January 9, 2019

ECEAP Parent Advocacy

ECEAP Parents Turned Advocates

Parents of kiddos in our Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) are advocating for their child’s right to quality education in Olympia on February 7th, this year’s Advocacy Day for the State Legislature. Our ECEAP sites have a history of advocacy in Washington state; for 11 consecutive years, YWCA Spokane’s ECEAP parents have been policy council representatives for the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP.  YWCA ECEAP parents have been leaders and activists for early childhood education. As the process of advocacy and policy is often difficult to navigate, our parents train from October to May each year to ensure their success while at the capital in support of Washington’s children.

The Process Breakdown

Parents at our five ECEAP sites have the opportunity to join the Parent Policy Council to become a representative. These representatives work with the ultimate goal to head to Olympia through the Washington State Association of Head Start and ECEAP (WSA) on each year’s Advocacy Day in order to advocate for their children’s education. WSA is a grassroots advocacy organization and training hub for parents with children in ECEAP and Head Start. Through WSA, parents will be trained on how to pull legislators off the floor and how to advocate for or against policies on the floor.

This process is full of red tape and is often confusing for newcomers to join into. Advocating on the state level (where ECEAP receives their funding) or on the federal level (where Head Start, an early learning program with ties to ECEAP, receives their funding) is daunting. However, to help parents navigate this process, former representatives from YWCA Spokane’s ECEAP often stay in touch to serve as a Family Service Counselor to newcomers. Parents in ECEAP not only feel a deep dedication to their children but to other parents navigating this process, too.

What is Advocacy Day?

Each year, the Washington State Legislature opens up a day to listen to early childhood education programs. This day is full of rallying, speeches, marches, and energy from all. Anyone is welcome to attend. Some families choosing to bring their children to this event to teach them how to advocate for themselves when they are older. On this day, parents, ECEAP teachers, and counselors share the impact ECEAP makes on children and families.

In addition to training for Advocacy Day, there is an opportunity for parents to become an ambassador for WSA, a one year position that dives into the financial education needed to advocate for ECEAP. YWCA Spokane ECEAP parents have held this position for 8 years.

2019 Advocacy Day

Two fearless parents from YWCA ECEAP and several Head Start parents from Spokane County, met with over 7 Legislators last week and communicated the needs of ECEAP, Working Connections Childcare, and other areas that impact low-income families.  Among their asks were:

  • Increase dollars per slot by 17% for ECEAP, to increase teacher salaries.
  • Raise the eligibility rate from 110% to 130% of the Federal Poverty Level. Currently a family of 4 making over $27, 610 would not be income eligible. Raising the eligibility rate to 130% would allow a family of 4 making $32, 630 or less to qualify.
  • Expansion slots for full-day and extended-day.
  • Facility funds for expansion and growth.
  • Increase reimbursement rate for Working Connections Childcare
  • Dental Therapy and COVA dental, access to dental services for Pacific Islander communities.

It was amazing to see our parents activate their voice for causes that are near and dear to their hearts. They stood strong even in the moments of challenge. We are so proud of our ECEAP and Head Start Parents!

The Impact

Often times, the greatest impact we see is on the parents. Parents turned WSA Representatives often become staff members for ECEAP, pursue their GED, pay off their debt, purchase a home, and graduate from college after being involved in the program.

Rep. Riccelli with ECEAP Parents, Feb. 7, 2019.

Our parents are so passionate about this opportunity, they often join in a friendly competition to run for WSA Representative. Just last year, 3 of the parents running for one of the positions were 2 of our YWCA ECEAP West Plains parents. As one of our parents won the race, the other YWCA ECEAP parent soon joined the WSA board.

Through running for the WSA Representative position, parents are empowered to be confident in themselves, recognize their value to the policy council, are empowered to speak to large audiences, and believe in themselves.

Director of YWCA ECEAP, Shannon Griffiths, says “We have seen parents grow from quiet and uninvolved to becoming a WSA Rep, board president, and college graduate, friends with legislators that they pulled off the floor, and joining the Head Start program as an educator.”

Our ECEAP leaders believe it is not them who teach parents, but parents who teach them.

After having to navigate many resources, parents understand which ones are beneficial to their families and can share this insight with YWCA Spokane. Our ECEAP leaders also believe these parents have much success that goes unnoticed. Getting their child into the ECEAP program is already a huge success, but our leaders see parents earning drivers licenses, beginning savings accounts, getting the rights to their child back, learning how to engage their child, learning how to care for their children with developmental disabilities, and carrying on every day is an achievement for these families.

Thank you to parents who choose to stand up for their child’s right to quality education! Your work makes a lasting difference in our community, and certainly does not go unnoticed!

Learn more about ECEAP (Early Childhood Education & Assistance Program).

By: Olivia Moorer

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