A scene from the Michael B. Educare Early Learning Center Dedication
Washington has been a national leader in providing access to childhood education and childcare. This photo depicts the opening of the Educare Early Learning Center in White Center in 2010. (Photo: Michael B., reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Wash­ing­ton is fac­ing two big chal­lenges when it comes to childcare.

The first is access to safe and reli­able care, and the sec­ond is main­tain­ing a strong, sta­ble work­force. Sen­ate Bill 5225 will help solve both.

Washington State Senator Claire Wilson
Wash­ing­ton State Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son, the spon­sor of SB 5225 (Pho­to: Once And Future Lau­ra, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

In 2021, the Leg­is­la­ture passed the his­toric Fair Start for Kids Act, which expand­ed access to the Work­ing Con­nec­tions Child Care (WCCC) pro­gram, which helps reduce the cost of child­care for many fam­i­lies and in turn, sup­ports our youngest learners.

Imple­men­ta­tion of the act has been suc­cess­ful and is already help­ing thou­sands of fam­i­lies pay for and access afford­able child­care — but it was evi­dent in many con­ver­sa­tions I have had that more need­ed to be done.

That is why this year, I brought for­ward SB 5225 to expand WCCC eli­gi­bil­i­ty to even more families.

Right now, child­care providers are strug­gling to hire and retain employ­ees. We have more licensed slots in the sys­tem than before the pan­dem­ic, but few­er kids in care. Often class­rooms sit emp­ty because work­ers can­not find care for their own children.

With the pas­sage of this leg­is­la­tion, those child­care employ­ees will soon have access to Work­ing Con­nec­tions Child Care. This win-win solu­tion ensures their chil­dren have a safe place to go dur­ing the day and they them­selves can get back to work to care for even more of our young learners.

My col­leagues and I also rec­og­nized that while many fam­i­lies involved with the court sys­tem have access to child­care to help them recov­er, our ther­a­peu­tic court sys­tem, which pro­vides treat­ment for men­tal health and sub­stance use dis­or­der as part of its mis­sion of reha­bil­i­ta­tion, lacks this tool.

Access to child­care will help sup­port par­ents’ suc­cess in these courts, and pro­vide sta­ble, con­sis­tent care for their children.

U.S. Senator Patty Murray Visits LCC's Childcare Center
Democ­rats elect­ed to the fed­er­al and state lev­els in Wash­ing­ton have a long his­to­ry of work­ing to strength­en child­care. Pic­tured here is U.S. Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Mur­ray, who vis­it­ed Low­er Colum­bia Col­lege’s Ear­ly Learn­ing Cen­ter in April 2018 as part of her effort to bol­ster invest­ments in our nation’s child care net­work. (Pho­to: Low­er Colum­bia Col­lege, repro­duced under a Cre­ative Com­mons license)

Here in Wash­ing­ton, many fam­i­lies who are already eli­gi­ble for the pro­gram in every way sim­ply do not pos­sess the nec­es­sary doc­u­men­ta­tion required by the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. SB 5225 pro­vides those par­ents with access to the WCCC benefits.

Not only will this help these par­ents, but it will also, in turn, help address our cur­rent work­force shortages.

To fur­ther boost our child­care work­force, we also took action this ses­sion with SB 5316 to decrease sys­temic delays and costs that were keep­ing appli­cants from get­ting down to work.

State law requires back­ground checks when the Depart­ment of Chil­dren, Youth and Fam­i­lies is approv­ing appli­cants to our child­care workforce.

This is impor­tant for the safe­ty of kids in our care, but it intro­duces delays between when some­one accepts a job and when they can begin work.

When back­ground fees were sus­pend­ed dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, we learned that sim­ply remov­ing the require­ment for pay­ment saved sev­er­al days in the process.

When pay­ment does not have to be hand­ed from per­son to per­son, it saves time, and every day saved is a day soon­er that per­son can get to work.

Not only does waiv­ing these fees speed up the process of get­ting approved appli­cants into posi­tions, but it also removes a cost that too often keeps qual­i­fied work­ers from apply­ing in the first place.

Help­ing child­care providers is a cru­cial part of solv­ing the child­care cri­sis. They are the back­bone of the indus­try and their abil­i­ty to offer safe, sta­ble care is essen­tial for Wash­ing­ton families.

This leg­isla­tive ses­sion, we focused on remov­ing some of the road­blocks that were stand­ing in the way. I am proud to have cham­pi­oned these two bills to increase sup­port and resources for our providers, which will help even more fam­i­lies across Wash­ing­ton lead bet­ter, less stress­ful lives.

About the author

Sen­a­tor Claire Wil­son (D‑Auburn) rep­re­sents the 30th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict, chairs the Sen­ate Human Ser­vices Com­mit­tee and is vice chair of the Sen­ate Ear­ly Learn­ing and K‑12 Com­mit­tee. She cham­pi­oned the land­mark Fair Start for Kids Act, which invest­ed $1.1 bil­lion to make child­care and ear­ly learn­ing more afford­able for Wash­ing­ton families.

Adjacent posts