Strengthening Families Washington Fall/Winter Newsletter

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SFWA Fall/Winter Newsletter

In This Issue:


Parent Recognition Month

One of our favorite times of the year is approaching: Parent Recognition Month in February!

As 2022 is quickly making its arrival, we are gearing up for our annual Unsung Hero campaign in honor of Parent Recognition month and we are hoping you can help us spread the word far and wide.

Since 2011, with your help, we have honored 281 parents and caregivers in Washington for the roles they have taken with their families, schools, and communities. They have been recognized because they have shown strength, courage, and empathy in their communities. We also acknowledge that this year, parents and primary caregivers have been called upon more than ever to be the buffer for the traumatic experiences that our world has faced. Parents and caregivers around Washington State are supporting their children, families, and communities in exceptional ways through this pandemic and we want to show our appreciation.

Please help us honor 28 more unsung heroes in February 2022 by nominating a parent, primary caregiver, or guardian for the Unsung Hero award. The nomination form is available in three languages (English, Spanish, and Somali). All nominations must be submitted by Jan. 17. The nominations can be emailed to or submitted via the form itself.

SFWA Resources

Children's Trust of Washington Fact Sheet

Home Visiting Services by County

COVID-19 Parent Guide

Strengthening Families Washington Coloring Book: download and print, or email Strengthening Families Washington for a mailed copy

Contact SFWA

Email | Website

Brochures and Publications

Speak Up When You’re Down: Postpartum Depression

Have a Plan: Shaken Baby Syndrome

Infant Safe Sleep: Safe Sleep for your Baby

Welcome Marilyn Gisser

The SFWA team is pleased to announce our new team member, Marilyn Gisser. Marilyn will be working with the SFWA team and advancing several different initiatives that will be supported through the American Rescue Plan Act, including the diaper bank partnerships, Crisis Nurseries, and Family Resource Center partnerships. Marilyn comes to DCYF from several years at DOH coordinating the Essentials for Childhood Grant and many other rich experiences supporting children and families in Washington. Her email is  

"I am super-excited to join the amazing Strengthening Families Team!" Marilyn said. "My 20-plus years in Washington State government has spanned from health services purchasing to public health and prevention. Most recently, I was part of the Essentials for Childhood team at the Department of Health. Working in Strengthening Families, I can leverage all my experience to do what I am passionate about: supporting the health and well-being of all people in Washington by maximizing the impact of programs and policies  to support and strengthen families so they can flourish."

Marilyn is currently working on setting up partnerships with Diaper Banks to help address diaper need among home visiting clients. Approximately one in three U. S. families experiences diaper need, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. To learn more, see this Research Snapshot Brief. Future work for Marilyn includes building new partnerships with Family Resource Centers, Crisis Nurseries, and others. We will continue to update you on this new and exciting work.

Upcoming Funding Opportunities

The Strengthening Families team has been working to get input from community partners and parents on the plan for implementing various different funding that was awarded to DCYF through American Rescue Plan Act grants and the Legislature. New funding will be available for one to three year initiatives that support primary and secondary child abuse and neglect prevention and advance the protective factors in families and communities. In the coming months, please stay tuned for new funding announcements that will be shared via GovDelivery and others. We are looking forward to this unique opportunity to expand partnerships to promote strong and resilient families and communities. Stay tuned!

CWELN Project Links CPS-Involved Families to Early Learning, Family Support Programs

One of DCYF’s critical tasks is to strengthen the linkages between our state’s child welfare and early learning systems. Evidence suggests that early learning and family support programs can help  prevent maltreatment, reduce entry into foster care, and improve well-being, but fewer than half of Washington’s eligible families involved with Child Protective Services (CPS) were reaching these programs.

The goal is to promote long-term positive outcomes for children and decrease subsequent reports of abuse or neglect and out-of-home placements for families with active child welfare cases. DCYF collected and analyzed data to identify opportunities to better serve families and children through child welfare, early learning, and family support connections. Those connections are made by DCYF Child Welfare Early Learning Navigators, or CWELNs, who collaborate with CPS caseworkers to support and connect families with young children to high-quality early learning and family support experiences. Currently, this work is being carried out across three regions of the state, including South King, Grays Harbor, Mason, Pacific, and Yakima counties. Soon, an Indian Child Welfare navigator will begin to serve tribal communities and an additional CWELN in King County will join the team.

The CWELN team is trying new ways to more consistently track when child welfare staff and navigators refer families to community early learning resources such as: child care, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), Head Start, home visiting, Early Support for Infants and Toddlers (ESIT), and Early Childhood Intervention and Prevention Services (ECLIPSE). We hope this information can help to achieve three things:

  • Determine what strategies for making referrals are most effective in getting families enrolled in early learning services — including the creation of a conversation guide and accompanying grid.
  • Identify and address “missed connections” — when a family wants to be connected to an early learning resource but gets lost in the process.
  • Develop systems that allow us to identify gaps in needed services, pinpoint bottlenecks in real time, and regularly adjust practice as needed.

The CWELN Project is currently funded by the Preschool Development Grant Birth Through Five (PDG B-5), which was renewed in 2019 to carry out approved activities over three years. As the CWELN team prepares for its third year, they are excited to take the lessons learned from the project to inform ongoing practice and policy change across the state. This project is likely just one of many toward achieving our ambitious goal of connecting all families, especially those with active child welfare cases, to early learning resources. The team is capturing data and learnings from the project about necessary changes, as well as actively evaluating the impact of the navigators’ referrals to make sure this critical effort is as effective as possible.

To learn more about the CWELN project, email or call 360-480-9563. Other resources include: CPS Investigations and the Family Assessment Response (FAR) brochures. For more information about the impact of the CWELN project, visit

Updates from the Strengthen Families Locally Team

sfl goals

This time of year means opening the new federal fiscal year and closing the last. The Strengthen Families Locally team (housed within the Strengthening Families Washington team) submitted the Semi-Annual Progress Report for the federal grant that funds the Strengthen Families Locally Initiative. These moments give us an important time to pause, reflect, and note the milestones that are being achieved and some that have been complete rewrites of our intent. Many of the elements we planned in the grant application (parent nights, community events) have had to shift entirely. Some pieces that stood out proudly for your consideration:

  • This last year brought the contracts with the Strong Community Network facilitators. This group of dynamic leaders in the local communities will be guiding the framing for each Community Prevention Plan. It has been exciting to see the passion and commitment each of these leaders is bringing.
  • Formal evaluation plan for the project has been approved.
  • Establishment of the Our Tomorrows tool to help the communities collect and respond to stories. Using stories to design community based interventions is a key element of our project and has been used successfully in Kansas and other states to dramatically change services to meet family needs.
  • Community participation and design – each of the locale meetings has a robust network of parents and partners working on the plans.

The Strengthen Families Locally team also created a new graphic (see above) that we hope will be helpful in communicating the purpose of the Strengthen Families Locally project. You might recognize the pinwheel shape from the Prevent Child Abuse America campaign, of which DCYF holds the Washington chapter. If you’re in Olympia in April, you’ll notice the blue pinwheels planted around the capitol by our team! For more resources on how to prevent child abuse and strengthen families, visit the Strengthening Families Washington website.

News From DCYF

Seeking parent input: The Preschool Development Grant (PDG) Transitions Team is seeking families to share their stories through a series of listening sessions. The following prompts guide our conversation: What are your hopes and dreams for your child as they go to preschool or kindergarten? What are your fears and challenges? What does success look like for your child? Please contact Mari Taylor at to schedule a listening session or with questions or recommendations for engaging families in this conversation.


Click the image above to view full size. Courtesy of the Washington State Department of Health.



Start Early is excited to share the NEAR@Home Toolkit for home visitors. You can also sign up for updates to learn about resource and professional development opportunities.

Slides and materials are available from Structural Racism and Current Day Implications: How We Got Here and A Better Path Forward presented by the Children’s Trust Fund Alliance Birth Parent National Network.

In the News

Meet OpalOur partners at Kindering have worked with her and her family to help her thrive despite a rare diagnosis as a newborn. After being told she may never walk or run, thanks to her therapy, she is not only walking but also running and tumbling over her own legs.

The Real Costs Of Child Care In America, Crosscut.

Why more companies are considering employer-based child care benefits, KOMO News.

Local schools respond to Pfizer vaccine authorization for children, The Daily Evergreen.

Racial Equity Resources

Below are resources and opportunities to engage:

Teaching Tolerance: "Our mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy."

Podcast with Brené Brown and Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist, which is an approach to understanding how to uproot racism and inequality in our society and in ourselves.