Early Learning & Care

Responsive, nurturing interactions and healthy environments provide a foundation for positive early childhood development, paving the way for success throughout a person’s life.

Access to quality, affordable child care is a top priority for many Whatcom County parents, employers, child care professionals, and educators. There is recognition of the strong connection between access to child care experiences and multi-generational economic opportunity for families, and the children who participate in the child care experience.

For parents, access to child care can allow them to work more, attend school, and have lasting positive effects on family economic security and opportunity. Researchers have also found that access to more affordable, high-quality child care produces a greater likelihood of improved health outcomes, increased future earnings, and reduced crime rates. 

Whatcom County is one of Washington State’s top three counties with the highest cost of child care. The cost required to provide quality child care continues to surpass the reimbursements providers are receiving for providing care to the most vulnerable children and families. Because of this, many providers accept only a few, if any, children on a subsidy. This leaves many low-income parents with minimal options to find and obtain high-quality care.

From our qualitative interviews, we found that not being able to access high-quality, affordable child care is an issue for many families. It creates barriers to employment, education, and opportunities for parents and children to connect by socializing and learning from each other. We also saw that some parents are faced with the dilemma of working a low-wage job where the majority of their paycheck goes to cover child care expenses, or not working at all.

The severe lack of accessible child care and the impact of school & program closures on families due to COVID, has elevated Early Learning & Care as a major area of focus for our community. 

Our Goal

Children of all races and ethnicities in Whatcom County have opportunities for high-quality, culturally relevant, affordable, accessible, and professional child care and early learning experiences.

  • Ensure early learning and care is culturally responsive and free of implicit bias. 
  • Ensure early learning and care is affordable for every household.
  • Ensure early learning and care programs meet families’ individual needs: location, hours of operation, program model, integration of family support, and culturally responsive resources. 
  • Support professional teachers and administrators with increased access to obtain the qualifications and training necessary to support children and families. 
  • Deliver kindergarten readiness assessments in a culturally relevant way that validates and includes the child’s culture.
  • Increase the number of Whatcom County early learning centers and child care locations that use the Since Time Immemorial & other BIPOC-created curricula.
  • Create a community-based hub for early learning & child care providers for professional development with access to scholarships, mentoring, work release time, and child care while in class and studying.
  • Ensure workplace cultures, policies, and practices support retention of BIPOC educators and administrators in child care and early learning settings.

Learn About our other priorities