass profile.

Payments will be processed through the Social Service Payment System (SSPS).

  • If a provider has an SSPS number and is currently or has previously received payments from SSPS, they will receive a Child Care COVID-19 payment in the same way.
  • Providers who have not received payments through SSPS, but have an SSPS number, will receive payment via US Postal Service.
  • Providers who do not have an SSPS number must work with their local child care licensor.

If you are unsure about whether or not you have a current SSPS number, contact your DCYF licensor for assistance.

DCYF processed the first batch of payments on Wednesday, May 27, after quality checks were completed. Eligible providers with an accepted application submitted before 11:59 p.m. on Monday, May 25 were included in this first payment batch.

Payment batches will be released every two weeks. If a provider has an accepted application, but is not able to be paid for any reason, they will be contacted.

Please contact dcyf.covid-19@dcyf.wa.gov with any grant payment questions.

Funds may only be used for costs such as facility or space rent costs, utilities, health and safety or cleaning supplies, staff payroll (compensation or benefits) and food.

Yes. The funds must be spent on items identified in the application by September 30, 2020.

Providers must save all receipts and documentation associated with the spending of this funding and may be asked to submit this documentation in a future audit.

Please contact DCYF’s COVID-19 email inbox at dcyf.covid-19@dcyf.wa.gov with any questions about the application, payment process, spending or receipts.

For technical assistance in filling out and submitting translated applications, contact your local Child Care Aware of Washington office.

This FAQ will be updated as needed.

General Questions

Governor Inslee designated child care businesses and workers as essential and exempt from the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. Child care providers are not under a mandate to stay open or to close.

We encourage child care facilities to continue serving their communities and to make their educated decisions based upon what information and recommendations are coming from the Washington State Department of Health (DOH).

Because child care providers are independent business owners, decisions such as a voluntary closure during a health outbreak are business decisions each facility makes on their own.

March 18, 2020

The purpose of school closure is to maximize “social distancing.” Social distancing actions are taken to restrict when and where people can gather to stop or slow the spread of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases in communities. The school closures will be most effective in slowing the spread of the virus if the overwhelming majority of children, including children under age 5, stay at home or in very small group settings throughout the closure period.

There are two main reasons child care providers are not included in the closure requirement. First, child care settings are often much smaller in numbers than in K-12 settings. Children in child care are in smaller groups throughout the day and not often in larger groups. Group sizes remain smaller in classrooms and there are not larger gatherings in hallways, gyms or cafeterias like we see in K-12 schools. Second, child care is a critical need for our first responders and essential personnel (nurses, doctors, law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, social workers, etc.) so they can continue to work to respond to the pandemic.

Closing schools statewide is aimed at temporarily slowing the rate of human interaction/movement across to the state to slow the spread of the virus so that we don’t overwhelm our health care system. And, while closing schools statewide helps achieve this goal, it also increases the need for child care for some families. During this time of crisis, we want to ensure that essential workers have access to safe child care so they can get to work. This the reality we are working in right now – trying to slow the spread of the virus and working to maintain critical services and functions in our communities. The hope is that parents who can keep their children home safely will do so and that those who need child care to get to work will have access to that care without question. We also anticipate that some parents will need intermittent care, but not necessarily full-time care.

To further support the goal of reducing the spread of the virus, parents may want to consider safe alternatives to the group-based child care that they might otherwise arrange when schools are closed, such as:

  • Family Friend & Neighbor care.
  • Exchanging child care with a neighbor or friend

March 18, 2020

At this time, the DOH would support a closure if someone with a novel coronavirus case spent time in child care and had contacts with other individuals in the child care setting while ill. In this situation, DOH and local public health department will work with child care leadership to consider the duration of the closure and to determine other steps that should be taken to limit spread.

March 18, 2020

Essential Workers and Supporting Providers

Child care providers can remain open and serve any child. If currently enrolled children need care, then you can serve them regardless of their parent's essential worker status. You can also enroll new children, both subsidy and private pay. DCYF encourages providers to prioritize children of essential workers and uniquely vulnerable children if there are more children than the provider can safely serve.

March 18, 2020

Please continue to provide care to already enrolled families, including families with school-age children.

March 30, 2020

Child care providers and community partners (libraries, parks and recreations, community centers) that are interested in organizing emergency child care for medical professionals and other priority workforce groups around the state, please contact EmergencyChildcare@dcyf.wa.gov or 509-544-5712. Medical professionals are one of the priority categories that we must continue to serve and provide child care, especially in the health emergency our state is facing. DCYF is looking for partnerships with hospitals and child care providers who are serving medical professionals.

March 18, 2020

Governor Inslee has designated child care and licensed pre-K as an essential function for essential workers and uniquely vulnerable children. While parents are encouraged to stay home with their children if they're able to do so, we understand that child care services for our frontline health care workers, first responders and other essential workers is necessary during this pandemic. You can find the full list of essential workers here. DCYF encourages child care professionals to follow DOH child care guidance on group size and social distancing.

March 30, 2020

If you are a child care and/or a foster care provider, you are considered to be an essential worker. Please see Governor Inslee’s declaration and a list of essential workers.

March 30, 2020

DCYF is working directly with first responder organizations such as hospitals and others that want to provide care on-site to stand up child care sites quickly through an emergency licensing process. This also includes some of our 24/7 state facilities. If you are interested in this resource, please contact emergencychildcare@dcyf.wa.gov or 509-544-5712.

March 30, 2020

If you are uninsured and want coverage given the situation with COVID-19, child care providers can call the Washington Health Benefit Customer Support Center between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday - Friday at 1-855-923-4633; TTY 1-855-627-9604 to see if they qualify for special enrollment or Apple Health (which is open year-round). Free language assistance/interpreters are provided.

If you have lost your insurance because you have been laid off, had your hours cut back, or are on temporary furlough, you can look to the Washington Health Benefits Exchange to see if you qualify for one of the many tiered health insurance plans available through the state. The plans are all income based and even though we are outside of the normal enrollment period, the employment changes that are occurring due to COVID-19 count as a change in circumstances and may mean that you are now able to apply even if you did not qualify in the past. Please read Washington Health Benefit Exchange’s Coronavirus FAQ page for more information.

If you are a licensed family home child care provider and receive health insurance benefits through the SEIU 775 Healthcare Trust, you will continue to receive healthcare benefits as long as you continue to timely claim invoices and your subsidy payment is equal to or greater than the co-premium amount of $30. For the period beginning March 16 through June 30, 2020, you may claim services based upon enrollment.

April 14, 2020

Licensing Modifications

If you are currently providing exempt child care services, including part day services, drop-in services, etc., and would like to start providing services for more than four hours per day and/or infant/toddler services, please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities.

If you are currently licensed and would like to extend the capacity of your services, start serving additional age groups or include additional working hours to your services, please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities. There are no fees for changing your license.

Please see the regional child care licensing offices contact information.

March 18, 2020

If you are currently licensed and would like to extend the capacity of your services, start serving additional age groups or include additional working hours to your services, please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities. There are no fees for changing your license.

If you are currently providing exempt child care services, such as part day services, drop-in services, etc., and would like to start providing services for more than four hours per day and/or infant/toddler services – please contact your licensing office. We are implementing an emergency waiver process to speed up necessary licensing activities.

Please see the regional child care licensing offices contact information

March 18, 2020

DCYF Licensing Division has an emergency waiver process in place. Child care providers may request waivers for certain requirements. Please contact your DCYF Licensing Field Office for additional guidance.

March 18, 2020

Family Home providers are more than welcome to use the emergency waiver process for increasing capacity of their services.

On Monday (3.16.2020), the White House announced new guidelines, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. This guidance is based on new modeling on how the virus might spread, according to Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force.

For child care providers that remain open, it is crucial to minimize the risks of spreading coronavirus. Social distancing is one of the main strategies to slow the spread of the virus.

The DOH ‘group of 10’ guidance suggests to not have groups larger than 10 people total, including children and adults (for example, one adult and nine children, two adults and eight children, etc.) per classroom. The capacity waivers will be approved in consideration with the DOH guidance. Limiting the group size is an emergency measure that will help reduce potential coronavirus exposures and may prevent an entire program from shutting down if exposure does occur.

Please contact your local licensing office if you need technical assistance regarding emergency waivers.

March 25, 2020

We understand the staffing challenges that may occur during this emergency. You should continue to recruit and hire staff. If you are able, use fully qualified workers who have cleared a background check. Work with your local licensing office to get approval. Bringing children to work is okay as long as it’s meeting each program/service policies and procedures.

DCYF also has a substitute pool for licensed providers that offered by The Imagine Institute and will be expanding services. If you would like support from the state’s substitute pool, please email subpool@imaginewa.org.

March 18, 2020

Telephone and/or video consultations is a good workable solution. Please make the needed arrangements with the providers.

March 18, 2020

DCYF will not make changes to ratios across the board. Please work with your licensor and submit a request for a waiver, based on what you can provide.

March 18, 2020

The facility will not need to begin a new licensing process. Please contact your child care licensor to ensure that the COVID-19 closure is being tracked.

March 30, 2020

Screening, prevention and reacting to COVID-19 exposure

We recommend child cares take the precautions that are normally recommended to prevent the spread of viruses in child care. You can help children and staff reduce their risk of getting and spreading viral respiratory infections, including the flu and the common cold, by encouraging them to take simple steps that will also prevent novel coronavirus. In addition to the strategies noted above, you can screen children upon entry. Take the temperature and check symptoms for staff and children upon entry. COVID-19 symptoms primarily include a fever of 100.4°F or higher, cough and shortness of breath. Any child or staff member with symptoms should be sent home. Personal protective equipment (PPE) like gloves or masks are not necessary for the person who takes temperatures and screens for symptoms of staff and children upon entry each day.
 
If forehead or disposable thermometers are not available, you can ask the caregiver to fill out and sign a form that reports their child’s temperature as taken at home (or affirming the child does not have a fever) and any symptoms.

Parents or caregivers who drop off or pick up children do not need to be screened for symptoms unless they will remain at the facility and in close contact (6 feet or less) with others who are there for an extended period of time (more than 10 minutes).

The latest DOH guidance for child care and early learning settings can be found here.

March 18, 2020

In emergency cases, please call 9-1-1. Follow your child care business and health policies and procedures.

DOH guidance says if a student or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at the facility, please isolate the person until they can leave the facility. If a student or staff member tests positive, you should close the facility and thoroughly clean before re-opening. Work with local public health to identify the close contacts who will need to quarantine. All members of the infected child’s or adult’s cohort would be considered close contacts.

For additional recommendations, please visit:

March 18, 2020

Please follow your child care business and health policies and procedures, and stay in compliance with the 72-hour rules being fever free from any fever over 100.4°F.

If you do choose/had to to close for any period of time, please notify your DCYF Licensing Field Office.   

For additional COVID-19 information, please visit:

March 18, 2020

The length of the closure will be determined based on multiple factors, including the number of cases and the number and types of exposure that other individuals in the child care may have had, as well as the underlying health of the student population served. A closure could ask anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks, depending on the circumstances.

March 18, 2020

Please follow the WAC 110-300-0205 in reporting to DCYF staff and the Washington State Department of Health. For Center for Disease Control (CDC) requirements and guidelines, please visit for additional guidance on how to monitor yourself and keep others around your healthy: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html

March 13, 2020

Any person who exhibits flu-like symptoms (primarily fever of 100.4°F or higher, cough and shortness of breath) should not be at work or child care. Sick individuals should stay home and away from others and contact their health care provider. The health care provider can assess the individual’s risk and determine whether they should be tested for novel coronavirus.

If a child or staff member develops symptoms of COVID-19 while at the facility, please isolate the person until they can leave the facility. If at all possible, the unwell person should be moved into a separate room, and the child care provider who goes with the child should minimize the amount of time they are in close contact (6 feet or fewer for 10 minutes or more) with the person. Personal protective equipment (PPE) is not recommended for the person staying with the unwell child.

If going to a separate room is not an option, either because a room is not available or there is not a second adult available, providers should create a minimum of 6 feet of space around the unwell person and do what they can to keep others in the room away from this person. 

If symptoms persist or worsen, they or the child’s family should call their health care provider for further guidance and in severe cases call 9-1-1. Advise the employee or child’s parent or caregiver to inform the facility immediately if the person is diagnosed with COVID-19.

March 25, 2020

Yes, if DOH or the local public health department is aware of a case in a child care, they will contact key personnel, such as the site director. Because testing has expanded in the health care system, it’s possible that families of students or staff will find out test results from their health care providers before DOH or the local public health department is notified. In these situations, we recognize that the child care provider may be notified directly by the family. If a director or owner is notified by a family, they should alert their local public health office and follow guidance about cleaning and notification to families.

March 18, 2020

Subsidy and Payment

Licensed providers will still receive subsidy payment based on enrollment from March 16 through June 30 when:

  1. The provider temporarily closes their child care setting due to COVID-19; and,
  2. The family remains eligible for subsidy, and the provider is authorized care.

DCYF will not make subsidy payments to providers who choose to close for other reasons.

Enrollment based pay means that providers are able to claim the total amount of care that a family was eligible for and provider was authorized to provide, regardless of the child’s attendance.

April 14, 2020

Families receiving Child Care Subsidy need to report provider changes within five days. Provider changes may be reported by calling 844-626-8687, or online at www.washingtonconnection.org. See the families FAQ for more guidance for families looking for care.

March 18, 2020

Provide your Social Service Payment System Provider (SSPS) Identification number to families. The family must contact the Child Care Subsidy Contact Center at 1-844-626-8687 to report their new provider. Having the provider number will help speed up the authorization process. Providers may contact the Child Care Subsidy Contact Center Provider Line at 1-800-394-4571 or email providerhelp@dcyf.wa.gov with additional questions.

Please note Providers need to follow all subsidy billing rules as outlined in the Subsidy Billing Guides found online at https://www.dcyf.wa.gov/services/early-learning-providers/subsidy  

During this state of emergency, all providers who follow these steps will be eligible to receive Working Connections Child Care Subsidy payments regardless of their Early Achievers status.

March 18, 2020

We are exploring financial supports and funds for child care providers in consultation with the Governor’s Office. We will raise the question.

Enrollment based pay means that providers are able to claim the total amount of care that a family was eligible for and provider was authorized to provide. DCYF is allowing enrollment based pay from March 16 through April 30.

No. A provider’s authorization is based on family eligibility. If the family is not eligible we cannot pay for their care.