Workforce Preparation and Quality Practice

Essential Knowledge, Standards, and Competencies

Clearly defined knowledge, standards, and competencies are part of a foundation that leads to high-quality programs and services.

Standards and Competencies

Standards and competencies are the basis for developing a skilled workforce that leads to positive outcomes.

  • Standards describe what people in certain career roles know how to do.
  • Competencies are actionable and observable ways people show their knowledge and skills that align with standards.

Washington's Early Care and Education Standards

The standards and competencies that are part of Washington's Professional Development system reflect national models, best practices, and align with other educational systems, including higher education and collaboration with K-12. This makes it more achievable to have alignment and articulation agreements that support career progression and transition.  

Essential Knowledge and Principles

In addition to role-specific standards and competencies, DCYF believes those who serve children, youth, and families should have working and growing knowledge in:

Trauma-informed care is based on the understanding that trauma can impact health and well-being and relationships. Positive relationships between children and adults are critical to creating the brain architecture that makes healthy social, emotional, and intellectual development possible. A workforce that is knowledgeable about trauma and the impact on development and life experiences has the skills and strategies to recognize, prevent, and reduce the effects on young children.

Racial Equity and Social Justice in early childhood education recognizes that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) children are more likely to experience poverty, barriers to high-quality learning, and increased likelihood of suspension or expulsion in preschool versus White children. These experiences directly tie in with structural and systemic oppression and racist policies and practices that have created childhood and generational trauma. An anti-racist workforce is intentional in calling out and uprooting racial inequities and continues to work to advance racial equity and social justice, inclusive of self-exploration and learning. For more information about DCYF’s plan for advancing racial equity and social justice, view the DCYF 2021-2026 Strategic Priorities.

The Core Competencies for Early Care and Education Professionals defines what early learning professionals need to know and be able to do to provide quality care for young children.

Additional Guiding Resources

  • Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines: Provide essential information to support and enhance children’s development and learning. English | Spanish
  • NAEYC Professional Standards and Competencies for Early Childhood Educators: Washington’s competencies align with these standards. English | Spanish
  • NAEYC Professional Code of Ethics: Offers guidelines for responsible behavior and resolving ethical dilemmas encountered in early childhood care and education. English | Spanish
  • NAEYC Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education: Outlines NAEYC’s position regarding the importance of equity in early childhood education and provides recommendations for advancing equity. English | Spanish

The Core Competencies for School-Age Child Care and Expanded Learning Professionals define what school-age professionals need to know and be able to do to provide quality services for children and youth ages 5-18 years old and their families. 

The RBPD Standards describe the skills and knowledge that RBPD professionals (i.e., coaches) must have to apply reflective, relationship-based strategies for professional learning and job-related improvements.

The State-Approved Trainer Standards describe the skills and knowledge that trainers must have to facilitate quality professional learning experiences.

The Washington State Early Intervention Competencies describes what early intervention specialists need to know and do to support families in improving outcomes of infants and toddlers who experience developmental delays and disabilities.

WA-IMH supports the growth of developmentally informed social-emotional and relationship-based support services for families by having a shared standard quality of knowledge and care throughout the state of Washington. The endorsement credentialing system is based on competencies and supports and recognizes professionals that serve families of babies and young children.