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Act now! It’s time for early education and care providers in Massachusetts to apply for federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) has just released the application. Licensed providers can use their LEAD login information to apply here.

As we’ve blogged, the funds — $314 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Child Care Stabilization money – will be distributed through an accessible process.

Your program can receive up to six monthly payments to support operating costs.

In an email, EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy adds, “This unprecedented influx of federal funds is aimed at providing short-term financing for child care providers to help sustain program operations despite enrollment fluctuations and ensure the continued availability of care in under-resourced communities.”

Who is eligible? (more…)

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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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The pandemic has taken a dire toll on families and on early education. But, according to a new report from the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, this global crisis also produced important lessons for the future.

The report – “Persevering through the Pandemic: Key Learnings about Children from Parents and Early Educators” – “contains five snapshots addressing two guiding questions: How are children doing? And what is helping children and families cope with the challenges they have faced over the past fifteen months?”

The snapshot topics are:

• parents’ concerns about children’s academic and social/emotional development

• early educators’ reports on children’s behavior: a mix of negative but also positive details

• parents’ perspective on how supportive early education programs and school have been

• early educators’ reports on how they have helped children navigate and process the pandemic, and

• how families have drawn strength from their time together

As a press release explains, the report draws on data from the Early Learning Study at Harvard’s surveys of parents and early educators.

(more…)

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Screenshot for the video “Our New Normal: Reading and Discussion”

A newly released book helps young children cope with any anxiety they may feel as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The book — “Our New Normal: A Children’s Social Story for Post-Pandemic Lives” – is a social story that was written by Emilee Johnson, the educational coordinator at the Boston Children’s Hospital Child Care Center.

The book’s pictures are drawn by preschool children for preschool children. In a video, Johnson reads the book out loud, and Children’s Hospital staff discuss the mental health challenges children are coping with.

For example: “As the world begins to move back into a pre-pandemic state,” the book’s Amazon.com page explains, “children are beginning to show anxiety about the things us adults consider normal! Children are worried about being in large groups, taking off their masks, or seeing family or friends that they have not been around in-person over the past year!”

(more…)

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Kristina DiMaria

“My mother was the secretary of the K-to-4 principal at the Malden public schools, so I was always around education,” Kristina DiMaria says of her childhood. “It was amazing. My mother knew the children, their families, their grandparents on a first name basis. And she wouldn’t leave for the day until the last child left.” 

“But what really made me an early educator was when I was at Pope John for high school. I had to do community service my senior year, so I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom.” 

DiMaria fell in love with the volunteer job, but at age 18, she didn’t think she could make a career out of working with children. 

So DiMaria went to Bay State College and earned a two-year degree in fashion merchandising. But she also kept her connection to her mother’s school, volunteering and working in summer programs. And she continued her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she majored in English, minored in psychology, and took several early education classes.

Earning this degree was bittersweet, a personal achievement and something DiMaria did to honor her father who had passed away, but always emphasized the importance of going to college. 

Eventually, DiMaria took a job as a kindergarten teacher at a private school, Independence Route. The curriculum included STEM activities and “purposeful play.” 

“It became my passion, and I learned so much about teaching.”  (more…)

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As they steer Massachusetts through the pandemic, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito have released a new report on the future of work. It’s an economic blueprint for rebuilding the economy that includes new plans for child care.

Before the pandemic, Massachusetts had a thriving economy with a conventional “look” that included commuters traveling by car or public transportation to offices in busy commercial areas.

But now — in the wake of layoffs, less business travel, and more Zoom meetings – Massachusetts could see less demand for office spaces, shifts in employment, and the worsening of pre-existing social inequities.

To address these challenges, the report explores “what work could look like… in both the near term (to 2025) and the longer term (to 2030),” across the state’s “regions, economic sectors, commercial centers, local downtowns, transportation, and public spaces.”

Among the top eight insights in the report: (more…)

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Photo: mentatdgt from Pexels

 
Massachusetts child care providers – get ready to apply for a federal COVID-19 relief fund grant!

The funds are coming soon, and they will help providers emerge from the pandemic and rebuild.

Based on feedback from the field, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is committed to creating an “accessible application process.”
 

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Strategies for Children

 
There are a number of ways that you can learn more about these grants before the application is released. (more…)

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“Child care is a workforce issue, and prioritizing investment in the following ways will help to overcome this barrier:

• Investments in the child care workforce. In the short term, states can offer incentives such as signing bonuses for child care workers to return to work, and retention bonuses for established early childhood educators. In the long term, continued education grants and apprenticeship programs to support early childhood educators can meet the incredible demand for quality child care.

• Supporting working parents. States can and should invest in their data infrastructure. By creating databases that monitor the type and supply of child care available to communities, families and child care providers both benefit.

• Investing in the business side of child care. Stabilizing and growing the child care industry is a must. Grant and loan programs to stabilize existing child care programs and launch new, quality options will prevent child care deserts from growing, promote innovation from providers, and increase options for families.

“Many states are already leading by example.

“Arizona channeled $300 million in federal resources into return-to-work incentive programs that include $2,000 bonuses for those who return to the workforce, three months of child care assistance for people with children who return to work after collecting unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.”
 

“States taking the boldest actions on child care should be national models,” by Cheryl Oldham, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, July 15, 2021

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Photo: Eren Li from Pexels

 

In a new article, David Jacobson praises federal investments in early education and care. But, he writes, one “critically important” issue that receives less attention is partnerships.

Specifically, he asks, “how can elementary schools, early childhood programs, and health and social service agencies work together to improve quality and coordination across entire neighborhoods and communities and thus create the most positive overall environments possible for children and families?”

The article — “A game-changing opportunity: Rethinking how communities serve children and families” – appears on the website of Yale Medical School’s Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER).

Jacobson has been a longtime advocate of partnerships. He is the Principal Technical Advisor, Education Development Center, Inc., (EDC). And he also leads “EDC’s First 10 initiative, which supports school-early childhood-community partnerships to improve outcomes for children ages birth through 10 and their families.”

As he writes in the article: (more…)

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Screenshot: Child Care Aware

 
How can the federal government’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) help rebuild child care? Child Care Aware has listed answers on a comprehensive webpage with infographics and other tools.

“As an advocate, it is important that your voice is heard on how states use the funds from the ARP Act,” Child Care Aware says. “You know what policies implemented during the pandemic helped stabilize child care and what policies can help build a better system moving forward. It is important to ensure that funds are administered in an equitable, efficient and transparent manner.”

The goal for advocates: encourage states to use the federal relief funds in wise, strategic ways.

“Advocates will need to bring a list of policy suggestions for the state to consider supporting. One way to highlight the need for specific policies is through sharing stories collected from child care providers and families. They can use their own words to talk about the hardships they faced during the pandemic and which temporary policies helped them the most.” (more…)

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