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Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

How, specifically, can the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – a federal COVID-19 relief package — help child care?

Here are some new, national tools and reports that have good answers.

Infants and toddlers: Get details on the opportunities for infants and toddlers on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at noon, when the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center will host a webinar. The policy impact center has also released a research brief that says in part: “The American Rescue Plan represents an unprecedented increase in funding for programs that improve the lives of families with young children. From the expanded child tax credit to economic stimulus payments and billions more in child care funding, this law provides a buffer for families, workers, caregivers, and child-serving organizations during an economic and public health emergency.”

The brief also explains how the American Rescue Plan ties into the impact center’s early childhood policy roadmap, which we blogged about here. The impact center is based at the University of Texas Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Fixing child care – and making it stronger than before: Last year, Opportunities Exchange, an early childhood nonprofit, published Louise Stoney’s article, “REINVENT vs. REBUILD: Let’s Fix the Child Care System.” Stoney, the co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, writes about the financial instability that early education and care programs have faced both before and during the pandemic. Stoney also recommends a “Child Care Come-Back Plan” that federal Covid funds could support. This plan explains how “public and private sector leaders” can “effectively lead a child care come-back effort” that includes provider-based technology, business coaching, and new rate setting strategies. (more…)

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“Over this past year, the devastating toll of the pandemic has underscored the critical importance of connecting what science is telling us to the lived experiences of people and communities.”

“Now, a year later, early childhood policies and services are at a critical inflection point—and the need to build a stronger ecosystem has never been more compelling. Longstanding concerns about fragile infrastructure and chronic funding constraints have been laid bare.”

“The science of early childhood development (and its underlying biology) continues to advance, and tenuous ‘systems’ that were in place to support families before the pandemic began need to be rethought, not just rebuilt. Early childhood policy must be about the foundations of both lifelong health and readiness to succeed in school. The reconstruction of a more robust ecosystem that forges stronger connections at the community level among primary health care (both physical and mental), early care and education, social services, child welfare, and financial supports is essential.”

“Re-Envisioning, Not Just Rebuilding: Looking Ahead to a Post-COVID-19 World,” by Jack P. Shonkoff, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University, March 10 2021

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Photo: Gagan Kaur, from Pexels

We are thrilled that Congress has passed and President Joseph Biden has signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

This new funding will spread much needed aid across the country, and it includes $39 billion to rebuild child care. 

According to estimates, Massachusetts will receive an additional $510 million for child care. This investment is critical for stabilizing the state’s early education and care system.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) “plans to use the federal stimulus funds as part of a larger set of grants to child care providers to ensure the viability of the industry, while also fostering innovation across the field to meet the evolving needs of working families and employers through COVID recovery period,” the department explains in its stimulus funds document.

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“The COVID-19 pandemic helped expose how critical reliable child care is to working parents. Now many employers are trying to figure out how to incorporate child care help into benefits plans, says Alyssa Johnson, the vice president of global client management at Care.com.

” ‘This past year we saw employers had literally a front row seat into the homes and lives of their employees and the challenges that many of us with small children and children at home are facing,’ said Johnson told 3 On Your Side. ‘As a result, there’s really been a fundamental shift in seeing the whole person at work, not just the worker.’

“According to the company’s survey of hundreds of HR leaders:

• 98% plan to expand benefits, and for half, child care benefits are a priority
• 82% say their organizations have become more aware of the care challenges their employees are facing during the pandemic
• 64% report high attrition rates, with employees almost always citing child care concerns as a major factor
• 50% believe the positive impacts outweigh the added cost of child care benefits”

“More employers are looking to help working parents with child care,” Susan Campbell, azfamily.com, March 2, 2021

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Photo: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

 

Starting tomorrow – Thursday, March 11, 2021 – early educators, out-of-school-time teachers, and K-12 teachers can start signing up for vaccine appointments.

Visit Massachusetts’ COVID-19 website today and develop a plan to sign you or your colleagues up for your appointments.

A state map of vaccine sites is posted here.

Have questions? The state has posted answers to frequently asked questions by educators. Here are two important queries:

Will there be special vaccination clinics for this group?

The COVID-19 Command Center will designate specific days at the seven mass vaccination sites for K-12 and childcare workers to get their shots. More details will be released soon. 

How long will it take to get an appointment?

Vaccine supply continues to be extremely limited in Massachusetts. Therefore, it may take weeks for an appointment to become available.

In other words, when signing up for a vaccine, try to be both persistent and patient.

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Much needed federal relief for the child care sector is on its way to states. And President Joseph Biden says the investment could cut child poverty in half.

Last week, President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was approved by the Senate. The House is expected to vote on the measure by Wednesday morning at the latest.

The plan, which provides sweeping support for COVID-19 recovery, “offers a bold investment in child care relief, finally delivering on the promise of a total of at least $50 billion in direct relief funding,” according to the national nonprofit CLASP (The Center for Law and Social Policy).

 

 

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“What I hope is that we will hang on to some of the lessons we’ve learned, which is one very simple one – that early care and education is absolutely central to family life and to a functioning economy.”

— Stephanie Jones, co-director of the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, on the Codcast, CommonWealth Magazine, March 1, 2021

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Photo: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

 

There’s great news for the field.

Starting next week, on Thursday, March 11, early education and care providers and out-of-school-time educators can start scheduling their COVID-19 vaccines.

“Educators, assistants, and associated staff supporting in-person work with children will join the currently eligible groups,” Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care explains in an email.

“Early education and care educators and providers will be able to book appointments at all 170 sites currently open to eligible residents in Massachusetts and the Command Center will work on a plan to designate a limited number of days at the mass vaccination sites for educators specifically.”

One caveat: the supply of vaccine doses from the federal government is low, so “it is estimated that it will take up to one month for all eligible individuals to secure a first appointment. This timeframe is only subject to change if federal supply increases dramatically.”

The commissioner also has these answers to frequently asked questions:

• Saturday appointments will be a scheduling option

• eligibility will be verified through a self-attestation form completed by the person receiving the vaccination

• this eligibility only covers those who work directly with children and families; relatives of family child care providers can receive vaccines if they belong to other eligible groups

EEC will provide more information as they receive it, communicating directly with the field.

Aigner-Treworgy encourages anyone with questions about the vaccine and its safety, to check out these resources provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

To learn more, please read this press release from Governor Charlie Baker’s office and this article from the Boston Globe.

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How have families been doing during the pandemic?

NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) used a national survey to find out.

“The pandemic has dealt a one-two punch to the nation’s young children, decreasing opportunities to learn in preschool programs while sapping parents’ capacity to support learning at home,” W. Steven Barnett says in a news release. Barnett is NIEER’s senior co-director and founder and an author of the survey report.

The survey results were collected in December 2020 “from a nationally representative sample of one thousand and one parents of children age three to five.” This builds on a previous survey that NIEER conducted last spring.

“Overall, we found the pandemic resulted in significant loss of important learning opportunities for young children through the fall into December,” NIEER says in a press release.

“Participation in preschool programs declined sharply from pre-pandemic levels. Although most who attended preschool programs did so in-person, this was not true for young children in poverty who had less than 1/3 the access to in-person education of children in higher income families.” (more…)

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Screenshot of a report from the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation at the University of Massachusetts Boston and Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing

 

Faced with the devastation caused by the pandemic, the early childhood community has been asking how it can rebuild and become stronger than ever.

To facilitate this work, the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (IEELI) at the University of Massachusetts Boston hosted a series of webinars last summer.

The webinars – “Reinventing Child Care in Massachusetts” – drew more than 700 early childhood professionals and other stakeholders who shared ideas for building an early childhood system that would be:

• high-quality

• accessible to all families

• able to provide professional compensation to educators based on their skill and experience

• able to offer professional and leadership development, and

• active in addressing racial inequities

Once the series was done, IEELI teamed up with Networks of Opportunity for Child Wellbeing (NOW), part of Boston Medical Center’s Vital Village Networks, and the two organizations ran an Action Lab 90 Day Challenge.

The 90 Day Challenge is a tool that Vital Village Networks uses to promote “social connections, cooperative development of social innovations (co-design), team-based iterative learning, and collective actions by using an equity framework.” (more…)

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