The agency reflects on their progress made in the last six months
The Department of Early Learning and Care (DELC) officially launched on July 1. The young agency wasted no time building upon critical work and successfully surpassed all three agency transition goals. One of these goals included ensuring providers of early learning services, many of whom operate under razor-thin profit margins, were paid on time using a new in-house Awards Management System (AMS).
“We continue to listen to, and be informed by, providers and partners across the state to find innovative ways to do business,” said Alyssa Chatterjee, DELC Director. “I’m thrilled our new procurement process allowed us to deliver on our funding promises well ahead of previous schedules. These resources are making progress towards closing longstanding historical opportunity gaps to help ensure all of Oregon’s children have the supports they need to thrive. As we work to unify and strengthen Oregon’s early learning system the possibilities for innovation are limitless.”
DELC staff, child care providers, families, and community partners came together to define the mission and vision of the new agency reflecting the new, important role of an agency dedicated to early learning and child care for the state. Each day, in small and large ways, the work of the agency contributes to the creation of more equitable opportunities — to caregivers, often women, not having to choose between providing care or leaving the workforce, to early learning professionals having increased recognition, dignity and a voice in their profession, and to young children getting a stronger start in life.
Research increasingly shows that the window from birth to five is critical in the foundation of brain development, social-emotional, and language skills which are being formed long before a child enters a K-12 classroom. These early investments pave the way for future success. Yet, unlike other similarly situated countries, early education frequently remains out of reach for many families across the nation who face significant challenges finding affordable, high quality care. In Oregon, nearly all counties are “child care deserts” where demand for care far exceeds availability.
With the increasing recognition that early learning and child care plays a critical role in supporting children and families to thrive, the Oregon Legislature passed HB3073 in 2021, recognizing the pressing need to create a stand-alone agency to center the needs of children in their earliest years. With the launch of DELC, Oregon’s families and child care professionals now have one state agency dedicated to ensuring high-quality, family-centered and culturally appropriate early learning and care opportunities.
Early learning and care brings huge returns on investments in contributing to a prosperous economy. In addition to increasing opportunities and outcomes for children, early education has a multi-generational effect, expanding the availability of high quality, regulated care allows parents to enter the workforce, and provides pathways for early learning professionals to stay in the field they love. In doing so, Oregon is ensuring children have the support they need to be successful in school and in life.
Now, six months after launch, DELC staff are hard at work implementing a partner-informed approach in the co-creation of the new agency’s upcoming priorities and strategic planning. At every step, DELC staff are committed to continual learning and to being responsive to the needs of children, early learning providers, and families across the state.
“While there is a lot of work ahead, we’re off to a remarkable start. It’s an honor to do this work, and to provide high quality early learning programs and supports to tens of thousands of families,” said Chatterjee. “Together we are helping to ensure young children get a strong start in life. These investments set the trajectory for Oregon’s collective future.”