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Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ 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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How hard has COVID-19 hit child care providers?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation decided to ask them.

The chamber interviewed 18 providers – “from large, for-profit centers to local nonprofit organizations to home-based providers” — about the impact of the pandemic and about the future.

Providers’ answers are in a new report, “Childcare: An Essential Industry for Economic Recovery,” which is part of the chamber’s ongoing analysis of early education and child care and their impact on the economy.

The report points to three common challenges:

• meeting needs while balancing costs

Providers “are dedicated to providing childcare services. However, decreased enrollment and increased costs have left most providers, both for-profit and nonprofit, in an unsustainable financial situation.”

• managing health risks

“The top priority for providers is understanding how to safely care for young children, understanding that a COVID-19 diagnosis is seemingly inevitable in several geographies, even with the utmost precautions.”

• addressing the interconnected nature of child care

“Childcare is closely tied to — and affected by — how parents return to work and how students return to school. However, many childcare providers are not being included in key discussions with their local school districts or business communities.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

How are families doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Earlier this year, we created a survey to ask them. Many parents said they were struggling to juggle work, child care, and children who were attending school from home.

Last month, Strategies for Children followed up with another survey that found many parents were struggling to make child care arrangements for the fall. This survey was conducted by Beacon Research, a Boston-based polling firm, and funded by the Commonwealth Children’s Fund and Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

Hearing from parents is an essential step.

“Parent voices are critical to reopening and sustaining the child care industry,” Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, says. “This survey shows that parents have legitimate concerns over health and safety. Many parents cannot return to child care because their programs have closed permanently, are not yet reopened, or are at full enrollment.”

A press release and a slide deck summarize the survey’s results. This document lists the survey’s questions and tallies parents’ answers. And a memo focuses on the child care challenges for families with school-age children.

Among the survey’s key findings, parents’ fears have risen. Before the pandemic, 76 percent expected to use child care programs this fall. Since the pandemic, only 62 percent do. (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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Stephen Zrike on Facebook Live

 

“Superintendents, principals, and city leaders have to think really differently about how we use our assets to serve kids in different ways.”

— Stephen Zrike, Superintendent of the Salem Public Schools

 

Last month, when the city of Salem, Mass., found out that it was in the “red” – meaning there had been more than 8 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over two weeks – Salem announced that all the grades in all its schools would start the school year by openly virtually.

This action prioritized safety – and it created a crisis for working parents for whom school is also child care.

So Salem Public Schools (SPS) came up with a creative solution: work with local partner organizations to run “Hub Extensions in our school buildings for groups of 13 students. These Hub Extensions will be licensed by The Department of Early Education and Care and those enrolled would be eligible for vouchers,” SPS says on its website.

That way instead of going empty and unused, school buildings would provide child care space for families and students who have the greatest needs.

“These Hubs will support remote learning during school-day hours and provide after school enrichment activities during afterschool time. All SPS cleaning and safety protocols will be followed.”

The community partners include the Salem YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, and Camp Fire North Shore, a local afterschool program. (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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Dear Board Chair Lesaux, Secretary Peyser and members of the Board:

“We appreciate the opportunity to submit written testimony for this virtual EEC Board meeting. These are unusual times and we at Strategies for Children are grateful for all you have done to keep the field updated and include feedback in decision making. We also want to thank Commissioner Aigner-Treworgy for her exceptional, passionate, thoughtful leadership.

”We know that it will be impossible to fully reopen the economy without a robust child care system. This pandemic has highlighted the fragility and urgent need for innovation within our industry. This instability is a direct result of inconsistent funding models. It is not sustainable to fund based on attendance, per child/per day. We need to treat child care like the public good that it is and work towards cost-based financing. We would not be at-risk of losing 30% of our child care capacity if providers had access to stable funding streams. Approximately 70% of our pre-COVID system has applied to reopen. The remaining 30% has not submitted reopening plans to EEC and almost 200 programs have closed their doors permanently. We worry that this number will only increase in the months ahead without substantial investment.”

“Over the past month, we have heard heartbreaking stories from directors and family child care providers who are borrowing from their reserves in the hope of a child care bailout that may never come. Providers are considering staff reductions and salary cuts for a workforce that already makes poverty-level wages. Other potential solutions, increasing tuition rates and changing program hours, will place a heavy burden on working families.

“We must continue to respond to the immediate needs of our field, while also rebuilding a stronger early care and education system for the future.”

 

— Excerpts from Strategies for Children’s testimony, submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, August 11, 2020

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Two national surveys on life during the pandemic are painting pictures of how parents and child care providers are coping.

One initial survey comes from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has “launched a new longitudinal study to understand how lack of childcare is affecting working parents” whose children are younger than six, a survey report explains.

The chamber has divided its findings into two categories: “(1) Common Experience, and (2) Childcare Equation and Returning to Work.”

Two of the “common experiences:” more parents are working remotely, and more children are staying at home – although race and class skew these findings. Remote work, for example, is “more commonly afforded to high-income (73%) and white (54%) parents. Comparatively, only 24% of low-income parents, 40% of Black parents, and 34% of Hispanic or Latino parents are working remotely.”

In the second category of findings — “Childcare Equation and Returning to Work” – the chamber has found substantial challenges.

Long before COVID-19, parents created their “Childcare Equation,” the report says, deciding how much child care they needed. Now, in the middle of the pandemic, “parents have been forced to drastically adjust their equation.” Parents have set up short-term, “unsustainable childcare arrangements,” and they wonder “if they will be able to return to work at all.” (more…)

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This is a guest blog by Strategies for Children intern Ryan Telingator. Ryan is entering his senior year at Bowdoin College. 

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Ryan Telingator

 

These past 10 weeks with Strategies for Children have been among the most fulfilling of my professional career. As a Government & Legal Studies and Education Coordinate major at Bowdoin College, I have always been interested in working in education policy and advocacy – the field where my interests and my coursework in political science, policy, and education intersect.

Before this summer, however, my conceptualization of this intersection was purely theoretical because my main experiences had been teaching and curriculum development.

Strategies for Children has introduced me to policy, advocacy, and governance in an immediate and accelerated way. On my first day at work in late May, Massachusetts was in the midst of providing emergency child care, and the number of coronavirus cases had climbed past 90,000, so I quickly began to learn about the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the nuances within Massachusetts’ child care sector. I also learned about the differences between family child care providers and center-based programs, and about how the Massachusetts child care field operated both pre-COVID and during COVID.

Every morning at 9:30, there were daily advocate check-ins on Zoom that added to my education. I had the unique and valuable opportunity to hear from experts with decades of experience. I learned a lot – from the intricate strategizing required to staff child care classrooms based on licensing ratios and COVID-informed health and safety protocols to the latest trauma-informed practices being used by early childhood educators – and I have continued to learn throughout my internship through osmosis. (more…)

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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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