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Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ Category

 

A few months before the pandemic hit, the University of Massachusetts Boston conducted a survey of the early education and care workforce.

The survey results are a pre-pandemic snapshot of a shaky situation that policymakers can use to understand the toll that the pandemic has taken on providers.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that early care and education is a key piece of infrastructure for the economy,” Anne Douglass, the executive director of UMass Boston’s Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation, says in a blog post. “Parents need early care and education options that are high quality and affordable because when child care isn’t available, parents can’t work.”

The institute released a report on the survey results along with UMass Boston’s Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy and its Center for Social Policy. The survey was commissioned by the Department of Early Education and Care.

One important lesson from the survey, Douglass says, is that “returning to pre-pandemic ways of doing business is not an option.” (more…)

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“It’s important to remember that before Covid, child care did not work in the United States…. I was part of a major study at New America, and it’s one many others have done, that really found that our child care — [that] we don’t really have a child care system. It’s a broken sort of patchwork that parents are expected to pay so much [for] out of pocket. It’s so much more expensive than most parents can afford. It’s very difficult to find quality child care. And the care educators and teachers, they’re earning poverty wages. About half of them earn so little that they qualify for public benefits like Medicaid and Food Stamps.”

“The other thing that’s just really startling is in surveys when people ask child care providers, How are you? Are you going to stay open? So many of them can’t. We are at risk of losing a million child care slots in an already broken system.”

 

“Why Women Are Disproportionately Impacted By The Pandemic Economy,” Brigid Schulte, Director of the Better Life Lab program and The Good Life Initiative at New America, on the Diane Rehm Show, WAMU Radio, December 1, 2020

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Photo: EVG Culture at Pexels

 

Last month, Governor Charlie Baker announced the launch of a COVID-19 rapid testing program for public school districts, charter schools, and other educational settings.

Unfortunately, Phase 1 of this program leaves out early education and care providers.

To address this omission, Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, has written a letter to the governor, which says in part:

We ask for equity and to be recognized and supported as essential infrastructure.”

Programs licensed by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) need rapid testing “to mitigate virus spread for children, families and staff” and “to remain sustainable and open.” But, despite months of advocacy, rapid testing requests from child care providers have gone “largely unanswered.”

Public radio station WBUR looked at the COVID-19 challenges that EEC programs face.

“As more people get COVID-19 across the state, it’s inevitable that cases will pop up in preschools and child care, despite health precautions such as wearing masks and rigorous cleaning,” WBUR reports.

“That’s what happened at Nurtury, which operates six centers and supports 130 family child care providers in Greater Boston. Since they reopened their facilities in July, they have had a few isolated cases of the coronavirus. The daily health screenings usually caught any potential cases before a child or caregiver came through the doors.

“But in late October, that changed… A teacher at one location had tested positive. At a different location, a parent had COVID-19. A third site: another positive teacher.” (more…)

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“COVID-19 revealed to the entire country what the early education and care field has known for years: Childcare is the backbone of our economy,” a new report says.

Unfortunately, that backbone is badly broken.

The report – “Boston’s Child-Care Supply Crisis: What a Pandemic Reveals” – was released by The Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Boston Birth to Eight Collaborative. The report’s findings were shared this week in a webinar that included Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. A recording of the webinar is posted here.

The report highlights Boston’s shrinking supply of child care, a decrease that began long before the pandemic. Between 2017 and March 2020, the city “experienced a net loss of 3 percent of its licensed child-care seats for children 0–5 years old,” the report says. This loss worse in individual neighborhoods, including a 14 percent loss in Dorchester and a 15 percent loss in East Boston.

Add the pandemic in, and this loss is staggering. “Between December 2017 and September 2020, the loss at the city level was estimated at 16 percent.” At the neighborhood level, “East Boston, Dorchester, Hyde Park and Roxbury lost, respectively, 33.5 percent, 24 percent, 18 percent, and 17 percent in that period.” (more…)

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Here at Strategies for Children, interns are an important part of the work we do. Interns help us with advocacy, research, and social media. And they ask important questions and contribute new ideas, enabling us to expand our reach.

Currently, we have three interns whom we’re happy to introduce: Teresia Kiragu, Nicole Simonson, and Abigail Usherwood. Here’s a little more about each of them.

 

Teresia Kiragu

I am currently a student at Bunker Hill Community College, enrolled in the Business Management program. I chose this course because I have a vision that one day, I will open a non-governmental organization to help children who are vulnerable and give them an opportunity to get a strong education. I’m originally from Kenya, where I worked for an organization that helps under-resourced communities. While working in this organization, I saw a lot of children who are desperately in need; nonetheless, they have the right to be raised well and become contributing members of the society.

During my time at Strategies, I have learned how the Massachusetts state budget distributes funds to schools. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

It has been a turbulent year for state budget proceedings in Massachusetts. The fiscal year 2021 budget has been delayed since July due to the pandemic. Instead of a full budget for the entire year, the state has passed monthly budgets which essentially extend the fiscal year 2020 budget one month at a time. There was also a supplemental budget for the FY20 fiscal year, which Governor Baker signed on July 24, 2020. That budget included critical funding related to COVID-19 relief for early education and care, including $45.6 million in federal CARES Act funding used for child care reopening grants.

In October, Governor Baker released his revised FY21 budget proposal, which he had originally released in January. This budget preserved and increased funding for early education and care, while also proposing a new Early Education COVID Recovery Fund.

Now in November, the FY21 budget is rapidly coming together. The House passed its budget last week; it contains much needed funding for early education and care, including a $20 million rate increase for early educators and $10 million for a reserve to reduce fees for parents enrolling in subsidized child care. The House budget also earmarks up to $50 million in the two child care access accounts for COVID-related child care stabilization funding and incentive pay for early educators.

House Budget: H.5150

Executive Summary

House Amendments, Consolidated Amendment A

(more…)

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The big picture: Child care is denting the workforce, preventing a huge swath of Americans from contributing to their firms and to the economy at large. To chip away at the problem, and protect their bottom lines, employers are bulking up child care benefits for workers.

By the numbers:

• Working parents — who make up about a third of the U.S. workforce — are losing an average of eight hours per week due to child care responsibilities during the pandemic, per Northeastern University research.

• Even before the pandemic, inadequate child care was costing working parents $37 billion a year in lost income and employers $13 billion a year in lost productivity, according to Care.com’s data.

What’s happening: Companies across states and industries are bolstering existing benefits and adding new, creative ones to help their employees with kids.

New services: Citigroup is offering discounted test prep and tutoring to employees with school-age kids, reports Fortune.

Making connections: Home Depot and Dell have established support groups for working parents to swap tips or just vent.

Good, old cash: Many working parents are saying the best benefit is simply money, which gives them the flexibility to seek out the specific type of child care that makes sense for them. Bank of America and Deloitte, among other firms, are offering up to $100 a day in child care reimbursements during the pandemic.”

 

“The business case for child care,” by Erica Pandey, Axios, November 10, 2020

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There’s a new mental health resource for parents who are worried about their children, Handhold.

“You know your child better than anyone. But even you have a few questions,” Handhold says on its website, which helps parents find mental health programs for their children.

This is a particularly important resource now, as families grapple with the global pandemic. As Handhold explains:

“COVID-19 is putting incredible pressure on families. You might be noticing your child is struggling in new ways, or that old problems are getting worse. Should you worry about your child’s behavioral health? We’re here to help you figure that out.”

The website – organized by three state agencies: the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services – draws on community insights:

“Family partners and parents of kids with similar experiences to yours told us what they wished they had known earlier in their journey. Mental health experts, including child psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists, selected the most relevant and useful resources.” (more…)

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Photo: Tatiana Syrikova from Pexels

 

This year, the Early Education and Out of School Time (EEOST) Capital Fund is focusing on helping EEOST programs cope with the demands of keeping children healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Created in 2013, the fund distributes grants to “finance new construction and renovation” projects that can include classrooms, restrooms, buildings, and outdoor spacesThe fund is administered by the Children’s Investment Fund, an affiliate of the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), and by the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Now, the fund, “will award grants between $100,000 and $250,000… for capital improvements related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.” The grants are smaller than usual so that more programs will benefit.

“We know that child care providers are facing tremendous strain because of the COVID pandemic. Many are modifying their spaces to continue to provide early education services to families safely,” the fund says in a blog post. “Being able to have the flexibility to use the resources available through the EEOST Capital Fund to meet their needs and strengthen the Commonwealth’s childcare infrastructure is important, as many families rely on child care to return to work.” (more…)

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“While we have made progress in Massachusetts, we know that Covid… has highlighted so many of the inequities in so many systems, and it has also raised broad, concrete awareness of how integral early education and care is to our economy, to the well-being of children and families, and really to the future of our commonwealth.”

– Amy O’Leary, Director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children

 

“We actually have to figure out how much [child care] we need. We haven’t had an honest evaluation of what’s needed in the country, and then, what is that going to cost? And then we have to figure out who is going to pay for it. Because we have programs right now where the cost to produce a quality program for children costs more than our parents can afford to pay… who’s going to pay [to fill] that gap is what we as a nation have yet to figure out.”

– Linda Smith, Director of the Early Childhood Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center

 

“What’s At Stake In The 2020 Election For Massachusetts: Early Education And Childcare,” WBUR Radio, October 27, 2020

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