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Screenshot: Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation report

“The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation released a report on Thursday that outlines the detrimental impacts the childcare shortage is having on the state’s economy. Among the eye-popping stats: Inadequate childcare cost businesses in Massachusetts an estimated $97 million a month last summer and fall, or more than $1 billion a year — largely because of employees who have left jobs to care for their kids and the disruption that turnover caused.”

“Massachusetts has the most expensive childcare costs of any state in the US — an average of roughly $21,000 per slot, for infants, and $15,000 for toddlers — so employers recognized this was an issue even before the pandemic.

“However, Eastern Bank chief executive Bob Rivers said the pandemic drove home the problem for executives. Rivers said he worries about the impact on the state’s competitiveness, particularly given the high cost of housing here, too. He began building a coalition to address the issue in 2019, but gained far more traction among other companies after the pandemic hit. By the time Eastern Bank’s foundation launched the Massachusetts Business Coalition for Early Childhood Education in February 2021, more than 70 employers were on board.

“ ‘When the pandemic hit, and the childcare system was obliterated, all of a sudden it’s like “Oh yeah, it’s a real issue,” ’ Rivers said.”

“It’s not just about public policy. Rivers said he hopes the new report will help spur private-sector employers to improve their childcare benefits.”

“ ‘Businesses are starting to learn from each other,’ Rivers said. ‘We can’t just look to government to solve all this entirely.’ ”

“The bill to companies for ‘inadequate’ daycare in Mass.: $1 billion-plus a year,” by Jon Chesto, The Boston Globe, April 28, 2022

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Photo: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

What happens when a foster parent learns about an early learning center that’s willing to try a new approach?

Progress.

That’s the story Kate Audette tells about a child placed in her care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state’s child welfare agency.

It was 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and after George Floyd was murdered, when Audette, who has been a licensed foster care provider since 2017, accepted the placement of an infant whom we’ll call Jordan to protect the child’s privacy. 

Audette was working from home at the time and planned to keep the baby home “until it felt safe for them to go to school.”

But she did take the baby to a neighborhood rally in support of George Floyd. The event was organized by Dorchester People for Peace. It was outside. Everyone wore masks. It felt safe.

It also turned out to be life changing.

(more…)

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Screenshot: National Women’s Law Center report

The pandemic is receding, but its effects have taken a dire economic toll on women, a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) explains.

The report — Resilient But Not Recovered: After Two Years of the COVID-19 Crisis, Women Are Still Struggling — draws on polling data and on “federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau… to reveal how women are really faring at work and in their lives after two years of a punishing pandemic,” NWLC says on its website

The results are grim. Women – especially women of color – have experienced more job loss than men, and they are earning lower wages than men.

The report’s specific findings include:

• “more than two-thirds of the net jobs lost since the pandemic began are women’s jobs”

• “while men have returned to their pre-pandemic labor force size, over 1.1 million fewer women are in the labor force today than in February of 2020”

• “Latinas’ unemployment rate was still 4.8 percent in February 2022, 1.6 times the rate for white men (3.0 percent)”

• “Black women’s unemployment was still 6.1 percent in February 2022, more than double the rate for white men (3.0 percent) and more than a full percentage point above Black women’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate in February 2020 (4.8 percent),” and

• “58 percent of women overall—including 75 percent of women who lost or quit a job during the pandemic, and 63 percent of women in low-paid jobs—said that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health”

The child care profession has also been hit hard, losing “one in nine jobs (11.7%)” since the start of the pandemic.

The report also includes women’s voices, among them:

(more…)

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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


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Huong Vu

Huong Vu is a family engagement counselor at Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester – which is one way of saying she does a little bit of everything. She supports families in the Boys and Girls Club as well as families in the community. 

“We offer a free play group, a parent support group, and family engagement events,” she says of programs for families with young children, “and home visits and developmental screening.”

“Most of the families that we work with are low income or immigrants. English is not their first language. We work with families who speak Vietnamese, Spanish, Cape Verdean, and Haitian Creole. And they are not just from Dorchester, they’re from all across Boston.”

It’s work that has given Vu a great perspective on families and that makes her a great participant in Strategy for Children’s Advocacy Network, a year-long advocacy experience for early educators and emerging leaders.

One thing Vu has learned: “I didn’t know that I was already an advocate,” she says. “Every day, when it comes to work, my hope is that I can make small changes in families’ lives. Maybe I can connect them to a food program, or I can refer a child to an intervention program.

(more…)

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April 6, 2022

Dear President Biden:

“We write to thank you for your commitment to cutting the cost and increasing the supply of high-quality child care for families across the country.”

“As you know, the high costs of child care and the difficulty of finding quality, affordable child care are challenges facing too many families across the country. The annual price of center-based child care for an infant exceeds the annual cost of in-state tuition at a public four-year university in every region of the country. In addition to overwhelming costs, approximately 460,000 families are without reliable child care because the child care sector has lost over 1 in 9 jobs since the start of the pandemic.”

“Now is the time to make additional comprehensive, long-term investments in affordable, high-quality child care to build on the critical but largely short-term investments made through the American Rescue Plan.”

“It is clear that child care and early learning investments are an integral part of our nation’s strategy for supporting a robust economy, lowering costs for families, and ensuring the long-term success of our children.”

Sincerely,
Katherine M. Clark, Member of Congress
Elizabeth Warren, United States Senator
Tina Smith, United States Senator
[And 150 other Members of the U.S. House and Senate]

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state house

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Today the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released its $49.6 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

For early education and care, this budget includes several key provisions:

• $60 million in a salary rate reserve for providers who accept child care subsidies (line item 3000-1042). This line item also includes an additional $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare, a new initiative.

• $5 million for navigation support and outreach to families, including language continuing EEC’s recent policy of paying subsidies based on child enrollment instead of attendance (part of line item 3000-1000). 

• Increases for: Access Management (3000-2000, for resource and referral agencies); Head Start (3000-5000); and Workforce Development (3000-7066)

• Level funding for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (3000-6025) and early childhood mental health (3000-6075).

In total, the House budget proposal provides $91 million more for early education and care than the FY23 budget proposal that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

(more…)

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Please come to the Common Start Coalition’s rally – and support proposed legislation to build a stronger system of early education and care in Massachusetts!

The rally is being held this Saturday, April 9, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Command.

“Learn how you can get involved to help create a more equitable childcare and early education system,” the coalition says on its Facebook page.

As we’ve blogged, the coalition — a statewide group of advocates and organizations, including Strategies for Children — supports a bill known as The Common Start Legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and care in Massachusetts.

(more…)

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Ever feel like you would enjoy having inspiring, high-powered friends who believe fiercely in high-quality early education and care?

Look no further than U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) and the advocates and leaders from the field who testified last week at a special hearing on child care held by the Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP).

The video and testimony transcripts are posted here.

Murray opened the proceedings with a smart, sweeping, we-have-got-to-do-better speech.

The economy, she said, “isn’t just about numbers on a page and whether they go up or down. It’s about people across the country and whether they can get what they need, whether they can take care of their loved ones, and whether things are working for them and their families.”

And one thing families – and the economy – need is child care.

“So in short,” Murray added, “we’ve got an affordability problem, child care shouldn’t be an extra mortgage; a wages problem, child care workers are leaving the field for higher paying work; and an options problem, there just aren’t enough providers… This is not just terrible for parents and kids, but for our economy as a whole.”

(more…)

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Happy second anniversary to The 9:30 Call

After the pandemic hit, Strategies for Children set up the 9:30 Call on Zoom as a fast, easy way for the early education field to share, well, everything, from government updates to coping strategies to fears.

Over time, the list of 9:30 Call attendees grew. Guest speakers logged on, including former Commissioner of Early Education and Care Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, State Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), and State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

Even better, members of the early education and care field from across Massachusetts could talk to each other every morning.

Last week, participants on the 9:30 Call talked about – drumroll — the 9:30 Call, producing a word cloud that sums up the amazing power of connecting through conversations.

Now even as the pandemic wanes (hopefully), the 9:30 call will continue. Sign up here to join us, Monday through Thursday every week at, yes, 9:30 a.m.

As we’ve discovered there’s so much that meaningful conversations can accomplish.

So, here’s to another year of calls and to making daily connections with the inspiring and resilient early education and care community here in Massachusetts.

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Screenshot: Website of the 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Looking for excitement?

You might not think you’d find it in a fiscal year 2023 budget meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

But here’s the exciting part: Massachusetts is on the edge of greatness. This state could make wise, strategic investments in early education and care that could lead to powerful change. Residents of every city and town could have access to affordable, world class preschool programs that help young children thrive and grow into successful adults.

“This will take time,” Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director, said in her testimony to the joint committee.

It will also take visionary action.

Fortunately, Massachusetts has a blueprint for action, the final report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which explains that “Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families.” 

There is a huge need for progress. As O’Leary explains in her testimony: 

(more…)

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