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“At the family child care center she runs out of her Dorchester home, Dottie Williams has started asking parents to send teddy bears along with their kids.

“Ms. Dottie’s NeighborSchool serves children between five months and four years old, an age range for which Williams said touch is an important way of bonding. To translate the ritual of a hug to the COVID-19 era, she now asks the kids to hug their own teddy bear while she hugs hers.

“ ‘Children are very, very creative, and when you’re creative with them, they can adjust,’ Williams told lawmakers Tuesday.

“As advocates and child care providers continue to call for an infusion of public funds to help the industry cope with added costs and lost revenue associated with providing care during a pandemic, stuffed animal-facilitated hugs are among several short-term adjustments speakers highlighted during the Education Committee’s virtual oversight hearing.”

 

“COVID-19 forcing innovation at child care centers: Ripple effects linger as key industry is strained,” by Katie Lannan, State House News Service story in The Salem News, Jul 7, 2020

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“The critical role that childcare plays in society has never been more apparent. But as decisions get made about reopening guidelines and adult-child ratios, are we forgetting the rights of children and of those who care for them? Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Here at Strategies for Children, COVID-19 has kept our advocacy focus on funding, health, and safety. Now that early childhood programs are reopening, we want to shine a spotlight on mental health.

As children, parents, and staff members continue to navigate life during a pandemic, they may need help managing mental health challenges.

Young children face a particularly high risk of being negatively impacted by the pandemic, Aditi Subramaniam said during a Strategies for Children Zoom call. She is the Early Childhood Mental Health Partnership Manager at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Children may experience intense feelings or regress developmentally, and it may be emotionally tough for them to engage in social distancing, Subramaniam added. Fortunately, this risk can be mitigated by ensuring that children receive nurturing, responsive, and consistent care from caregivers and providers.

To help children, caregivers and providers can draw on several resources. Continue Reading »

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

Massachusetts’ legislators are listening, so please share your experiences.

Last week, the state’s Joint Committee on Education held part one of a virtual hearing on early education and care during the COVID-19 emergency. A video of that hearing is posted here.

Tomorrow — Tuesday, July 7, 2020 — the committee will hold part two.

You can join in by emailing written testimony through tomorrow at 5 p.m. to both of the committee’s chairs. Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) can be reached at Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov. And the email address for Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) is Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov.

It’s crucial to tell state legislators about the challenges that early educator and care providers will face as they reopen their programs. And, sadly, it’s also important to discuss that fact that some programs will not be financially able to reopen.

“Over the last two weeks, we have heard heartbreaking stories from directors and family child care of providers who are borrowing from their reserves in the hope of a child care bailout that may never come,” Amy O’Leary wrote in the testimony she shared at last week’s hearing. O’Leary is the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. Continue Reading »

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode

 

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Photo: Andre Melcher from Pexels

 

The title of an article from the Center for American Progress says it all: “The Coronavirus Will Make Child Care Deserts Worse and Exacerbate Inequality.”

“As COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders to protect public health continue, a quiet crisis is unfolding in child care programs across the country,” the article says. “At the outset of the pandemic, nearly two-thirds of child care providers said they could not survive a closure that extended longer than one month. The Center for American Progress estimates that the country could lose half of its licensed child care capacity without government intervention.”

The center has a tool that shows where child care deserts were before COVID-19 — including like western Massachusetts — where more closures would make limited access even worse.

One possible outcome: inequitable access based on race and income. As the article explains: Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

COVID-19 has not only created a health crisis and an economic crisis, but also a child care crisis.

A persistent and troubling concern is that child care programs that closed during the pandemic will shut down permanently, and parents in need of this care won’t be able to return to work, crippling the economy’s ability to stabilize.

There is, however, hope.

As the country rebuilds, it could invest wisely in child care programs, helping them to recover and emerge stronger.

Here are three takes on how this could occur.

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Families and businesses benefit from child care, JD Chesloff explains in a blog for ReadyNation, a part of Council for a Strong America, a national nonprofit that promotes children’s success. Chesloff is the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and a ReadyNation advisory board member.

“Child care allows parents to work, be more productive while on the job, and reach higher levels of professional achievement. Nurturing learning environments prepare young children for kindergarten and future achievement in school and, eventually, in the workplace.” Continue Reading »

 

“TO THE MEMBERS OF THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS:

“For millions of Americans, returning to work is not just contingent on the lifting of stay-at-home orders and their employer reopening, but on securing care for their children. The existing childcare arrangements for many working parents have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and the resulting economic fallout. To ensure that more Americans can quickly return to work and to support our nation’s overall economic recovery, Congress should provide timely, targeted, and temporary emergency assistance to licensed childcare centers and homes. Similarly, states should continue to implement temporary regulatory actions to help licensed centers and homes quickly and safely adjust to meet operational challenges.”

“While critical support through the CARES Act was provided to small businesses early on in this crisis, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) only one-quarter of the childcare market received a Paycheck Protection Loan.

“For those that have remained open and that will reopen, decreased capacity and new pandemic-related costs mean operating losses. That will eventually lead to more closures and even less available childcare.”

 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce letter, June 10, 2020

 

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Also check out the report: “Untapped Potential: Economic Impact of Childcare Breakdowns on U.S. States,” February 28, 2020, which notes:

“At the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we see childcare as a two-generation workforce issue, crucial for our workforce of today and workforce of tomorrow. Access to affordable, quality childcare is essential for working parents to enter, re-enter, or stay in the workforce, yet it is hard to come by. The first years of life are critical for children to build a strong foundation upon which future learning is built, yet current supply cannot meet demand.”

Photo: Courtesy of Jodilynn Machado

 

At the YMCA Southcoast in New Bedford, coping with the COVID-19 pandemic started with offering emergency child care.

Now the Y is also getting ready to reopen its child care program by early July – working to keep children engaged and meet strict state safety regulations.

Providing emergency child care

“We’re changing gloves constantly, between every transition that we do, gloves are being changed, masks are being put on,” Jodilynn Machado, the Y’s child care director, said last month in the midst of providing emergency child care for 30 children ages 2.9 to 13 years old, including seven preschoolers.

In addition, Machado and her staff were also doing a lot of cleaning, sanitizing chairs, toys, and anything else that the children in their care have touched.

“We also check in with parents,” Machado said, “we always ask them if there’s anything that they need that we can assist them with.” One pressing need for many families has been food. So the Y has connected them to food programs. Continue Reading »

 

How are babies doing?

The new “State of Babies Yearbook: 2020,” released by the national nonprofit Zero to Three, has answers.

“The Yearbook is the story of the 12 million infants and toddlers in the U.S. and their families,” the yearbook’s executive summary explains.

“But it is also the story of our nation’s future. The babies behind the numbers are our society’s next generation of parents, workers, and leaders. We can’t afford to squander the potential of a single child if our nation is to thrive—nor should it be acceptable that so many have barriers in their way.”

The yearbook’s goal is to bridge “the gap between science and policy with national and state-by-state data on the well-being of America’s babies.”

Grounded “in the science of early development,” the yearbook looks at how babies are doing in three developmental domains: good health, strong families, and positive learning experiences. Within each of these domains are a number of indicators including: Continue Reading »

 

This Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT, the movie “No Small Matter,” will have its live streaming national premiere on Facebook Live.

Click here to register – especially if you missed the local screenings.

“No Small Matter is the first feature documentary to explore the most overlooked, underestimated, and powerful force for change in America today: early childhood education,” the movie’s press kit explains, adding:

“Through poignant stories and surprising humor, the film lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years, and reveals how our failure to act on that evidence has resulted in an everyday crisis for American families, and a slow-motion catastrophe for the country.”

As the screening’s website says, the screening will be followed by “a live panel discussion highlighting the devastating impact of COVID-19 on children, families, and caregivers, and in turn, on the economy. Woven throughout the event will be video messages from celebrities, cultural influencers, and frontline workers thanking early educators for the challenging, exhausting, and essential work they do every day.”

Please share news of the screening on social media by using the website’s graphics and sample social media posts.

The movie highlights the urgent need for action, its website noting:

“The United States has always been defined by opportunity — and no issue so glaringly highlights our failure to deliver on this promise as the imbalance in the opportunities afforded to our youngest children.”

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