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Author: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning

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Your source for news and information from the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. You will hear from Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs and special guests to give you an update on all things DECAL.
132 Episodes
For the fifth consecutive year, DECAL has named two Georgia’s Pre-K Program Teachers of the Year recognizing the outstanding efforts of all Pre-K teachers and assistant teachers who implement this nationally recognized program every day.   Joining us today on the podcast is Alderine Healey from the YMCA Paulding Early Learning Center in Hiram, Heather Melillo from West End Elementary School in Rome, and our own Meghan McNail, Summer Transition and Outreach Manager for Georgia’s Pre-K Program. Support the show (
Last year, the Georgia State Legislature created a new position here at DECAL designed to help support social and emotional health in a child’s critical early years of life.  Despite the budget challenges caused by COVID-19, the Legislature approved an Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Director for Georgia.  Joining us to talk about Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health is Laura Lucas, the new Director of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health here at DECAL; and Dallas Rabig, who holds a similar position as Laura, in the state of Alabama as the State Coordinator for Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health. Support the show (
Recently our Georgia Head Start Collaboration Office joined the American Academy of Pediatrics and child care advocates GEEARS and Voices for Georgia’s Children to study the impact of COVID-19 on Head Start programs across the state and the children and families they serve.  Joining us to talk about this collaborative effort and what they learned is Dr. Terri McFadden, professor in the Department of Pediatrics of the Emory University School of Medicine and immediate past president of the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Fozia Khan Eskew is director of child health with the Georgia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Britney Newton is policy analyst with Voices for Georgia’s Children; Callan Wells is Health Policy Manager for GEEARS; and Allison Setterlind is director of the Georgia Head Start Collaboration Office.  Support the show (
It’s almost time to ring in the New Year, as we count down the final hours of a most unusual 2020…unprecedented even…and prepare for brighter days ahead in 2021. It seemed like a good time for one of our sit-down chats with Commissioner Jacobs featuring questions from our DECAL team and social media.Support the show (
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our Georgia Foundation for Early Care and Learning has been busy providing free child care scholarships to essential workers with children birth to five.  They have also been helping Santa with gifts for Georgia’s Foster Children through DFCS and Clark’s Christmas Kids.  Joining us from the Georgia Foundation for Early Care and Learning is Executive Director Carrie Ashbee, along with DECAL Director of Government Relations and Special Projects Liz Young. Support the show (
In August, DECAL received over $17 million from the Governors Emergency Education Relief funding, set aside by the CARES Act, for our new SOLVE scholarships, which stands for Supporting Onsite Learning for Virtual Education.  This provides additional childcare options for students ages 5-12 whose school systems have opted primarily for virtual learning. In addition, it will allow parents who need to return to work to have a secure option for their child, ensuring they are under professional care in a safe environment.  Today we’re getting an update on this program and details around expanding the scholarships later this month. Joining us to talk about SOLVE is Elisabetta Kasfir, Deputy Commissioner for the CAPS Program, and Kay Mayfield, Scholarship Administration Director for CAPS.  Support the show (
Our Pandemic Thanksgiving is behind us…now straight ahead is our COVID Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza just a few weeks away.  Seems like a good time for a special holiday episode of DECAL Download to celebrate those age-old traditions that keep our spirits merry and bright, no matter what the circumstances.And as is our tradition, we are featuring comments from several of our DECAL team asking them what’s your favorite holiday tradition and what’s your New Year’s Resolution for 2020?  We’re also joined by DECAL Nutrition Health Educator Diana Meyers who is going to help us survive all the holiday parties and office treats that seem to be coming at us constantly this time of year.  And LaToya Longshore, CCS NW Region Consultant, and Jennifer McCreary, Regional Manager for Georgia’s Pre-K Program join us to talk about great gift ideas for children birth to five since that’s our specialty. Support the show (
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, Governor Brian Kemp has allowed licensed child care in Georgia to remain open to serve children and families. However, with more families staying at home, child care attendance significantly declined except for children of first responders and essential workers.  At one point, only thirty percent of the licensed programs in Georgia remained open.  Joining us to talk about Georgia child care open for business in a pandemic are Jennifer Paschal with Endeavor Schools in Atlanta, Michelle Smith-Lank with Kids World Learning Center in Statesboro, and our own April Rogers, Director of Policy and Enforcement with Child Care Services.Support the show (
Here at DECAL, we’re committed to ensuring that Georgia's youngest learners receive the best services possible to prepare them for school and life. To help meet this commitment, we’ve developed the Georgia Professional Development System (GaPDS) where early childhood educators can create and maintain a profile and search and register for the latest training. This year, the Professional Development Unit has been hard at work revamping OLLI, the Online Learning Library Initiative.  Joining us to talk about improvements to OLLI and what you can find through GaPDS is Christi Moore, Director of Professional Development, along with Barbara McWethy, Workforce Support Manager.  Support the show (
For 30 years, WSB Radio’s Clark Howard and the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services has had the mission of ensuring that every child in the Georgia foster care system has at least one gift on Christmas day. Traditionally, shoppers attended live events in Walmart locations in the metro Atlanta area to purchase gifts from a child’s wish list. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s campaign is going all virtual.  Joining us to talk about this year’s Clark’s Christmas Kids is Tom Rawlings, director of the State Division of Family and Children Services, and our very special guest, a legend in Georgia broadcasting, consumer expert and popular TV and radio personality Clark Howard.  Support the show (
In May, all licensed child care providers in Georgia were invited to apply for STABLE: Short Term Assistance Benefit for Licensed Entities. This was the first round of payments from the $144 million Georgia received under the federal CARES Act and 3,789 providers received more than $38.8 million in financial support.   Now, it’s time for Round 2.  How do you apply and what can the money pay for?  Joining us to talk about STABLE Round 2 is Woody Dover, Enterprise Project Management Director here at DECAL. Support the show (
Quality Rated is Georgia’s system to determine, improve, and communicate the quality of programs that provide child care. Like rating systems for restaurants and hotels, Quality Rated assigns one, two or three stars to early education and school-age care programs that meet or exceed the minimum state requirements. This year, COVID-19 had an impact on the program, especially the deadline of December 31, 2020, for all providers receiving CAPS funding.  Our guests are Dr. Bentley Ponder, Deputy Commissioner for Quality Innovations and Partnerships, and Denise Jenson, Quality Rated Operations Director.  Support the show (
DECAL is the state agency that licenses and regulates child care programs in Georgia using a system that focuses on certain “core rules” within 15 categories ranging from diapering and discipline to supervision, transportation, and criminal records checks.  Based on research, the core rules represent critical areas to consider when determining compliance and the impact on the health and safety of children.  But how much do you know about the core rules?  Here to talk about core rules and their importance in keeping our children healthy and safe is Pam Stevens, Deputy Commissioner for Child Care Services; Shannon Carroll, Technical Assistance Coordinator for Child Care Services; and Morgan Stahl, one of our CCS consultants. Support the show (
Over 3,500 infants die annually in the United States from sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome.  The issue disproportionately impacts families of color, especially black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and low-income families.  With that in mind, October is Safe Sleep and SIDS Awareness Month and DECAL is joining Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to remind caregivers and parents.Joining us to talk about Safe Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is Pam Stevens, Deputy Commissioner for Child Care Services here at DECAL; Candace Gilbert is Quality Improvement and Training Coordinator with Child Care Services; Malissa Champion is a CCS Consultant serving Northeast Georgia; Rachel Brown is a CCS Consultant in the Northwest Region, and Michelle Walker is a pediatric nurse serving as Manager of Child Advocacy Programs with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.  We are also joined by Sabrina Henry from DECAL's HR Division with an update on 2021 Open Enrollment.Support the show (
The pandemic continues, Georgia’s Pre-K Program is up and running with a few different looks, and we’re supporting school age children doing virtual learning with child care scholarships.  Plenty of things going on…and it seemed like a good time for one of our sit-down chats with Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs. Join us as we discuss a variety of topics facing DECAL and early childhood education in Georgia. Support the show (
It’s Pre-K Week in Georgia! For the past 28 years, Georgia’s nationally recognized Pre-K Program has provided quality early education to the state’s youngest learners.  Launched in 1992 as a pilot program serving 750 four-year-olds, the lottery-funded Georgia’s Pre-K Program has laid a solid foundation for academic excellence and future success in the lives of approximately 1.6 million children.  This is our tenth year partnering with Voices for Georgia’s Children.   Joining us to talk about Georgia Pre-K Week is Dr. Erica Fener-Sitkoff, Executive Director at Voices for Georgia’s Children; Susan Adams, Deputy Commissioner for Georgia’s Pre-K Program and Instructional Supports; Nicole Cook, one of our outstanding Pre-K Specialists; and Coy Bowles, lead guitarist from the Zac Brown Band and author of “Behind the Little Red Door” and his latest, “Behind the Little Red Door: Can You Touch a Color?”Support the show (
It's Georgia's Pre-K Week and Commissioner Amy M. Jacobs talks about it with WSB Radio's Scott Slade on Atlanta's Morning News. Support the show (
Georgia youth are returning to school either virtually or in an environment that is drastically different from the one they left in March. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, our kids were already facing a mental health crisis – one that is now exacerbated by these uncertain times. Voices for Georgia’s Children is partnering with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to raise awareness about youth mental health in a campaign called “Free Your Feels.”Joining us to talk about “Free Your Feels” and the importance of children exploring their true feelings is Dr. Erica Fener-Sitkoff, Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children, and Layla Fitzgerald, Program Manager of the Office of Children, Young Adults, and Families with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities.  Support the show (
With the deadline to respond to Census 2020 rapidly approaching, participation is extremely important. The results will be felt by Georgians for the next ten years.  At stake are billions of dollars used for education, public health, infrastructure, and other related areas. The process is quick, easy, and confidential but most importantly it is making sure that everyone counts. Joining us to talk about the 2020 Census and how Georgia is doing are the co-chairs of the Georgia Complete Count Committee Anna Wrigley-Miller, director of planning, evaluation, research, and communications with the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, and Rusty Haygood, Deputy Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.  Also joining us is Jessie Bruno, Research and Policy Analyst here at DECAL, who has been working with the Complete Count Committee.Support the show (
From smiling and taking those first steps, to waving bye-bye and even temper tantrums, starting this month, we’ve got a new resource for families to track the developmental milestones of their children.  Joining us to talk about the new Developmental Milestones website are Bridgett Ratajczak, Child and Family Development Supervisor at DECAL, and Ann Panzica, Child and Family Development Training Specialist.  Support the show (
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