Our Staff

Dr. Valora Washington, PhD

Founder and President

Dr. Valora Washington is the president and CEO of the CAYL Institute. Established in 2004, the CAYL Institute’s purpose is to organize, equip, and empower people to create change on behalf of children and the early educators who serve them. A commitment to diversity is embedded in CAYL’s five core-operating principles: representative leadership, commitment to diversity, focus on solutions, impact and innovation, and building and sharing knowledge.

In addition to the commitment to diversity, Valora has a strong track record in higher education and the professional development of early educators.   She formerly served as Vice president at Antioch College, as Associate Dean at American University, and as a tenured faculty member at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Through her work with the Council for Professional Recognition, Valora leads the largest credentialing program for early educators in the United States. As founder of the CAYL Institute she demonstrates a hands-on commitment to build the leadership capacity of the field and its leaders.

Committed to action, research, and policy change, Dr. Washington has co-authored or co-edited over 50 publications, including Children of 2010; Children of 2020; Ready or Not: Leadership Choices in Early Care and Education; and Role, Relevance, Reinvention: Higher Education in the Field of Early Care and Education. Her advocacy work includes working to change the voucher system in Massachusetts, which gave 52,000 children opportunities for a 1-year certification period. Through the Families for Kids initiative, Dr. Washington designed and coordinated efforts to change the child welfare system in 13 states. This initiative is regarded as a precursor to important legislative changes enacted by President Clinton.

In all of the work Dr. Washington has demonstrated capacity to work across and within various administrative and education systems. Throughout her career, Dr. Washington has co-founded several organizations, including Voices for Michigan’s Children, a statewide advocacy group; the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative; and The CAYL Institute. Frequently tapped for senior-level service, she has been co-chair of the Massachusetts Governor’s School Readiness Commission; board chair of Voices for America’s Children; secretary of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); chair of the Black Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development; and co-chair of the National Head Start Association Commission on 2010. She has been a member of numerous task forces and boards including for the Boston Children’s Museum and Wheelock College.

Prior to founding The CAYL Institute in 2003, Dr. Washington was CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee and vice president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. She has held executive and tenured teaching positions at institutions including Antioch College and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Since 2001, she has been a Certified Association Executive with the American Society of Association ExecutivesTM.

Among many honors, Dr. Washington holds honorary doctorate degrees from Bennett College and Meadville Lombard Theological School, and in 2009 she was selected for the prestigious Barr Fellowship. Dr. Washington has received professional recognition from Boston AEYC; NAEYC Black Caucus; Cambridge Resource and Referral Agency; Center for Adoption Research, University of Massachusetts; National Association of Black Social Workers; United Way of Massachusetts Bay; and others. She was named one of “25 Most Influential Working Mothers” by Working Mother magazine in February 1997, and in 1980 she was chosen as one of “Ten Outstanding Young Women of America” from among 62,000 nominations.  Dr. Washington was educated at both Indiana State University and Michigan State University.