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The Early Childhood Agenda is making progress. This convening series hosted by Strategies for Children has brought together more than 400 individual advocates and partners. Participants have been meeting in five working groups to identify systemic challenges and set priorities.

Last week, participants attended a whole group meeting – dubbed “Bringing it all Together” and recorded in the video above – to talk across the Agenda’s working groups and ensure that the groups’ efforts are aligned and that any gaps in the work are addressed.

Among the themes that were discussed:

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Great news! Early education and care got a financial boost earlier this month when Governor Charlie Baker signed a $3.76 billion economic development bill into law.

As our FY’23 budget webpage explains, this investment includes “an additional $150 million to continue the C3 Stabilization Grants through the end of the fiscal year in June 2023, and an additional $315 million in the newly created High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Fund.”

We are grateful to the Legislature for passing this bill and to the governor for signing it.

In a State House News story that ran in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Baker says Massachusetts can invest in child care and be fiscally prudent:

“Recognizing the importance of childcare investments, I am approving sections in this bill that redirect $315 million from the Commonwealth Taxpayer Relief Fund to the High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund. However, we can invest in childcare and make sensible tax changes at the same time. With the state in a historically strong fiscal position, the tax cuts that the Legislature has committed to prioritizing next session will be affordable without a special set-aside.”

A WBUR report focuses on the relief for some workers, noting:

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we voted

The Election Day results from Massachusetts are in!

Congratulations to Governor-Elect Maura Healey, Lieutenant Governor-Elect Kim Driscoll, the returning members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, and the winners of other statewide offices.

We are also excited to congratulate all returning and newly elected members of the Massachusetts Legislature.

What’s next?

Join us on Monday, November 21st, 2022, at 1 p.m. for a post-election webinar to discuss next steps and how we can work together to build relationships and engage elected officials in supporting early childhood in 2023!

Click here to register.

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“On Tuesday, New Mexico became the first state in the nation to create a permanent fund for child care. More than 70 percent of New Mexicans agreed to amend the state constitution and spend about $150 million a year on early learning. The next morning, providers from across the country gathered on a Zoom call to celebrate.

“Many wiped away tears as an advocate relayed the news: The fund would make child care more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families, and workers would finally win the wage increases they’d long needed.

“ ‘I’m emotional right now,’ Ivydel Natachu said. She works with 3-year-olds at a preschool in Albuquerque, and she’d spent years advocating with the nonprofit organization Olé to create the fund. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the 52-year-old earned only $10 an hour. But the state’s leaders had funneled federal relief into temporary raises, and Natachu’s pay had risen to $15 an hour.

“ ‘And now I’m starting to save money,’ she told the group of about 50 providers on the Zoom call. ‘I’m saving money to buy a house. That’s my personal goal. With the constitutional amendment passing, I think my dream’s going to come true.’ ”

Only some of the providers who’d logged on that morning were from New Mexico, but nearly everyone cheered. Tuesday’s victory wasn’t just a win for New Mexico, many said. It was a road map.”

“As Natachu finished speaking, providers from Minnesota, Ohio and California said they felt energized. New Mexico had long been ranked one of the country’s worst states for child well-being, and activists there had faced a decade of opposition. If they could turn it around, couldn’t anyone?”

“In N.M. child-care funding win, providers nationwide see road map,” by Casey Parks, The Washington Post, November 10, 2022

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One of the most important lessons you learn in a conversation with Mo Barbosa is that everything in youth development work is – or should be – connected.

“The better we do with zero to five,” Barbosa says of working with young children, “the better we’re going to do with the next 10 to 15 years of development.”

Barbosa is the senior director of Community Engagement at Health Resources in Action, where his goal as a trainer and facilitator is to professionalize the youth work field. He is the facilitator for convenings of The Early Childhood Agenda, which are hosted by Strategies for Children.

Barbosa’s sweeping focus is on the zero-to-24 age range – “or 24-ish” he says, “as we’re starting to understand the brain, we’re going a little bit later.”

But instead of a well-paved road that leads from birth to early adulthood, children and families in Massachusetts — and the rest of the country — face a fractured system. 

“There has been this historic difference between where you get child care and how much of it is early education and how much of it is just a place to put your kid,” Barbosa says. “And that difference has dictated quality. It has dictated pay. And it has dictated opportunity.”

Barbosa recalls running an early childhood program in St. Louis where children who lived in local housing projects would not go to kindergarten because they could not pass the screening test. Instead, they would enter first grade as six-year-olds with no early childhood classroom experiences.

The solution?

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vote-blog

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

It’s Election Day! Please go out and vote!

Here are some useful voting facts and links:

• polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Massachusetts. Click here to see where you vote

• you can also check the Secretary of State Elections Website

• you can see information about the Ballot Questions here

If you’ve already voted, thanks for your participation.

To learn more about voting, please check out Strategies for Children’s “Vote 2022” webpage. It has a number of voting resources as well as details on how we’re working to build more equitable access to early childhood programs.

Once again, please vote. 

Your participation matters to the future of children across Massachusetts.

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“Our child care system is broken.”

“Initially, to address this crisis as an employer, I considered hosting onsite child care; however, I quickly realized this was a mere stop-gap to a much larger, systemic challenge. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions, which is why the only solution to Vermont’s child care crisis is increasing public investment in our 0-5 child care system. Not just temporarily, but for the long-term, with a sustainable funding source.”

“Column: Lack of child care hinders small businesses,” by Sam Hooper, Valley News, October 25, 2022

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“Over the past couple years, Vermont has seen an influx of thousands of new people and families moving to the state. In Chittenden County alone, from 2020 to 2021, 605 new businesses launched or opened new locations, a massive spike over the previous year. However, it’s increasingly challenging to find workers here in Vermont or those willing and able to relocate and the top reason we hear is lack of high-quality, affordable child care. It’s estimated that there are over 5,000 parents living in Vermont right now who want to work but can’t because they don’t have the child care they need.”

“Hamel, Grace & Wall: The weight of the child care crisis is crushing Vermont’s workforce,” by Carina Hamel, Aba Grace & Tim Wall, Vermont Business Magazine, October 27. 2022 

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This past summer, Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child “welcomed Lindsey Burghardt, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, as our Chief Science Officer.” Dr. Burghardt “leads our efforts to translate the science of early childhood—particularly the science behind ECD 2.0—for key audiences in the health sector, from policymakers to pediatricians. As a practicing pediatrician herself, Dr. Burghardt brings a clinician’s perspective to this work.

“In recognition of Children’s Health Month, Dr. Burghardt shares her thoughts on the importance of understanding and supporting sound mental health, particularly for our youngest children.

“Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to tremendous challenges for both children and caregivers, including an increase in mental health issues and a lack of access to providers who can help. As a pediatrician, what are some of the issues you have been seeing in your own practice on this front?

“A: ​There have been so many strains on caregivers during the pandemic. In particular, many working families have struggled to maintain access to consistent, high-quality childcare, which puts incredible stress on both caregivers and young children. The childcare environment is so important for children’s healthy development—their relationships with immediate caregivers matter a great deal, but so do their relationships with providers in early care and education, as well as with other adults in their communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put significant stress on an already strained system, with a shortage of providers and limited options for parents to balance caring for their children and working to maintain their income. I’ve heard from many caregivers that they are experiencing significant stress, and in some cases job insecurity, due to the lack of consistent childcare. For caregivers who work nontraditional hours such as overnight shiftwork, or for those who care for multiple children, the stresses can be even greater. I’ve also observed increases in behavioral challenges and anxiety, including among young children.

“Q: Amidst all these challenges, how can caregivers and providers help create environments that foster strong mental health for babies and toddlers in a post-COVID world?

“A: The role of caregivers and providers is critical in fostering good mental health, so we must support the needs of the adults who care for children, through both individual and systems level approaches. When we support adults directly and tackle the systemic inequities that challenge families and providers, we help ensure that children can develop in health-promoting environments.”

“Children’s Health Month: The Importance of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health,” Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, October 2022

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What are the best ways for states to help young children?

The Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap has answers that were shared earlier this month at a virtual summit that drew “thousands of national and state leaders, scholars, and practitioners.” Videos of that event are posted here.

Released by Vanderbilt University’s Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center, the roadmap is an annual guide that draws on the science of child development. Specifically, the roadmap looks at:

• young children’s wellbeing

• proven, evidence-based policy strategies

• states’ implementation of 11 effective policy and strategy solutions, and

• how policy changes impact young children and their families, and how these changes reduce racial and ethnic disparities

Those 11 policy and strategy solutions are:

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Last week was the kickoff of The Early Childhood Agenda, a brand new effort to develop a broadly inclusive agenda of early childhood policy priorities. So far, nearly 400 parents, providers, and partners have signed up to be part of this effort. To join them, click here.

The Agenda, as its new website explains, “takes a whole-child approach, working across sectors for better policy development and to identify effective solutions that may not be visible from one sector’s viewpoint.”

The Agenda’s goal is to help Massachusetts make historic and sustainable progress.

Missed the kickoff event? You can watch it by clicking on the video posted above. Related materials are posted here.

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