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Photo: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

What happens when a foster parent learns about an early learning center that’s willing to try a new approach?

Progress.

That’s the story Kate Audette tells about a child placed in her care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state’s child welfare agency.

It was 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and after George Floyd was murdered, when Audette, who has been a licensed foster care provider since 2017, accepted the placement of an infant whom we’ll call Jordan to protect the child’s privacy. 

Audette was working from home at the time and planned to keep the baby home “until it felt safe for them to go to school.”

But she did take the baby to a neighborhood rally in support of George Floyd. The event was organized by Dorchester People for Peace. It was outside. Everyone wore masks. It felt safe.

It also turned out to be life changing.

(more…)

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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has created a promising new Office of Early Childhood, and this office has a new leader, Kristin McSwain.

The office will “advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five,” by:

• expanding access to early education and childcare programs

• investing in Boston’s early education and care workforce

• accelerating “the creation of a universal pre-K system that stretches across Boston Public Schools (BPS), community-based organizations, and family-based childcare programs”

• expanding high-quality, affordable options for infants and toddlers, and

• serving as “a central point-of-entry for residents looking for information on early education and childcare programming and wraparound services for young children and their families”

Mayor Wu, the mother of two young boys, sums up the vital importance of this work, saying, “Every bit of investment in our children and families to close gaps in early education and care is an investment in our collective future.”

(more…)

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Last night, Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children, spoke at the graduation ceremony for the City of Boston Childcare Entrepreneur Fund.

“The Fund offers support to current and aspiring owners of family childcare businesses in Boston. Fund recipients attend business training and receive grant funding for their business.”

Here’s part of what O’Leary said:

“We continue to be inspired by this dedicated and resilient workforce and their commitment to the problem solving, building partnerships and providing high-quality learning experiences under incredible circumstances.

“And YOU – tonight we celebrate you, the graduates of the City of Boston Childcare Entrepreneur Fund.

“You can change the world. All of the skills, gifts and talents you use to support young children can be used where you are sitting right now to lead. 

“The most important piece is that YOU have to BELIEVE.

“WE are the ones we have been waiting for.

“YOU ARE SMART, POWERFUL LEADERS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES!

“We need to believe in ourselves and be willing to think differently about the future.

“It is critical that we find new, innovative, and meaningful ways to support educators and expand access to childcare for Boston families.”

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

It’s that time of year.

Time for Boston parents and guardians with children ages 0 to 5 to respond to the city’s Child Care Census, a survey about child care needs.

The survey is available online and can be taken in seven different languages. Boston residents can also fill out a paper copy of the survey that was mailed to all Boston residents.

Please ask the Boston parents and guardians that you know to respond!

The survey will help the City of Boston learn more about child care needs and do a better job of meeting them.

Now is a great time to speak up, because Boston Mayor Michelle Wu recently announced “the creation of the Office of Early Childhood to advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five.”

The office will be led by Kristin McSwain who “brings more than ten years of experience as the Executive Director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda.”

The goal is to “address needs highlighted in Boston’s 2021 Childcare Census Survey report.” Among the report’s key findings:

• families are relying on “parent/guardian care” more often than the would like to

• 81% of respondents who rely on a parent/guardian care arrangement for their children are women, and caring for children interfering with their career desires

• respondents with 3-5 year old children “strongly prefer public/charter school care arrangements, but are not able to access them,” and

• “the average cost of center-based care is greater than the Massachusetts state average, which is already the 2nd highest in the nation behind only Washington, D.C.”

To get an even clearer picture of the current need, Boston needs to hear from families!

So, please reach out to young children’s parents and guardians and ask them to take the survey.

It would be great if all of Boston’s families participated, so that all families’ needs could be heard.

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Screenshot: The Boston Foundation website

 

A new report from The Boston Foundation – “When the Bough Breaks Why Now Is the Moment to Invest in Massachusetts’ Fragile Child Care System” — sounds an important alarm.

“The early education and care system in Massachusetts is at a breaking point. The Commonwealth has the second most expensive child care market in the United States. Families routinely pay upwards of $20,000 a year for care for their young children,” the report says.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made an already very challenging situation worse.”

“Without public investment in early education and care, the Massachusetts economy will be unable to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic.”

The report is based on interviews with local stakeholders who are parents, providers, and advocates, including Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children.

“The directors I talk to are panicked,” O’Leary says in the report. “They are in their classroom from morning until night because they can’t find enough staff.”

“When programs are not able to open, when child care centers close their doors, people are going to be mad,” O’Leary adds. “And they are going to say, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell us that this was about to collapse?’” (more…)

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Photo: nappy from Pexels

There’s a new child care survey for Massachusetts parents.

So please ask the parents in your programs to fill it out. It should take less than five minutes.

“Help us to identify what is most important to you as a parent/guardian of 0-5 year old child(ren),” the survey says.  “We will use this information to guide expansion of child care supports.”

As we’ve blogged (here and here), gathering data from families is a crucial step in developing successful child care policies.

The survey is the result of a partnership between the Boston Public School’s Department of Early Childhood; the City of Boston’s Economic Mobility Lab — a team of social entrepreneurs who work in the Mayor’s Office of Policy to “advance the upward economic mobility of Bostonians;” and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, which is part of StriveTogether, “a national network of local communities striving to achieve racial equity and economic mobility.” (more…)

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“Eight years ago, in the last open race for mayor in 2013, candidates like John Barros talked about the developmental advantages of early education, but it was hardly a campaign issue. Even the ambitious, and unfulfilled, campaign promise tossed out by Martin J. Walsh — to create free universal preschool for all city 4-year-olds — barely registered as news.

“But in this year’s contest, following a pandemic that wreaked havoc on parents’ ability to work, early education and child care have leaped to the forefront of political consciousness. Four of the five major contenders have presented detailed campaign plans on the issue and all have endorsed the recent recommendations of the Birth to Eight Collaborative, a coalition of parents, nonprofits, schools, and advocates working to ensure all children are prepared to succeed when they enter school.

“ ‘To see the issue of child care move into the center of public discourse is so important,’ said Sarah Muncey, a Jamaica Plain mother and a leader in early education who has been advocating for systemic changes — to little effect, before now. ‘The pandemic showed us that this is an economic issue — that underneath it all, this humming city, is an invisible child-care force. We are not invisible anymore.’ ”

“Child care is now a major political issue. Here’s how the Boston mayoral candidates want to reform it,” by Stephanie Ebbert, The Boston Globe, August 4, 2021

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Screenshot: Boston Opportunity Agenda report

 
Boston’s supply of child care is shrinking, a new report says. And this shortage is making it tough for parents who want to work and for businesses looking for employees.

“Boston’s child-care crisis was a gloomy reality long before COVID-19 entered our lives in 2020,” the report says. “As of 2017, 35 percent of 0- to 5-year-olds did not have access to early education and care seats in their neighborhoods, if desired by their families.”

The pandemic made things worse. As the Boston Globe reports in an article covering the report, “Recovery has been slow, with only 28 licensed programs reopening between last November and March.”

And some neighborhoods are harder hit than others.

“Most neighborhoods saw declines in the number of eligible children referred to early intervention, with the steepest drops, as high as 25 percent, in central Boston, Roxbury, and Hyde Park.” (more…)

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In a recent exhibition, the teachers at Charlestown Nursery School (CNS) shared the important lessons they’ve learned from leaving their building and running their preschool program outdoors in their Boston neighborhood.

The move to the great urban outdoors occurred last fall in the middle of the pandemic. Every morning staff packed supplies into red wagons and pulled the wagons to a local park that served as a classroom. Children arrived in masks and weather appropriate clothing. Being outside helped mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

How did it go?

The teachers say it was the best year ever.
 
Outdoor Exhibition
To heighten their point, they put together the exhibition — “The Qualities of High Quality: Why Reimagining School Matters Now More than Ever” – to engage policymakers in a discussion about access, quality, and how to optimize young children’s learning experiences. (more…)

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Screenshot: City of Boston website

The city of Boston is launching another child care survey, asking for feedback from Boston parents.

The survey’s purpose is “to better understand how families access and experience care for their children, ages five and under,” the survey website explains

“We want to better understand your challenges with childcare. Your answers will help inform a City policy that works for all.”

It’s an easy, quick, important way for parents to help shape public policy.

The survey asks parents and guardians about their preferences, and it asks about child care accessibility, affordability, and quality. 

(more…)

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