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Frequently Asked Questions

Some of this information may be out of date due to COVID-19 and expanded eligibility for emergency services.

The Imagine Institute

The Imagine Institute is a grassroots professional development organization for and by education workers. We were established through collective bargaining between members of SEIU Local 925 and the State of Washington to ensure that providers had a say over their own profession. We got our name when a group of educators decided they wanted to imagine a better future for themselves and the children for whom they care. We work every day to make their vision a reality.

Substitute Pool


All Washington State licensed child care centers, licensed family homes, and school age programs who are currently open and in good standing with DCYF can request shifts through the substitute pool.

For current subsidized funding eligibility, please review the eligibility section in our Find A Substitute page.

Anyone who has met substitute qualifications and has signed an agreement to work as a contracted substitute with the Imagine Institute can be your sub.

If you have someone you want to work as your substitute, have them sign-up for our online orientation here.

Anyone who meets all substitute qualifications and has signed an agreement to work as a contracted substitute with the Imagine Institute can be a sub.

If you are unable to locate your substitute, they may have a missing or expired qualification. Please contact us so we can verify your substitute qualifications.

If you believe you meet the eligibility requirements but are unable to schedule, please contact us so we can verify your eligibility.

Getting Started

Facilities assume all risk when using the substitute pool software or services, including but not limited to all of the risks associated with any online or offline interactions with Substitutes.

The Imagine Institute strongly recommends liability insurance when using the substitute pool.

Requesting a Substitute

Request your substitute by filling out our Shift Request Form.

This is how the process works once you submit a shift request:

  1. Your request will be sent out to the substitutes you selected, and others if you indicated on the form that you are okay with us sending it to more substitutes in your area.

  2. The substitutes receive a text and email informing them that there are available shifts in their area. If a substitute accepts your shift, you will receive a text/email letting you know the shift is confirmed along with the substitute’s name and contact information.

    Please note that we are unable to guarantee the availability of substitutes. If you do not receive a confirmation text or an email, that means that your shift has not been accepted. Please do not plan on a substitute filling your shift until you have received a confirmation text or email from the Imagine Institute.

Please contact us at 206-492-5249 or email [email protected] to cancel or modify any shifts requested. If possible, please provide a 48-hour notice of cancellation.

You can increase the likelihood of getting your shift accepted by:

  • Updating your shift’s length: Shifts that are 5 hours or longer tend to be accepted at a higher rate
  • Sending your shift request to other nearby areas in your County
  • Sending your shift request to all approved substitutes in your area
  • Getting someone you already know approved to be your substitute. Do you happen to have a staff member or family member who would be interested in getting approved as a substitute? If so we can assist you in getting them set up with any needed classes.
  • When using Private Pay: Increasing the wage you are willing to pay could help make your shift more appealing to interested substitutes.


  • Get in touch with your substitute. You can find their contact information on the confirmation email/text. If you can’t get in touch with your substitute please let us know.

  • Prepare your substitute orientation. All facilities should perform a 1-hour orientation of their facility when working with a new substitute.Use our Facility Checklist and End of Day Report to plan your orientation. You can download both documents here.

After a Shift

Once your substitute is done with the shift you will get an end of day notification asking you to confirm your substitute worked the hours requested.

  • Please click the link in the text or email notification, it will take you to a webpage where you can confirm the substitute worked the shift requested.
  • If you need to make any changes please contact us at 206-492-5249 or email [email protected].

Your substitute will leave an End of Day Report for you explaining how the day went.

  • That’s for your records only, you don’t need to submit it to Imagine.
  • If there is anything specific you want in your report, please request it at your onsite orientation with your substitute.

Paying Your Substitute

There are two types of shifts you might have access to:

  • Subsidized: These shifts are paid through The Imagine Institute and the hourly rate is always $20. Payments are processed twice monthly.

    Payment for hours worked during the first half of the month (1st-15th) should be received by the 30th of that month. Payment for hours worked during the second half of the month should be received by the 15th of the next month.

  • Private Pay: These are shifts paid directly by the facility. The hourly rate and pay period can vary as they are set and processed by the licensed provider and not through the Imagine Institute.

    We encourage substitutes and facilities to discuss how the payment is going to work at the beginning of the substitute’s first shift or after the substitute confirms the shift request.


Individuals that qualify to become a substitute meet the following criteria:

  • Are 18 years old or older.
  • Are registered in MERIT and have evidence of the following in their professional record:
    • DEL Portable Background Check clearance
    • Completed education application with verified education
    • Pediatric First Aid and CPR certification
    • Blood Borne Pathogens training
    • Tuberculosis test results
    • Initial Training Requirement (Child Care Basics)
    • Child Abuse and Neglect training
    • Safe Sleep training
    • Food Handlers permit
    • Mandated Reporter Training

The Imagine Institute offers free Child Care Basics and CPR/ 1st Aid / Blood Borne Pathogens training for those who wish to become a substitute. Sign up for a training below:

Substitutes are independent contractors and not employees of the Imagine Institute.

Substitute payments are processed on the 10th of each month for all hours completed in the previous month.

Depending on the selected payment method, it can take 1-10 business days to receive payment.

  • Subsidized shifts are paid at the rate of $20 per hour.
  • Private Pay shifts are paid at the rate indicated in the shift request that we send to substitutes.

It is important that you review the details of each shift before you accept it.

If this occurs, the facility would make arrangements to pay you directly for the time that you had worked.

If you are overdue payment by a facility, please contact the Imagine Institute for assistance at [email protected] or 206-492-5249.

Imagine U



Funding for Imagine U was negotiated by SEIU 925. Therefore, only those within the SEIU 925 bargaining unit are eligible to participate. Providers who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply:

  1. Be an active LFCCP
  2. Care for a subsidized child and be within the Service Employee International Union 925’s bargaining unit
  3. Maintain a license in good standing
  4. Meet the minimum education requirement
  5. Find or be willing to be paired with an ECE intern or interns
  6. Be a level 3 or higher (exemptions will be made based on cultural and linguistic need)


Union Benefit Days

  • There are no restrictions on how providers can use their Union Benefit Days.

Early Achievers Activities
The Substitute Pool can support providers with the following Early Achievers related activities:

  • Early Achievers Required training
  • Early Achievers Required self-assessments
  • The Rating Readiness Tool
  • ERS Self-Assessment
  • Quality Standards Self-Assessment
  • Early Achievers technical assistance
  • Remedial activities
  • Environmental Rating Scale (ERS) preparations
  • Infant-Toddler Consultation

The Substitute Pool can provide eligible Family Home Child Care providers with up to 5 days of substitute time per year.


When applications are open, you can apply here.

We will announce acceptance in mid to late September. If that time period has past, make sure to check your spam folder and make sure you haven’t unsubscribed from Imagine emails.

We try our best to match every mentor with an intern but sometimes there isn’t an intern in your area or an intern in your area who speaks your language. Many interns already have a preferred mentor and will likely be matched with them. Interns who do not have a preferred mentor will be assigned to the highest scoring mentor in their area. If you want to better your chances for next year, you can attend the relationship-based professional development class we offer or become a state approved trainer.

Please verify that your intern specified you as their preferred mentor. If they did not, please have them email [email protected]. If your intern was not accepted, it’s most likely because they do not yet meet the minimum education requirement for licensure or have a home in which to open their business. If your intern meets both of those requirements, it’s possible they did not say that they were ready to commit to participating in the program or were not prioritized because they were not willing to work in the substitute pool.

Applications are generally open from early July to late August. We will send out an email to all eligible providers when they open.

All prospective mentors and interns are required to attend an orientation.

You can check out the schedule for orientations here.

On the Job Training

It is your interns responsibility to complete their milestones each month. However, as their mentor, we hope that you can motivate your intern to reach their goals through relationship-based peer mentorship. If you need help encouraging your intern, please reach out to your lead mentor.

Your mentor is there to help you reach your goal of becoming a licensed family child care and should be reasonably available to help you throughout the program. However, they are not responsible for helping you with milestone work. If you have questions about your milestone work, please reach out to your lead mentor. If you have made a reasonable effort to connect with your mentor and they are not available to mentor you for 20 hours per month, please reach out to [email protected].

It is sometimes possible early in the program to switch interns. If interns request a new mentor for performance reasons, the Imagine Institute may reassign the intern to a new mentor later in the year.

Mentors can have up to three interns.

Some interns may be unable to work in their mentor’s home for the full 20 hours per month. In these instances, the Imagine Institute may choose to waive this requirement if the intern has sufficient work experience in an early learning setting. At a minimum, sufficient work experience will be defined as a minimum of one year working directly with children in a formal setting. If an intern can work in the mentor’s facility but not for the full 20 hours, the Imagine Institute may approve a reduced number of hours per month and will pay a percentage of the stipend to the intern based on the number of hours worked. This number of hours must be approved in advance and in writing. The Imagine Institute may also choose to retroactively approve a reduced number of hours in the event of illness or other unplanned issues that prevent the intern from working a full 20 hours.

Mentors must pay their interns $20 per hour.


Your mentor will help you with on-the-job training related to running a licensed family child care. If you need assistance with milestone work, please reach out to your lead mentor.

All interns must complete at least one milestone per month. If you are having challenges completing your milestones, please let your lead mentor know. If you experience an emergency that prevents your from completing your milestone work, please contact [email protected].

Lead mentors and occasionally Imagine Institute staff grade work.

Interns must complete eight milestones throughout the course of the program covering topics like business administration, contracts and policies. There will be a specific due date for each milestone, but interns may choose to complete more than one milestone per month. However, the Imagine Institute may not grade and will not pay for milestones completed in advance. Interns must complete one milestone per month. If an intern misses two milestones, they may be removed from the program and their spot given to another intern.

In-Person Meetings and Training

As an intern in Imagine U, you commit to working in your mentor’s child care at least 20 hours per month for eight months or until your get licensed. You also commit to completing at least one milestone and attending one STARS training per month.

As a mentor in Imagine U, you commit to actively observe and mentor your intern 20 hours per month for eight months or until your intern gets licensed. You also commit to attending four trainings.

Trainings are for interns and mentors only.

Training is free for participants.

Financial Incentives

Mentors with enrolled interns will receive a $500 monthly stipend for their mentorship, on-the-job training and observation of their intern. In order to receive this stipend, mentors must submit copies of their staff sign-in sheets reflecting 20 hours of intern work (or have approval for fewer hours), as well as a monthly observation report detailing their work with their intern. Mentors will be paid per intern if interns progress through the program as outlined in this FAQ and, if serving multiple interns, they do not work together more than five hours per month.

Mentors will receive a $4,000 award toward investments in their child care when they complete the following criteria:

  1. Complete one monthly observation report for each month they participate
  2. Complete an Imagine Institute-approved Relationship-Based Professional Development college course or community-based training equivalent
  3. Mentor’s intern completes all milestones and submits a completed application to DCYF.

In order to receive an award, mentors must complete a plan using an Imagine Institute-designed template to describe how they will to use these resources to improve quality in their child care.

These plans must align with Early Achievers. Mentors must also complete a program evaluation.

In addition to meeting the above mentioned criteria, mentors serving multiple interns must meet the following criteria for additional Successful Mentor Awards:

First AwardIntern 1 completes all milestones and submits a completed application to DCYF

Second AwardIntern 1 completes all milestones and submits a completed application to DCYF,
Intern 2 becomes licensed and authorized to provide subsidized child care
Third AwardIntern 1 completes all milestones and submits a completed application to DCYF,
Intern 2 and 3 become licensed and authorized to provide subsidized child care

Interns who complete the program, become licensed and begin caring for a child on subsidy will receive a $4,000 award. If there are available funds, new subsidized providers who received their license after July 1, 2020 will also be invited to apply for this award. In order to receive an award, interns must complete a plan using an Imagine Institute-designed template to describe how they will to use these resources to improve quality in their child care. These plans must align with Early Achievers.

It may take up to 90 days for DCYF to confirm your eligibility for an award. If it has been longer than 90 days and you meet all of the requirements outlined in this FAQ, please reach out to [email protected].

PREPARE for Care

The PREPARE for Care program operates on a 10-month cycle, meaning that applications open for the program once per year. The program does not allow entry after classes have commenced.

Licensed family child care providers (LFCCP) and Child Care Center staff in the King County area who serve at least one subsidized child are eligible to participate in this program.

The PREPARE program is funded by Best Starts for Kids. Based on funding limitations, there are a limited number of participants who can attend the program each year. The Imagine Institute hopes to expand this program in the future so that more providers can attend.

PREPARE for Care is an innovative approach to addressing effects of trauma, racism and systematic oppression on childhood development by providing child care providers the ability to implement new practices designed to promote resilience and mitigate the effects of trauma. Providers in this course will learn about the impact of racism and trauma on developing children and work to implement new practices in their environments through monthly assignments. Learn more about the PREPARE program here.

Participants receive 6 STARS hours for each training they attend in full (for a total of 60 possible STARS hours).

Participants in the PREPARE program receive $100 for each module they complete. Participants who attend all 10 modules are eligible for a $500 bonus at the completion of the program.

State-approved trainers can “apprentice,” with the Imagine Institute to teach this course in future cohorts. If you are interested in becoming an apprentice trainer with the PREPARE for Care program, please contact Amelia at 206-513-7024 or email her at [email protected].


Training and Incentives

Training is free to any eligible provider.

FFN Providers (Family, Friend and Neighbor): FFN providers who are authorized must be providing or have provided care for a subsidized child within 90 days of class.

LFCCP (Licensed Family Child Care Providers): Licensed family child care providers must be providing or have provided care for a subsidized child within 90 days of class. Assistants are not eligible. Only one licensee per license is eligible.

Center Workers: The Imagine Institute does not currently have funding to train center staff. We are working with community partners to expand to center workers. We hope to have an option to purchase training for those not covered by existing funding as soon as possible.

FFN trainings are for FFN providers only. Good thing we have a lot of offerings for licensed family child care providers!

Licensed training is for licensed family child care providers only. Check out our FFN offerings instead!

It may take up to 90 days to see your bonus on your invoice.

FFN – First, please make sure you checked your invoice for your bonus. That is where you will claim it. If your bonus is not on your invoice and it has been fewer than 90 days since the training, wait at least 90 days and keep checking your invoices for your bonus payment. If it has been more than 90 days, please contact us at

FFN providers who are authorized must be providing or have provided care for a subsidized child within 90 days of class.

LFCCP – You will receive a check from The Imagine Institute within 90 days from the end of month that your class occurred. However, if you have reached $600 for a calendar year (January 1 – December 31) you will need to submit a W-9 form before any more incentive can be paid.

Licensed family child care providers must be providing or have provided care for a subsidized child within 90 days of class. Assistants are not eligible. Only one licensee per license is eligible.

Electronic Attendance

Starting July 1, 2018, all providers accepting Working Connections Child Care subsidies are required to track attendance using an electronic attendance system.This applies to child care centers, family home child care providers, and Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) providers.

You will need to take the required Electronic Attendance System initial training. Upon completion of your training you will receive your registration code and information within 10 days. Use this to log into KinderConnect and begin tracking your attendance electronically.

We currently have trainers throughout the state delivering training to providers. You can request that a trainer come to you by filling out this form.

Training is also available online through the Department of Children Youth and Families page.

Contact the help desk at 1-844-704-6777 and ask them to resend your code.

Yes!! We can send a trainer to you to help you register and set up your system. You can email us at [email protected], call us at 206-492-5249 and ask for Electronic Attendance, or you can submit a request here.

Call the help desk at 1-844-704-6777 and tell them that you need help unlocking your provider account.

To update or correct information in KinderConnect that is attached to children receiving subsidies or your information, please contact DSHS via the provider line at 1-800-394-4571.