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Photo: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

This month, WHMP, a Northampton, Mass., radio station featured a discussion on early education on its podcast, “The Afternoon Buzz,” hosted by Ashfield attorney Stewart “Buz” Eisenberg.

This podcast episode welcomed three guests:

• Donna M. Denette, executive director of Children First Enterprises

• Keira Durrett, director of the Williston Northampton Children’s Center, and

• Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley

All three are also regulars on Strategies for Children’s 9:30 calls, where we share the latest news on early education advocacy. Be sure to check out our 9:30 call webpage and sign up to join the call.

On the podcast, Donna Denette talked about the importance of child care as infrastructure, noting, “When we hear that we have to invest in roads and bridges, because people can’t get to work without roads and bridges — Covid made it very clear that people can’t get to work without childcare either.” Continue Reading »

Jason Deparle:

I met a woman named Jessica Lolley, who works for the Greensboro Public School System. Her husband, Matt, is a salesman at Lowe’s. They have two kids, family income in the low 70,000s or so. And they’re paying a third of their income, more than $24,000 a year, for child care.

Michael Barbaro:

Wow.

Jason Deparle:

Much more than their mortgage.

Michael Barbaro:

And are they able to make that work?

Jason Deparle:

They had reoriented their whole life, really, around child care. They wanted to have another kid. They couldn’t do that. They had stopped taking vacations.

Michael Barbaro:

Wait, they’re not having as many children as they want because of the cost of providing child care to the kids they have.

Jason Deparle:

Yes, that’s a common theme. Other people told me they wanted to have an extra child, too, but had decided not to after seeing how much it cost. I think Jessica and Matt made it work in the end only with significant help from Jessica’s family.

 

“Is Child Care a Public Responsibility?” The Daily Podcast, hosted by Michael Barbaro, The New York Times, October 12, 2021

pexels-mentatdgt-1569076

Photo: mentatdgt from Pexels

The pandemic has taken a terrible toll on child care providers.

Fortunately, help is available. Providers can – and should – apply for federally funded Child Care Stabilization grants. All programs that are licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) are eligible.

Most important of all: Every program that applies and was open on March, 11, 2020, and is open now will receive funding.

The federal government has invested nearly $122 billion in Covid relief funds for K-12 schools.

Early education and care has received historic levels of relief funding as well, and providers should use these funds to stabilize and rebuild.

Most EEC-licensed programs have applied for the grant, but a small percentage still have not.

So here at Strategies for Children, we’re encouraging everyone to apply!

Strategies has been working with EEC to provide technical assistance in applying, and we’ve posted some helpful resources here.

To encourage everyone else to apply for the grant, we’ve shared the perspectives of providers who have already applied in two YouTube videos. Continue Reading »

Amy O'Leary and Ellis

Screenshot: Ellis Early Learning’s LinkedIn page

 

Behind every good award, there’s a good story about people working for change.

This story is about early childhood programs, Amy O’Leary, an award, and all the work that is being done to revolutionize the experiences very young children have in Massachusetts.

We’ll start with the award. 

Congratulations to Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, for winning the 2021 Ellis Early Learning (S)Hero Award. She’ll be honored at the Ellis Annual Benefit Event, which will be held virtually on Thursday, October 28, 2021. 

“This is a brand new award that was inspired by Amy herself,” Lauren Cook, the CEO of Ellis Early Learning Center explains. “We wanted to shine a light on how much she does for the field, for adults and children alike.”

Patti Keenan, Ellis’ vice president of Advancement, Community and Equity, says, “I have been struck by how much the power of advocacy makes our work possible.” 

Keenan also praises Amy’s prodigious outreach and education work, especially during the pandemic when Amy and the Strategies team have been hosting “the 9:30 call,” a daily Zoom meeting for the field that features guest speakers, policy updates, and chances for early education professionals to connect with each other. 

And Cook adds, “Amy is so important to the sector, and so important to the history of Ellis.”  Continue Reading »

“Typical 2-year-olds in Denmark attend child care during the day, where they are guaranteed a spot, and their parents pay no more than 25 percent of the cost. That guaranteed spot will remain until the children are in after-school care at age 10. If their parents choose to stay home or hire a nanny, the government helps pay for that, too.

“Two-year-olds in the United States are less likely to attend formal child care. If they do, their parents pay full price — an average $1,100 a month — and compete to find a spot.”

“The U.S. spends 0.2 percent of its G.D.P. on child care for children 2 and under — which amounts to about $200 a year for most families, in the form of a once-a-year tax credit for parents who pay for care.

“The other wealthy countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development spend an average of 0.7 percent of G.D.P. on toddlers, mainly through heavily subsidized child care. Denmark, for example, spends $23,140 annually per child on care for children 2 and under.”

“How Other Nations Pay for Child Care. The U.S. Is an Outlier.” by Claire Cain Miller, the New York Times, October 6, 2021

U.S. Capitol
 
Now is the time to talk to Congress about the importance of child care.

As the country pushes through the pandemic and rebuilds, child care is sitting in the policy spotlight as a crucial resource that parents need to go back to work.

In addition, Wednesdays are #SolveChildCare Days for advocates, according to the First Five Years Fund, and there are easy quick ways to reach out to Congress that are listed below.

So far, child care has notable support.

As his Build Back Better agenda explains, President Joe Biden would ensure that:

• “no middle-class family pays more than 7 percent of their income for high-quality child care up to age 5”

• “working families most in need won’t pay anything—saving the average family $14,800 per year”

• universal preschool becomes a reality by “partnering with states to offer every parent access to high-quality preschool for 3- and 4- year-olds in the setting of their choice,” and

•the country would have “12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, to help improve the health of new mothers and reduce wage loss” Continue Reading »

“Laura Pacific would love to find a job — if she could afford child care for her 10-year-old son. 

“The 35-year-old single mom faces a common predicament for many U.S. parents, and especially women, as they juggle soaring chlld-care costs and the need to earn a living in a precarious labor market. The going rate for her day care needs where she lives in Phoenix, Arizona, is between $600 and $800 a month — more than Pacific’s monthly rent.

“ ‘Day care is absolutely essential and if you don’t have it, it stops a lot of the opportunities you would have outside of the home,’ Pacific told CBS MoneyWatch. ‘They say there are a lot of jobs right now, but because of the child-care situation I am not able to take advantage of any of them.’ ”

“With child care unaffordable, many parents struggle to stay employed,” by Megan Cerullo, CBS News, September 30, 2021

 

Policymakers need to hear from experts.

That’s why Strategies for Children has created a Speakers’ Bureau, a group of 15 early educators who can talk to the media or testify at the State House.

These early educators were nominated by partner organizations. They represent the racial and geographic diversity of the field as well as the different settings where early educators work. And the early educators participated in a seven-session training program that was held on Zoom and covered:

• knowing your “why”

• Advocacy 101

• equity in early education

• public speaking

• working with legislators

• talking to the media, and

• a session for reflection

Funding was generously provided by the W. Clement & Jessie V. Stone Foundation.

A key goal of the bureau is to unite early educators into an advocacy community. Continue Reading »

principles photo

Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

What’s the best way to invest in early education and care?

State advocates have come up with nine guiding principles for policy leaders.

These policies are “designed to help create one mixed delivery system of care that is equitable and inclusive of all providers including family child care, public and private child care centers, Head Start, and public schools,” The Alliance for Early Success explains on its website where the nine principles are listed.

These principles also:

• focus on family choice and preferences

• ensure access to quality programs for all families

• create supply that can meet demand, and

• respond to communities’ needs and values

The nine principles are:

make child care affordable
Families living at or below the poverty level would not have to pay a fee for child care. And no family would pay more than 7 percent of their income.

fund the real cost of care
Child care providers should receive government funding that is based on the actual, full costs of providing high-quality care.

enact reforms and policies that are equitable
Equitable reforms and policies should benefit all families and invest additional resources in “communities that have been traditionally underserved.” Continue Reading »

“At a Y.M.C.A. in San Antonio, 200 children are on wait lists for child care because of hiring problems. It raised average hourly pay for full-time workers to $12.50 from $10, but still can’t recruit enough workers to meet the demand.”

“Schools have largely reopened this fall, but life is far from normal for parents of young children. One reason is that child care — for children too young for school, and for the hours before and after school — is operating at 88 percent of its prepandemic capacity. Even before the pandemic, child care did not cover everyone who needed it.

“The shortage is partly because of the pandemic. Some centers went out of business after lockdowns early on. Because children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccines, many programs are enrolling fewer children to limit potential exposure. But the biggest reason for the shortages, child care providers across the country said, is they can’t find people to hire.”

“‘Can’t Compete’: Why Hiring for Child Care Is a Huge Struggle,” by Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times, September 22, 2021

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