Several provisions of the Fair Start for Kids Act, the system overhaul the Legislature passed this year in response to the state’s childcare crisis, take effect today.

“In Washington, over half a million children do not have access to licensed childcare,” said Sen. Claire Wilson (D-Auburn), who sponsored the act. “Even where there is childcare available, the cost is so high that it remains out of reach for most families. The Fair Start for Kids Act will help parents keep their jobs and the salaries they need to take care of their families by increasing access to affordable, quality childcare.”

The provisions taking effect today include several significant changes to the Working Connections Child Care program that will make childcare affordable for more families, as well as adding new supports for providers.

Working Connections Child Care


The Department of Children, Youth & Families will waive Working Connections Child Care co-payments this year for July, August and September and will implement the co-payment schedule below starting October 1, 2021. 

If the household’s income is: Then the household’s maximum monthly co-payment is:
at or below 20 percent of State Median Income (SMI) waived to the extent allowable under federal law; otherwise, a maximum of $15
above 20 percent and at or below 36 percent of SMI $65
above 36 percent and at or below 50 percent of SMI $90
above 50 percent and at or below 60 percent of SMI $115

While previously Federal Poverty Level (FPL) guidelines were used to calculate co-payments, State Median Income (SMI) figures will now be used to calculate co-payments. The SMI better reflects the Washington’s particular economy, and under this new provision any household under 60% of the SMI ($4,317/month for a family of 3) will be eligible for affordable co-payments starting October 1. Previously, households were eligible if under 200% of the FPL ($3,660/month for a family of 3), but households making between 140% and 200% of the FPL often ended up with high, cost prohibitive co-payments. The provisions of the Fair Start for Kids Act extend eligibility and low co-payments to many more families to make quality, affordable childcare available to more households across the state.

Student Parents

Beginning July 1, 2021 parents will not need to meet work requirements as a condition of receiving Working Connections Child Care when any parent is a full-time student of a community, technical, or tribal college and is enrolled in:

  • a vocational education program that leads to degree or certificate in a specific occupation;
  • an associate degree program; or
  • a registered apprenticeship program.

Previously, only single parents qualified, and students were required to maintain passing grades and be in good standing. Those requirements have been removed.

Childcare Subsidy Rates

Beginning July 1, 2021, childcare subsidy base rates must achieve the 85th percentile of market rates for licensed or certified childcare providers. Previously, the rates were set at the 65th percentile. Not only will this make it easier for childcare providers to work with households receiving Working Connections Child Care, but it will keep more providers in business and incentivize new providers to come on board, helping to alleviate the current crisis-level lack of childcare providers.

Provider Supports: Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation

The Fair Start for Kids Act requires DCYF to administer or contract for early childhood and mental health consultation service by July 1, 2021.

More provisions of the Fair Start for Kids Act will be phased in over the next several years, making affordable, quality childcare accessible to more Washington families.

For More Information

To learn more about DCYF’s childcare subsidy programs including the Working Connections Child Care program, visit:

For more information on key benefits of the Fair Start for Kids Act for both families and providers, visit:

Find out how to become a licensed childcare & early learning provider at: