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Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ Category

Amy O’Leary

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, was on Boston Public Radio yesterday talking about the high cost of child care.

Here are some excerpts of what she said:

“One of the things we have learned in the pandemic is we really saw what parent choice looks like. What has typically been a very personal decision, feeling that you’re on your own trying to navigate the bureaucracies really came to light [because] parents were more willing to talk to their employers about what was happening in reality in their homes.”

“We also saw flexibility from the government. So many of our policies are very rigid and have a lot of hoops to jump through for families,” O’Lear says, explaining how the pandemic has changed things. “Suddenly, we’re relaxed because the connection between early education and care programs, and our economy was so clear, even though we’ve had research and data and reports for decades… that tell us how critical early childhood is to brain development and supporting children in the earliest years.”

“We saw policy change pretty dramatically. And I think that has set the stage for what we think about for the future.”

However, O’Leary says, funding will be essential.

“I don’t know many young families who can afford $21,000 for their baby to go to child care.”

“We can’t one-time fund our way out of this decades-long crisis. We really have to think about sustainable, strategic funding and policies.”

To hear more, tune in!

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The state budget process for fiscal year 2023 is entering its final stages. A six-member conference committee of legislators is meeting now to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That is the difference between House and Senate proposals, including $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal as well as $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget. Specifically, this email says:

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On Friday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed a new law into effect that helps parents who work nights.

 The First Responders Child Care Act calls for Illinois’ Department of Human Services to award grants to licensed child care facilities so they can create “off hours, night, or sleep time child care for first responders and third shift workers.”

“By creating the Off-hours Child Care Program Fund, Illinois is working to increase accessibility for parents in public service who work non-traditional hours,” State Senator Suzy Glowiak Hilton, who filed the bill, says.

(more…)

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee released its $49.68 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

This budget includes several key provisions for early education and care, which are outlined in Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues’ executive summary.

Highlights include:

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, a previously, federally-funded program that has helped stabilize the early education and care field during the pandemic

• $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape

• $25 million in a rate increase for early educators, and

• $15 million for preschool expansion through the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative.

The Boston Globe covers the budget story here. And MassLive covers it here.

Visit our website to see comparisons of budget line items over time, including the FY23 House budget.

While the Senate budget would allocate more early education and care funding overall than the House budget, most notably through C3 grants, the Senate’s proposal differs from the House’s in a few ways. The Senate budget calls for a smaller sized rate increase and does not fund the workforce development initiative (which is allotted $10 million in the House budget).

Senators have until 1 p.m. on Friday, May 13, 2022, to file budget amendments, and they will begin debating these amendments on May 24.

Join the 9:30 Call tomorrow, Thursday, May 12, 2022, (at, yes, 9:30 a.m.) to hear a budget update from Ashley White, senior policy researcher at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Click here to get more information and Zoom link.

If you have questions or need additional information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org.

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Screenshot: Community Change Action website

On Monday, May 9, 2022, “child care providers, parents, and families across the country are hosting A Day Without Child Care: A National Day of Action.”

It’s a one-day initiative to support:

• living wages for child care providers

• an equitable child care system built on racial justice, and

• affordable child care for all families

As the initiative’s website explains, “For generations, we have been fighting for equitable access to affordable child care and better pay and working conditions for providers but our needs are still not being met.”

The pandemic has also boosted public awareness about the importance of child care, but the country has not yet invested in building a better early education and care system.

To highlight these unmet needs, some providers are choosing to participate in this day of action by closing for the day or by opening late. Other providers will stay open and raise awareness. Massachusetts providers can share their plans by filling out this form.

As the National Day of Action website says: 

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Screenshot: Strategies for Children website

As the pandemic recedes, all of us at Strategies for Children are looking forward to building on the country’s deeper understanding of how important early education and care is for children, parents, and the economy. As we do this work, we’re happy to be joined by new colleagues.

As Amy O’Leary, Strategies executive director says, “We are excited to grow our team and build our capacity to achieve our mission.”

Here’s more information about our newest staff members.

*

Diagneris “Nery” García is the new director of communications for Strategies for Children. She is leading the charge on internal and external communications to promote our mission, values, and priorities. Her goal is to raise awareness and amplify the diverse voices that support policy and advocacy for accessible, high-quality early education and care programs that enroll children from birth to age 5 across Massachusetts. In her work, Nery will leverage existing tools for sharing information and engaging the field and the public, collaborate with our team and with our partners, and create new intentional and inclusive strategies.

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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.

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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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