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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

 

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has just published an important article about COVID-19’s impact on child care.

“When the crisis started, some experts hoped it was a wake-up call for policymakers about the importance of accessible and affordable child care to a fully functioning economy,” the article, written by Jay Lindsay, says.

But as the article’s title — “Future of child care sector shakier than ever, a half year into pandemic” – points out, child care is still on treacherous ground.

“To better understand what’s behind and ahead, Beth Mattingly of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston teamed up with Jess Carson from the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire to address the pandemic’s impact on this vulnerable sector,” the article explains.

In an article they posted this summer, Mattingly and Carson point out that child care programs were already stretched thin before the pandemic:

“This dichotomy of high costs for families and low wages for workers derives from child care being a mostly private-pay system with limited public contributions. One outcome is high turnover as employees seek higher pay outside the industry, often in the public school system. Child care sits in stark contrast to publicly funded education, where teachers are paid significantly more than child care workers, have greater job security, and are typically offered benefits such as health insurance, paid sick leave, and retirement plans.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Courtesy of Charlestown Nursery School

 

“In 1918 in New York City, they took all the children outside,” Kelly Pellagrini, the co-founder and co-director of Charlestown Nursery School, tells NBC’s local news station, describing how people coped during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Just over a century later, Pellagrini and her staff are doing the same thing, moving the 85 children in their program to a local park.

“Every morning… we pack up everything that we have inside the classroom, and we bring it outside,” Pellagrini says.

The nursery school moves its materials in wagons to a local park.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Charlestown Nursery School

 

NBC news adds: Continue Reading »

Source: Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women

 

COVID-19 is taking a huge economic toll on women.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) explains how in a new report, “Child Care and Education During COVID-19: A Report on the Economic and Social Impact on Women in Massachusetts.”

“We are hearing about – and many of us are experiencing – intense stress related to the impossible task of simultaneously working and providing care,” commission chairwoman Denella Clark says in a press release. “It is time that we as a Commonwealth understand that early education, care, and school are essential components to families’ economic stability and the state’s economy.” Clark explains more in this Legislative briefing video.

To write the report, the commission drew on testimony delivered during a virtual hearing as well as on a survey that collected 4,000 responses from residents across Massachusetts.

“The last five months have been insane,” a Somerville resident said on the survey. “So many women in my community are at the end of their rope; they’ve had to quit jobs they love or that their families need to survive because it’s been too tough to find childcare.” Continue Reading »

“Congresswoman Katherine Clark on Thursday said a lack of access to child care is ‘holding our economy hostage’ and called for a shift in how the public views care and education of young children.

“Speaking at an online Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event, Clark said child care should be thought of as a public good like transportation infrastructure rather than as a personal choice for parents.

“ ‘If the Zakim Bridge collapsed, the effects on the local economy would be immediate, devastating and obvious,’ Clark said during what the Chamber billed as the Melrose Democrat’s first address to the business community. ‘Every one of us would leap into action. We would make the necessary investments in resources because we know our ability to function hinges on it. The pandemic has shown us this is true for child care.’

“Describing the current economic crisis as ‘the country’s first she-cession,’ Clark said women have been especially hard hit by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, 865,000 women left the workforce, she said.

“Clark said many women have been confronted with a choice between their jobs and caregiving responsibilities.”

 

“Clark: Crisis exposes crucial role of child care,” by Katie Lannan, State House News Service, October 22, 2020

 

On October 14, 2020, Governor Charlie Baker released a revised budget for fiscal year 2021, totaling $45.5 billion. This is an increase of $900 million over the governor’s January budget proposal.

CommonWealth Magazine reports:

“The high budget is largely driven by excessive spending in MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program. It would be paid for with an influx of federal money as well as a $1.3 billion draw from the state’s $3.5 billion rainy day fund.”

“ ‘The rainy day fund is there to support services when it’s raining, and I think most people would agree it’s raining,’ Baker said at a State House press conference.”

The governor’s proposed funding for early education and care largely stayed the same compared to his January budget proposal.

One exception is the $5 million proposal for the workforce development initiative (3000-7066), a reduction from the $8.5 million proposed in January. Continue Reading »

Photo: Anna Shvets from Pexels

 

To learn more about COVID-19, Yale University researchers have asked a key question: How has the virus spread through early childhood programs?

The answer is featured in a report – “COVID-19 Transmission in US Child Care Programs” – published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Central to the debate over school and child care reopening is whether children are efficient COVID-19 transmitters and likely to increase community spread when programs reopen,” the report says.

Led by Yale University professor Walter Gilliam, the research team surveyed 57,000 child care providers across the country about their experiences earlier this year. The researchers compared child care programs that had closed to programs that had remained open.

The report’s encouraging finding:

“Within the context of considerable infection mitigation efforts in U.S. child care programs, exposure to child care during the early months of the U.S. pandemic was not associated with elevated risk for COVID-19 transmission to providers,” the report says.

“Until now, decision makers had no way to assess whether opening child care centers would put staff at greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” Gilliam says in a Yale University article. “This study tells us that as long as there are strong on-site measures to prevent infection, providing care for young children doesn’t seem to add to the provider’s risk of getting sick.” Continue Reading »

“A major portion of Worcester’s childcare services are offered by home-based care givers known as family childcare providers, and COVID-19 has had a deleterious impact on these small businesses.

“Many of these providers, who open their homes and hearts to small groups of children, were forced to temporarily cease operations earlier this year and, as a result, now face severe financial challenges. This summer, Edward Street and Greater Worcester Community Foundation (GWCF) collaborated with the Commonwealth Children’s Fund (CCF) to provide grants to 85 local, high quality family child care providers, to help these businesses comply with the many new pandemic protocols required to safely re-open and remain a viable option for families returning to work.

“ ‘These, mostly women- and minority-owned, businesses did not have the scope of resources and support needed to navigate closures and prepare for the new re-opening regulations,’ said Eve Gilmore, Edward Street’s Executive Director. ‘They operate on razor-thin margins and many are struggling to stay afloat.’ ”

“One such provider is Gina Hamilton who, after receiving the funds, wrote: ‘I cannot explain how much this means to me and how this gives me some room to breathe. Last night, for the first time since our mandated shut down, I slept without nightmarish dreams.’

“Hamilton was able to purchase critical materials, such as a tent for outside play, an ultraviolet light air purifier, disinfectant supplies and a hand sanitizer dispenser, and to create a new check in station for families, in order to safely re-open. She was also able to apply funds towards her past due mortgage. These grants mean possibilities.”

 

— “Grants Provide Financial Assistance to Essential Worcester County Family Child Care Providers,” press release, October 5, 2020

Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

 

Early educators can be on the front lines of promoting social equity.

To show how, the Foundation for Child Development has gathered resources on equity and justice from a number of national organizations.

“Creating a coherent and equitable system that works for young children, their families, and the educators who serve them requires the ECE field to be explicit about the realities of poverty, racism, discrimination, and prejudice,” the foundation says.

The foundation hopes to “foster a shared understanding” of how to move forward.

Among the resources is a report from Arizona State University’s Center for Child and Family Success, which notes:

“The United States is at a crossroads. We can spend the next several years trying to get back to the broken, ineffective status quo in our learning systems, where children were falling—or being pushed—through the cracks at astonishing rates. Or, we can choose to address the core, structural inequities that have held generations of children, especially Black, Latinx, and Native American children, back. For the sake of our country, we hope policymakers respond to the multiple crises facing our nation, with the latter. The policy agenda presented here can help us get there.” Continue Reading »

Photo: August de Richelieu from Pexels

 

Early educators who have medical questions as they navigate the pandemic can turn to local experts for help.

One of those experts is Dr. Katherine Hsu, the state’s designated child care epidemiologist.

She is on staff at both Boston Medical Center and at the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

As the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) explains, Dr. Hsu is “a resource for questions related to operating child care programs that require medical or scientific expertise.”

She can answer questions such as:

“My staff member does not want to wear a mask for a specific medical reason – does an exception make sense, and how should I account for that in my health and safety planning?”

And:

“A child in my care is immunocompromised – are there additional precautions I should take in caring for him/her?” Continue Reading »

“The most important part is to have the students become more aware of the profession that they’ve chosen,” Tracey Williams says of teaching Introduction to Early Childhood Education at Cambridge College. Williams, a Boston Public School special education teacher, is one of Cambridge College’s senior professors.

“A lot of my students have early childcare positions and jobs where they get a lot of practice, but they don’t know the theory behind what they’re doing.”

So Williams, who has had a long career in early education and K-12 special education, teaches her students about Jean Piaget, the Swiss psychologist, and Lev Vygotsky, the Russian psychologist, both of whom studied child development as well as about Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator.

“We talk about the importance of play. We talk about the history of Head Start, NAEYC and how state standards evolved. We talk about family engagement, inclusion, and working with kids who have disabilities. We talk about how early education started, and we look at the impact of the industrial revolution and John Dewey,” an education reformer. 

“Because we talk so much about the early history of child care, I wanted to bring students forward into the present, so I asked them to research early educators of color.

“At Cambridge College our students are very diverse, and I want them to understand that theory doesn’t just stop. Theories evolve and education evolves, and both spread into new areas of education. Also, we had discussed a lot of people who were not of color, and I wanted them to learn about people who were.” Continue Reading »

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