In support of Governor Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) at the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) continues to provide vital services and supports to families with young children across Washington.
ECEAP contractors began immediately implementing modified services for enrolled families who were able to or needed to stay home with their children when state-funded pre-k classroom services closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When a majority of classrooms closed or daily participation significantly dropped, contractors responded by immediately implementing essential supports for families experiencing complex challenges. This ensures that services for ECEAP children and families furthest from opportunity across the state continue during this unprecedented time.
As these modified services grew for ECEAP families, DCYF began to see some commonalities from contractor to contractor. Modified ECEAP services are individualized for each community, but have common threads:
- Educational supports for children
- Family partnerships, resources and goal-setting
- Food and meals
- Overall connection, coping and stress-management support for families
For more details about the services ECEAP is providing to families furthest from opportunity in the face of COVID-19, please see the outline of modified services.
ECEAP Services Remain Valuable – Even When Delivered Remotely
A father, who had custody of his daughter, was in recovery for substance abuse and the mother was in and out of recovery as well. With its regular routines, frequent check-ins and essential referrals, ECEAP was an important lifeline for the father and his daughter.
Shortly before COVID-19 closed the ECEAP center the young girl attended, ECEAP staff noticed signs that the father was struggling. Right after its closure, the ECEAP Family Support Specialist (FSS) reached out to the father. She learned that he was just released from jail due to a domestic violence incident with the child's mother. Child Protective Services (CPS) had placed the child into the custody of her grandmother.
Right away, the ECEAP FSS reached out to the grandmother to offer resources, support and someone to talk to. The grandmother shared that she was overwhelmed and that she was already caring for her other grandchildren – one of whom was also age-eligible for ECEAP. The FSS shared that ECEAP services were available for her granddaughter as well as the other age-eligible children in her care, even though on-site classes were currently unavailable.
Though hesitant at first, the grandmother ultimately agreed to give ECEAP a try. ECEAP now provides services to all of her grandchildren through a virtual class platform and weekly check-ins. The grandmother is grateful for the extra support and is relieved to have educational activities for the children. Even better, her other age-eligible grandchild – who might have otherwise been left out of these life-changing services – is now enrolled in ECEAP, too.
With its proven outcomes, ECEAP often means the difference between success and falling even further behind for many children in Washington State. By working together, DCYF and ECEAP staff helped this family get what they needed to support family and child health, learning and safety.
In addition to showing the value of ECEAP services, this success story also demonstrates the value of collaboration with CPS – another branch of DCYF’s Children and Families Division, where staff often see overlap in the families simultaneously receiving ECEAP and CPS services.
This is the stuff that keeps us going – a light moment for this family in dark times.