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Nina Auerbach, ACSW, MBA, is the Executive Director of Thrive by Five Washington. Prior to her work with Thrive, Auerbach was the CEO of Child Care Resources of King County for 18 years, from its founding in 1990 through 2008. Part of the work involved partnering with public health nurses who served as consultants to help providers learn about nutrition, activity and social emotional health. While her current organization, Thrive by Five, does not work directly with child care programs or providers, they focus on home visits, policy and community partnerships, and parent engagement. “What we do now is support home visiting before child care, working with both parents and children. There is definitely a health component, and health issues are addressed. Our campaign for parent education, Love. Talk. Play. also includes health messages.” In addition, Thrive supports 10 regional Early Learning Coalitions that include in their membership leaders from local health jurisdictions, among other regional partners.
“There was a period of time when Thrive was involved in developing and piloting the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) and we had a big role with child care,” she says. They piloted QRIS in five communities around the state. When it came time to address statewide implementation, the Washington Department of Early Learning (DEL) took over. This program is now called Early Achievers, and is part of DEL. It includes a number of other key partners, such as the child care resource and referral agencies around the state.
Thrive supports healthy child care indirectly through the Washington State Early Learning Partnership with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and DEL. The Partnership focuses on children from birth-third grade and has a whole child approach, including health and mental health. Thrive has a special focus on the birth to age three group, “We focus on birth to three years in order to make sure that toddlers and infants get a rich experience.” The Partnership co-authored the Plan, which is a 10-year roadmap for Washington’s early learning work. Thrive By Five and other partners point out that Washington State is a leader in early learning, resulting in major private, federal and public investment.
Regarding bills proposed in the State Legislature calling for health improvements in child care, Auerbach respects the focus of Thrive’s partners. “When it comes to child care programs and regulatory requirements, that is largely up to DEL,” she says. “They establish the WACs (Washington Administrative Code), which makes clear these requirements. Still, the Legislature sets high level policy and has a definite role to play.”
Auerbach has plans to keep strengthening Thrive’s key program areas, including the Love. Talk. Play. campaign and systems-building efforts to support coalitions. She will continue advancing racial equity initiatives, and sees the opportunity for the state to invest more in prevention. The recent Title IVe federal waiver that Washington received allows state agencies to take savings achieved through reducing foster care placements and invest them in prevention programs. Auerbach sees the possibilities: “If we can reduce the number of kids in foster care, we can use the money for other things – like maybe improving child care quality.”
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Featured: March 2013
Child care advocates in Washington