ECEAP contractors work closely with their local health and social service agencies to recruit and enroll children most in need of services, including children in the foster care system and children who are homeless.
HOME LANGUAGE - Thirty-five (35) percent of children in ECEAP have a home language other than English, in comparison to 9.4% of the K-12 student population. Children learn a new language more easily at younger ages and most leave ECEAP speaking English fluently, writing their names and recognizing letters. Often, ECEAP helps their parents enroll in English as a Second Language classes, which strengthens parents' ability to support their children's education.
HOMELESS - Based on the McKinney-Vento definition of homelessness, 7.1% of ECEAP children were homeless at some point during the 2010-11 school year. Statewide, just 0.4% of children under 18 are homeless. Anecdotally, the increase appears connected to the current economic downturn and includes families temporarily living with relatives because of job or home loss. ECEAP works closely with families to find or increase employment and secure housing and food. As of March 2011, there were 63 homeless 4-year-olds and 122 homeless 3-year-olds on the ECEAP waiting lists.
FOSTER CARE - In 2010-11, 2.96% of ECEAP children were in foster care. Approximately 1,700 to 2,000 Washington 3- and 4-year-olds are in foster care and about one-third of them are in ECEAP or Head Start. ECEAP actively recruits from foster agencies and families, prioritizes enrollment of children in foster care and, when appropriate, provides family support services to both the foster and birth families. In March 2011, the ECEAP waiting lists peaked with 25 four-year-olds and 44 three-year-olds in foster care waiting for an available slot. These were children who applied for ECEAP after the usual enrollment period and were put at the top of waiting lists.
DSHS does not track the reasons foster families do not enroll in ECEAP or Head Start. However, according to the 2007-08 Early Learning Survey conducted by Washington State University, foster families sometimes choose not to enroll children in ECEAP or Head Start because:
They provide an enriched environment in their homes.
They choose a different, often full day, child care program.
They live in an unserved community.
The foster parent's schedule has too many demands.
The child is not in foster care long enough.
6.2% of foster parents did not enroll their foster children in early learning programs because they did not see the benefit of an early learning program.