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“Gov. Laura Kelly on Tuesday announced a $53 million program to deliver bonuses to 22,000 child care workers at licensed facilities in Kansas.

“Child care workers will receive a one-time payment between $750 and $2,500, depending on the hours they work, in late July. The governor said the appreciation bonuses are ‘a reward for their incredibly hard work.’

“ ‘Child care providers have faced unbelievable challenges during the last two-and-a-half years,’ Kelly said. ‘Yet they’ve continued to fulfill their critical role in caring for kids. Their work is essential to the social and economic well-being of our state.’

“The $53 million program is paid for with federal funds, the governor said. The bonuses will be administered by Child Care Aware of Kansas.”

“Kansas to give child care workers $53M in appreciation pay,” by Sherman Smith, Kansas Reflector, June 21, 2022 

Walk into a preschool classroom and it can look like all the children are fine. But to understand how children are doing and how they are doing over time, it’s crucial to use developmental screenings.

A recently released webinar and issue brief from the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley drives this point home.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website, developmental screenings help early educators and parents monitor whether children are meeting “the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving.”

In its brief, the United Way points to the need to act now:

“Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, developmental screening will be more important than ever to support mitigation of long-lasting developmental delays and social emotional concerns for young children.”

“Early research out of Brown University and New York city indicates developmental impacts on babies under six months of age who were born during the pandemic, specifically on fine motor, personal social and cognitive skills.”

The brief draws on the United Way’s developmental screening initiative, called DRIVE (short for Data & Resources Investing in Vital Early Education), which grew out of a partnership with the city of Boston.

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”We write today to share the challenges the ECE sector continues to face and to request that Congress rally behind the new Murray-Kaine ECE proposal and invest a minimum of $200 billion in the reconciliation bill to ensure that high-quality early education and care delivered by well-compensated educators is available and affordable for all Massachusetts families.

“The system for providing care and education for our youngest learners was broken even before the pandemic. In order to provide high-quality programming in enriching learning environments, providers need to make costly investments in building infrastructure, classroom materials, and the workforce. Yet, programs cannot squeeze more out of families who are already struggling to afford care and the voucher system does not compensate programs for the true cost of that care.”

“Since March 2020, 1,359 programs in the Commonwealth have closed, representing 17% of all programs in the state and 23,395 slots for children. Data from January of this year reveals that 60% of programs reported reduced enrollment driven primarily through staff shortages, and 69% of programs reported educator openings.”

“At this crucial moment where transformative investment is within reach but uncertain, we request that you ensure that ECE is included in the reconciliation package and that it includes a minimum investment of $200 billion into the early education and care system.”

— A letter to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation signed by 182 advocacy organizations, business associations, foundations, higher education institutions, school districts, and child care providers from 94 communities across the state, including Strategies for Children, June 10, 2022

To learn more, check out CLASP’s “Impact of Murray-Kaine Child Care & Early Education Proposal” 

care

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Check out this new feature from WBUR radio that is aptly titled: “We asked 8 child care workers about their joys and frustrations. Here’s what they said.”

It’s part of a week-long series on early education and care.

This particular article and audio clip features:

Bernadette Davidson

Kiya Savannah

Vanessa Pashkoff (whom we’ve blogged about)

Kimberly Artez

Llanet Montoya

Anna Rogers

Kitt Cox, and

Stacia Buckmann

WBUR asks these early educators to discuss “the joys and challenges of working in this industry, and why some are leaving the profession,” as the field grapples with challenges.

“The child care workforce in Massachusetts is about 12% smaller today than it was before the start of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis from the University of California, Berkeley,” WBUR explains.

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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


Gloria Valentin head shot

Gloria Valentin

Send Gloria Valentin an email that mentions a family challenge you have to deal with, as I did, and the email you receive back will be a small, electronic packet of sunshine and reassurance.

“I have an optimistic personality,” Valentin says. “I want to bring joy in times when everything is so daunting. I have days, trust me, when I’m like, I’m not feeling it today. But I have that energy and that outlook of just being positive and not allowing things I can’t control to take over my life.”

Valentin has been a family child care provider for 22 years, but she talks about her work as if she just started last month, and she’s got a dozen new things she wants to do.

She began her career as an early educator at a center-based program, then opened up her own business. Today, she’s also involved in advocacy, and she has participated in Strategies for Children’s Speakers Bureau and our Advocacy Network

“The time that we spent together each week, was a time for us to find our voices, to practice public speaking, and to move forward as advocates,” Valentin says of her experience in the Advocacy Network, where she drew inspiration from other advocates who spoke about forming relationships with elected officials and following up with them.

“That really stood out for me, making those connections and being proud of the work I do and sharing it. Family child care is a hidden gem. 

“But the work can be isolating, so I want to make connections and let people in government know that we’re here and that our work is so important. We should be included in conversations about quality child care programs and financial accessibility.”

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A Caregiver’s Promise

by Ronald Ferguson

With my heart I will love you
And shield you from stress.
With my mouth I will speak what I feel.

With soft words and sweet songs every time I behold you

I’ll show you that my love is real.
With my fingers I’ll point at the objects I name
And I’ll count them in groups to compare.
With my feet I will take you outdoors to explore
While we play and enjoy the fresh air.
With my eyes I will read as I show you the world
Through bright pictures and stories in books.
These are ways to make sure that your brain is prepared

For successes wherever you look.
This my promise I make from the day of your birth
That these basics I’ll faithfully do.
For my job is to help you grow happy and smart
Starting now when your life is brand new.
You will learn that your life is an artwork.
And that you are the artist in charge.
But before you decide what to do with your life

Listen now
To the beat
Of my heart.

From the Boston Basics Campaign

Amy O’Leary

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, was on Boston Public Radio yesterday talking about the high cost of child care.

Here are some excerpts of what she said:

“One of the things we have learned in the pandemic is we really saw what parent choice looks like. What has typically been a very personal decision, feeling that you’re on your own trying to navigate the bureaucracies really came to light [because] parents were more willing to talk to their employers about what was happening in reality in their homes.”

“We also saw flexibility from the government. So many of our policies are very rigid and have a lot of hoops to jump through for families,” O’Lear says, explaining how the pandemic has changed things. “Suddenly, we’re relaxed because the connection between early education and care programs, and our economy was so clear, even though we’ve had research and data and reports for decades… that tell us how critical early childhood is to brain development and supporting children in the earliest years.”

“We saw policy change pretty dramatically. And I think that has set the stage for what we think about for the future.”

However, O’Leary says, funding will be essential.

“I don’t know many young families who can afford $21,000 for their baby to go to child care.”

“We can’t one-time fund our way out of this decades-long crisis. We really have to think about sustainable, strategic funding and policies.”

To hear more, tune in!

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of yesterday’s virtual screening of “Starting from Zero: Reimagining Education in America.”

As we’ve blogged, the film is “an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.”

The film looks at “Key features of high-quality early childhood learning environments and experiences are outlined and then brought to life as the film delves into the evolution of Alabama’s #1 nationally ranked state Pre-K program,” its website explains.

“The film brings together the voices of policymakers, educators, academics, business leaders, pediatricians, parents, and children. It features five current and past governors who are champions of early childhood education: Governors Steve Bullock of Montana, Kay Ivey of Alabama, and Ralph Northam of Virginia, as well as former Governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina, and Phil Bryant of Mississippi.”

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The state budget process for fiscal year 2023 is entering its final stages. A six-member conference committee of legislators is meeting now to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That is the difference between House and Senate proposals, including $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal as well as $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget. Specifically, this email says:

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“All licensed family child-care providers in Boston will receive $3,260 in an effort to stabilize an industry battered by the pandemic, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Tuesday.

“The funding, approved by the City Council last year, comes from the federalAmerican Rescue Plan, on top of pandemic aid the state is already allocating to small businesses.”

“ ‘This is highlighting the need for family child-care providers,’ said Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children, an advocacy and policy organization addressing early education. ‘And that amount of money could really help a family child-care provider compared to a large center just because of the scale.’ ”

“The Mayor’s Office of Women’s Advancement has prioritized child care as a critical issue for Boston’s families.

“ ‘Supporting family child care providers in the City of Boston is essential to our economic recovery,’ Alexandra Valdez, the office’s executive director, said in a statement. ‘As a first-time mom, I know that it’s essential to ensure that childcare providers continue to have the resources needed in order to succeed.’ ”

” ‘Empowering early childhood and childcare providers is critical to ensuring an equitable recovery for Boston’s young children and working families,’ Wu said in a statement. ‘As we work to ramp up access to accessible, high-quality childcare, these investments will immediately support our early childcare providers in their critical work to set up all of our children and families for success.’ ”

“Mayor Wu directs grants to Boston family child-care providers,” by Stephanie Ebbert, The Boston Globe, June 1, 2022

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