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Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ Category

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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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families with young children want?

As we blogged last week, the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) conducted a statewide survey that asked this question and collected feedback from more than 1,200 families. MPIT is a collaboration of 40+ organizations and family engagement specialists.

The survey results were, however, collected, before COVID-19 shut down the country.

So now, to understand what families want in the middle of this pandemic, MPIT has asked its members to share the changes they’ve made in their services.

 

The Department of Public Health shifts to pandemic protection

At the state level, the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition, part of the Department of Public Health, addresses the health needs of “mothers, infants, children and youth— including children and youth with special health needs.” Two of the bureau’s core values are culturally responsive family engagement and racial equity.

To do its work during the pandemic, the bureau has set up telehealth appointments via phone or video so that families can access the Early Intervention system, the WIC Nutrition program, and the Home Visiting program.

In Chelsea and Springfield, early childhood coalitions that are supported by the bureau’s MA Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems have distributed food, diapers, and diapering supplies to families, stepping in when grocery store shelves have often been bare.

To provide parents with more information, the bureau’s Division for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs has set up online information sessions for parents and posted new content — “Emergency Care Planning for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs during COVID 19 and Beyond” – on the Mass.gov website. (more…)

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July 29, 2020

Dear Members of our Congressional Delegation:

Thank you for your efforts to support the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents as we continue to confront the myriad challenges caused by the pandemic.

We write today in appreciation of your demonstrated commitment to early education and care and to request that you each do everything within your power to ensure that the final relief bill currently being debated in Congress includes $50 billion in specific, dedicated funding necessary to stabilize our vital field.

The momentum behind the child care sector—both around the country and within the halls of the Capitol—has been gaining for weeks. Finally, the people and their representatives are realizing what we have all known for years: the child care sector is the backbone of our economy, providing education and care for our children while also facilitating parent reentry into the workforce.

Operating on razor-thin margins even before the pandemic, center-based, family child care, and afterschool providers in the Commonwealth are now facing even greater and longer-lasting challenges. The sector is being decimated by pandemic-required reduced capacity and increased cleaning and PPE costs. Cutbacks in services to families and widespread layoffs of staff are also adversely impacting our economic recovery. Worse yet, the damage to the workforce has a disparate impact on women and especially women of color who overwhelmingly serve in this critical, but underappreciated and underpaid role.

Many Massachusetts providers have already shuttered their doors, while the rest are cutting into whatever limited reserves they may have had and are headed for the same outcome. In a new report issued by NAEYC this month, average enrollment is down by 67% across the country and without an infusion of funding, 50% of all programs will be closed by December and only 18% will make it through a year. (more…)

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“In a vote Wednesday night, the House passed the Child Care Is Essential Act on a bipartisan basis, 249-163. The legislation creates a $50 billion fund to provide grants to help pay for personnel, sanitation, training and other costs associated with reopening and running a child-care facility amid the pandemic.”

“The House also passed on a bipartisan basis the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act, which is designed to provide funding to help child-care providers reopen and improve the safety of care facilities going forward.”

“ ‘We cannot assume that business can go on as usual if we don’t meet the needs of working parents,’ Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) said during a press conference Wednesday. When reporters started to ask questions pertaining to other news items, Sanchez interrupted to ask that they stick to the topic of child care. ‘I get so tired of everyone wanting to talk about deals and red lining and not talk about what’s relevant to the majority of families in this country,’ she said.”

 

“House passes set of bills that give child care industry a more than $60 billion bailout,” by Megan Leonhardt, CNBC.com, July 29, 2020

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families want?

That’s the question that the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) asked last year in a statewide survey of 1,260 families with young children.

Facilitated by Strategies for Children, MPIT is a “unique collaboration between early childhood professionals inside and outside of government, at the state and local level, spanning early education and health,” a summary of the survey findings explains.

The survey’s goal was to “learn about families’ experiences with early childhood programs and services. What works, what doesn’t, what are the barriers to participation, and what would families like to see more of in their communities.” Respondents were asked about a wide range of programs, including Early Intervention, WIC, home visiting, play groups, and child care. In addition to the survey, there were five in-person family focus groups.

The results provide useful insights. Parents said they wanted a greater variety of more affordable early childhood programs – such as swimming, dance, music, and yoga – where they could interact with other parents. They want programs with flexible schedules and more opportunities to talk with local experts about child development and family wellbeing. (more…)

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Report screenshot

 

Even before they are born children face systemic inequalities.

A new report digs into this national problem.

“More than half of the 74 million children in the United States are children of color, and they are served by learning systems that are gravely inequitable. The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the health, economic wellbeing, and education of young children, only exacerbate existing inequalities,” according to the report, “Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades.”

Released by The Children’s Equity Project, at Arizona State University, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the report is, according to its website, “an actionable policy roadmap for states and the federal government—as well as for candidates at all levels of government vying for office—to take meaningful steps to remedy these inequities in early learning and education systems.”

These themes are also explored in a related webinar series. Links to recordings of the first two webinars, which took place earlier this month, are available on the report website. The next two webinars will be on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, and Thursday, August 6, 2020.

The report and webinars draw on two meetings of “more than 70 experts from universities, think tanks and organizations.” These experts focused on three policy areas where inequities persist: (more…)

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“ ‘The childcare crisis is not new. The need for paid family and medical leave is not new. The need for protections for caregivers and for parents and for pregnant workers is not new. It shouldn’t take a global pandemic to raise awareness about these issues,’ says Sarah Brafman, Senior Policy Counsel at A Better Balance, which advocates for policies to help working families. ‘But we have a moment where we do have a global crisis, and this is an opportunity to address the failings of our past.’ ”

“Indeed, childcare is an issue that, while crucial for families, should be important to anyone who wants to see the American economy made whole again. ‘If they really want to help people get back to work, they have to figure out how to safely create spaces where children can stay,’ says Emily James, an English teacher at a Brooklyn, New York high school. James lives in the Bronx with her husband and daughters, ages 5 and 7. Prior to the pandemic, James says, her husband worked nights, starting at 4 a.m. ‘We basically just switched off because we had opposite schedules — we would tag off, dump them off to each other. Or we would have a babysitter for an hour or so in between, if we could.‘ These days, they’re both home, because he’s on leave due to a health condition, but that hasn’t made balancing work with caring for the kids any easier. ‘From 8:00 in the morning until 1:00 p.m., my kids would be next to me while I was teaching my students.’ ”

 

“Coronavirus Has Finally Put A Spotlight On America’s Childcare Crisis. What Happens Now?” by Cait Munro, Refinery29, July 15, 2020

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Welcome to the pandemic version of Grade Level Reading Week 2020.

“GLR WEEK 2020 has been transformed into series of events and activities featuring the work, priorities and progress of two dozen states and communities in the GLR Network,” the Campaign for Grade Level Reading explains on its website.

And it’s all online.

Among the online webinars are:

Reaching and Supporting Parents Through 211
A Fishbowl Conversation for United Ways with Leaders in Delaware, Texas, and Utah
Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 12:30 p.m. ET

The Role of Shared Services and Staffed Family Childcare Networks
A Fishbowl Conversation with Leaders in Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, and Oregon
Thursday, July 16, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET

Measuring & Addressing Learning Loss with Innovative Diagnostic Tools
California & South Carolina Respond
Friday, July 17, 2020, 3 p.m. ET

To register for these events, click here.

Check out this interactive map to learn about other related virtual events around the country.

And finally, please tweet about the event using the hashtag #GLRWeek.

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Webinar screenshot of Donna Warner, Dorothy Williams, Dr. Annie Vaughan, Amy O’Leary, Dr. Faye Holder-Niles, Sandra Fenwick, and Samantha Aigner-Treworgy.

 

How can early childhood programs get sound advice about reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic?

By talking to doctors who know about viruses.

Don’t know any infectious disease specialists?

No problem.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is already talking to doctors, thanks to a partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital. And EEC is sharing what early childhood providers need to know in a newly released webinar (the password is: 2V=9y215) on the physical and mental health needs of young children.

Sandra Fenwick, CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, introduces the webinar, which features a panel discussion that’s moderated by Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children.

In the webinar, EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy also thanks Children’s Hospital for its partnership, and acknowledges the many questions that early childhood providers have, chief among them: (more…)

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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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