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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? (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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.” (more…)

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“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.”

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo at Advocacy Day in the State House in 2014. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

“We all understand that a key component of any recovery is access to safe child care.

“Through our work together over the years with the EEC Workforce Task Force and championing innovative new models in order to foster increased coordination between early education programming and health care, the House of Representatives has stood by our Early Education and Care providers and most vulnerable children. We have focused on this sector in order to prioritize the health and wellbeing of children, today and beyond.

“With your help, the Early Education and Care Business Advisory group also made key recommendations including a multi-year action plan for targeting investments that strengthened our EEC efforts in Massachusetts. And the House has lived up to our commitment. We led the way to provide more than $60 million in unprecedented increases to support the workforce and improve programs for the most at-risk children.

“Now COVID-19 threatens that progress. Providers will need to consider new health and safety protocols, which will likely affect the overall capacity of the system. I am pleased to announce that Chair Peisch, informed and supported by the work of Chair Ferrante, will spearhead a newly-formed Early Education and Care Recovery Advisory Group to ensure businesses and providers are prepared to support families and workers in this new landscape. The group will look at how health protocols will impact childcare, examine the financing models for programs amid tremendous change, and explore the effect the pandemic has had on programs in communities of color and those throughout the sector.”

 

— House Speaker Robert DeLeo’s prepared remarks to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, May 21, 2020

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Last week, Amy O’Leary participated in a town hall meeting on child care and paid family leave organized by the Coalition for Social Justice. (The meeting starts at the 10:09 time mark.)

Launching the meeting, Jynai McDonald, the family child care coordinator for SEIU 509, thanked Congress for its initial $7 billion support of child care programs, and she called for more advocacy.

Child care, McDonald says, needs $50 billion.

Other speakers addressed the need for paid family leave that can protect parents and caregivers from having to choose between caring for children and relatives and losing their jobs. This is particularly important now given the threat of COVID-19 and the need for people who get sick from this virus to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

Amy, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, shared “what we know” about child care now. (more…)

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Source: Eastern Bank Instagram page

 

In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, early education and care programs are getting crucial philanthropic support.

This includes $5 million in grant funding from Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Eastern Bank.

The grants will help “organizations focused on the most vulnerable populations,” including families with young children, emergency child care centers, family child care centers, and child care professionals.

“It takes a community of public and private partners working together to stave off the devastating and long-lasting impacts of this disease, and this philanthropic investment is intended to make a meaningful contribution to this effort,” Bob Rivers, the chair and CEO of Eastern Bank says in a press release.

Nancy Huntington Stager, president and CEO of Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation, adds in the release, “Evidence of the impact of this virus outbreak on our neighbors, families, and small businesses is everywhere. And we also see the resiliency, sheer will, and hope of people across our region as they band together to help one another. The need for assistance continues to grow, and we will continue to do whatever we can to give back as well as encourage those who are able to do so to join us.” (more…)

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Yesterday Governor Charlie Baker announced a four-phase reopening plan for Massachusetts. It’s a comprehensive strategy to safely get people back to work and ease restrictions while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. Visit the new Reopening Massachusetts webpage for details and read the report from the Reopening Advisory Board.

What does this mean for child care?

• During phase 1, exempt emergency child care will remain in place to meet the needs of families with no alternatives for child care. Currently this system, which can serve up to 10,000 children, is at only 35% capacity

• The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Department of Public Health are creating additional health and safety standards for serving more children and families

• For additional information, visit EEC’s new webpage, Reopening Child Care: A Phased Approach

• To craft its regulations, EEC is drawing on public health guidance as well as field data from educators and families

There are still many unknowns for families, educators, program directors, and state officials. What we know for sure, however, is that safe, high-quality child care is essential to any reopening plan and to the state’s economic recovery.

We’ll share more information and advocacy opportunities in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you for all you are doing to support children and families.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

COVID-19 has exposed long-term weaknesses in Massachusetts’ early education and care system – and made them worse, Joan Wasser Gish explains in a new CommonWealth Magazine article, “An early education system for a post-pandemic world.”

“If we are going to restore our economy, now and in the future,” the article says, “it will require a functioning system of affordable, accessible, high quality early education and care.”

Wasser Gish is a member of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care – and a former director of research and policy at Strategies for Children.

Long before COVID-19, she notes, families and early childhood programs have struggled with costs.

“Massachusetts has the second highest cost of child care in the nation, swallowing 39 percent of earnings in a typical Massachusetts family. For parents who work odd or unpredictable hours, or plan around the agrarian school calendar, child care is a decades-long, fraught, expensive patchwork.” (more…)

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How should Massachusetts reopen its early education and care programs?

By being responsive to the new needs that parents and employers have in a COVID-19 world.

That’s why Strategies for Children and 38 other organizations have submitted a letter to Governor Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board, which is actively seeking public feedback as it develops a plan “to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics.”

As our letter explains, taking careful next steps is essential.

“As you develop recommendations for how best to re-boot economic recovery in Massachusetts,” the letter says, “we ask that you include an intentional focus on reopening and strengthening the child care sector. No recovery will be successful if employees and working families do not have access to safe, affordable, high-quality child care for their children.”

The letter also points to the business sector’s support for child care, explaining: (more…)

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