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Archive for the ‘Cost and affordability’ Category

Right after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, early childhood education (ECE) advocates were dealing with the immediate crisis and, simultaneously, talking about what the global health crisis would mean for the future.

“We wanted to create a space for that conversation,” Albert Wat, a senior policy director at the Alliance for Early Success, said on a recent Strategies for Children Zoom call.

“We met almost weekly for four months,” Wat says of the 13 states and eight national organizations who joined the conversation. Strategies for Children, an Alliance grantee, represented Massachusetts. “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to current fiscal and policy constraints.”

Instead the group talked about a “North star,” an untethered vision of what the country could do to rebuild child care.

“We wanted to be bold, but we also wanted to be pragmatic,” Wat said.

The result is “Build Stronger: A Child Care Policy Roadmap for Transforming Our Nation’s Child Care System.” (more…)

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Jillian Phillips and her family. Photo courtesy of Jillian Phillips

 

Jillian Phillips is a working Massachusetts parent trying to navigate a pandemic. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job full of highs, lows, and a need for public policy innovations.

Phillips, a single parent by choice, has an 8-year-old daughter and twin sons who are 19 months old. Another daughter, who would be five years old, died in infancy.

Phillips had relied on her mother, a retired nurse, who lived with the family, to provide child care.

“If I hadn’t had my mom at the time, I certainly would not have gone on to have more children because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” Phillips says. “The cost of child care, especially in our state, is out of reach.”

Earlier this year, however, two tragedies struck. Phillips’ mother passed away unexpectedly, and the global pandemic exploded in the United States.

So Phillips had to manage her grief, take care of her children, and work full time. A social worker herself, she supervises social workers who provide early intervention services for families.

“I’ve found a rhythm, but I’m slowly drowning,” she says of her work, family, and personal responsibilities. “Thank goodness, my job is flexible. I can fit things in during the kids’ naps, after they go to bed, or before they wake up — which means I’m working all the time because there’s no other way to do it.” (more…)

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“ ‘Women are impacted no matter where you look,’ Catherine White, Director of Child Care and Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center, told NBC. ‘You have families who have lost their jobs or lost their income, and they’re thinking about going back to work without money to pay for child care. And then on the other side you have child care providers who are facing rising costs, they’re serving fewer kids and having less revenue coming in. So they have to charge more, and parents can’t pay and providers can’t charge less.’

A study by the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy found that it would take nearly $10 billion per month to keep the child care system afloat during the pandemic. Congress has already appropriated $3.5 billion for child care in the first CARES Act, but advocates are calling for more.

“ ‘$50 billion sounds big, but not in terms of when you’re thinking about the size of the workforce and the impacts. Child care providers employ millions of caregivers across the U.S. and supports tens of millions of families to go to work,’ said White.”

 

“Child care providers struggle as need for services remain for many,” by Molly Roecker and Ali Vitali, NBC News, August 31, 2020

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What’s your child care/early education story?

The Common Start Coalition — a group of organizations, providers, and individuals in Massachusetts — is gathering stories to demonstrate the need for affordable, high-quality early education and child care, especially during the pandemic. The stories will be shared publicly on social media and with policymakers.

Click here to share your story.

You’ll be joining others who have already shared their stories, including:

 

Carl R.: “I have two children, a daughter and a son, and they both have children of their own. My wife and I actually retired from our jobs to help care for our grandchildren due to child care issues. My daughter had a child back in 2016 and needed child care for her infant. She found out it was going to be $2000 a month. So my wife decided to retire to help care for the child. I started to think what would happen if my wife got sick and couldn’t watch the baby but luckily I was able to retire.

“A large part of my children’s issue is not only finding childcare but also finding a provider whose program runs late enough. My daughter works in Boston and the child care ends at 5:30. My daughter doesn’t know when she will be able to get home. That’s why I pick up my granddaughter, who is now 3 turning 4, from preschool. In my son’s case both he and his wife are teachers. The issue is that their children do not attend the school that he and his wife work at. They run into issues when their children’s schools have half days and the school they teach at doesn’t so they need someone to pick up the kids and keep an eye on them until they get home.”

 

Gloria: “I struggled a lot when my children were smaller because I did not have child care and I had to go to work to support my family. First I had my two older sons babysit but when they couldn’t I had to pay a family member to babysit when she was available. I had no vehicle at that time so I had to taxi to the babysitter. I was really struggling to support my family as a big amount of my check went to babysitter and taxi. Later when I couldn’t keep paying a babysitter I had to quit my job. Now that my kids are older and no longer need a baby sitter I went back to work. But even now that they no longer need a baby sitter I can’t afford a summer program because I do not have a voucher and summer camps/programs are ridiculously expensive.”

 

Shanice C.: “My heart hurts for the little ones going through this because they do not understand it. This is probably the biggest struggle in this pandemic: making sure the little ones are okay and preparing them for the NEW normal.”

 

Strategies for Children is a member of the Common Start Coalition as is Edward Street Child Services, Greater Boston Legal Services, Local 509 SEIU, the Worcester Food Policy Council, the Women’s Fund, and a host of other nonprofit organizations.

Click here to learn more — and to read more of these and other stories.

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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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Briana Lamari

Briana Lamari went to Stonehill College thinking she would be a high school English teacher.

But after doing a school placement with a teacher who felt she couldn’t control what went on in her classroom because of all the policies made outside that classroom, Lamari’s interest began to shift.

In a sociology class, Lamari studied inequality in education. And during Lamari’s senior year in college, when she was looking for an internship, her sociology professor, Sinead Chalmers, who is also a senior associate at the Rennie Center, told her about Strategies for Children.

“I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to go beyond Stonehill and see education on a larger scale, especially at the state level. And it has turned out to be just that, the opportunity to see the landscape of early education and policy.” (more…)

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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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To chart a course for the future, the Department of Early Education and Care has a new strategic plan. Please check it out, so you can keep up with the department and its work.

“We cannot separate children and family outcomes,” EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy said on Tuesday at the EEC Board meeting where the plan was presented.

“We hold children and families in a single breath,” the commissioner added, explaining that child outcomes along with educational outcomes, social opportunities, and economic outcomes are all braided parts of overall family success.

The commissioner noted that EEC’s work benefits the state’s workforce in two ways: by preparing children for future success as workers, and by investing in the existing workforce of early education and care providers.

“And we know that quality matters across all of that.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the plan. (more…)

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Today is Advocacy Day 2020 for Early Education & Care and School Age Programs and there are TWO ways to participate. 

You can come to the Massachusetts State House. Here’s the schedule:

9:30 a.m.

Registration in the Great Hall

10:00 a.m.

Speakers – including Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

11:15 a.m.

Meetings with Legislators

 

Or you can participate right from your program by:

• finding your elected officials and their contact information by going to www.WhereDoIVoteMA.com

• following them on social media

• taking pictures of your program and share them with your state representatives and state senators on Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtags #ValueEarlyEducators and #ValueAfterSchoolEducators

 

The next step? Keep the advocacy going! In the coming weeks and months you can: (more…)

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With State House Advocacy Day approaching on Thursday, it’s a good time to ask: How are states doing on child care?

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) has taken a look – and summed up its findings in a recent report, “Early Progress: State Child Care Assistance Policies 2019.”

Accompanying the report are a collection of fact sheets on all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“Given the importance of child care assistance to families, it is essential for states to have strong child care assistance policies,” NWLC says in a press release.

The report and the fact sheets assess states in five key policy areas: (more…)

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