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Archive for the ‘Developmentally appropriate practice’ Category

Walk into a preschool classroom and it can look like all the children are fine. But to understand how children are doing and how they are doing over time, it’s crucial to use developmental screenings.

A recently released webinar and issue brief from the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley drives this point home.

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains on its website, developmental screenings help early educators and parents monitor whether children are meeting “the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving.”

In its brief, the United Way points to the need to act now:

“Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, developmental screening will be more important than ever to support mitigation of long-lasting developmental delays and social emotional concerns for young children.”

“Early research out of Brown University and New York city indicates developmental impacts on babies under six months of age who were born during the pandemic, specifically on fine motor, personal social and cognitive skills.”

The brief draws on the United Way’s developmental screening initiative, called DRIVE (short for Data & Resources Investing in Vital Early Education), which grew out of a partnership with the city of Boston.

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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.


Gloria Valentin head shot

Gloria Valentin

Send Gloria Valentin an email that mentions a family challenge you have to deal with, as I did, and the email you receive back will be a small, electronic packet of sunshine and reassurance.

“I have an optimistic personality,” Valentin says. “I want to bring joy in times when everything is so daunting. I have days, trust me, when I’m like, I’m not feeling it today. But I have that energy and that outlook of just being positive and not allowing things I can’t control to take over my life.”

Valentin has been a family child care provider for 22 years, but she talks about her work as if she just started last month, and she’s got a dozen new things she wants to do.

She began her career as an early educator at a center-based program, then opened up her own business. Today, she’s also involved in advocacy, and she has participated in Strategies for Children’s Speakers Bureau and our Advocacy Network

“The time that we spent together each week, was a time for us to find our voices, to practice public speaking, and to move forward as advocates,” Valentin says of her experience in the Advocacy Network, where she drew inspiration from other advocates who spoke about forming relationships with elected officials and following up with them.

“That really stood out for me, making those connections and being proud of the work I do and sharing it. Family child care is a hidden gem. 

“But the work can be isolating, so I want to make connections and let people in government know that we’re here and that our work is so important. We should be included in conversations about quality child care programs and financial accessibility.”

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A Caregiver’s Promise

by Ronald Ferguson

With my heart I will love you
And shield you from stress.
With my mouth I will speak what I feel.

With soft words and sweet songs every time I behold you

I’ll show you that my love is real.
With my fingers I’ll point at the objects I name
And I’ll count them in groups to compare.
With my feet I will take you outdoors to explore
While we play and enjoy the fresh air.
With my eyes I will read as I show you the world
Through bright pictures and stories in books.
These are ways to make sure that your brain is prepared

For successes wherever you look.
This my promise I make from the day of your birth
That these basics I’ll faithfully do.
For my job is to help you grow happy and smart
Starting now when your life is brand new.
You will learn that your life is an artwork.
And that you are the artist in charge.
But before you decide what to do with your life

Listen now
To the beat
Of my heart.

From the Boston Basics Campaign

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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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Next month, please join us for a movie night. 

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, Strategies for Children is co-hosting the virtual screening of “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America,” an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.

After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Massachusetts community members who are actively involved in early childhood – and viewers will get to see the premiere of a Massachusetts companion video.

Register here to see the event live at noon.

Or register here to see a recording of the event – with Spanish translation — that will be streamed at 6 p.m.

As its website explains, “Starting at Zero” explores “the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to attain the American Dream.”

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Center

Photo: Bruna Saito from Pexels

It’s time to tell a new story about early childhood development, but first a little bit about the old story.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician, has been explaining brain science to policymakers. Specifically, Shonkoff and his colleagues at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, have pointed to three crucial concepts:

• how children’s early experiences affect their “brain architecture”

• the importance of “serve and return” interactions between children and adults, and

• how “toxic stress” caused by poverty and other factors can impair health child development

“Over the past two decades, the ‘brain science story’ has made a powerful case for investing in the early childhood period,” the center explains on its website.

But it is current events – the pandemic and the renewed public focus on systemic racism – that have “intensified the demand for fresh thinking about the future of the early childhood field.”

So now, the center is rolling out a new way of thinking called Early Childhood Development 2.0. The goal is to spark “science-based innovation” that transforms early childhood policies and practices. Building on “the strong foundation” of brain architecture, serve and return, and toxic stress, the center is adding three new concepts: (more…)

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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welcoming

Photo: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

About 20 years ago, Wheelock College brought in trainers to teach a noncredit course for early educators called “Making Room in the Circle,” which covered how to welcome LGBTQ families into early childhood settings.

Some 50 early educators enrolled – and so did Wheelock professor Ellie Friedland along with other Boston area faculty. 

EllieFriedland

Ellie Friedland

“The idea was that Wheelock professors who took the course would then go on to teach a for-credit course for students,” Friedland says. 

“One of the stories I like to tell is that when I proposed the course to the faculty at Wheelock College, there were no questions. Everyone immediately said, of course.”

Friedland doesn’t teach the class on her own. 

“I’m straight and cisgender, so that’s something I use in various ways in my workshops. But I never teach the class alone; it has to be co-taught by someone who identifies as something other than straight.” 

“What we found was that there were always students who took the course because they were already immersed and active. And there were students who took the course because they didn’t know anything and felt the responsibility to learn. And there were students who took it because they were questioning their own identities. And for all students it was vital to have a professor they could identify with and feel comfortable with.” 

Today, Friedland is still a professor at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, and she is still sharing the importance of welcoming LGBTQ+ families, teaching classes, running workshops, and talking to Strategies for Children’s 9:30 callers. 

We asked Friedland what barriers early educators face in welcoming families. 

Her answer: “Fear.”  (more…)

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“Compared with K through 12 students, preschoolers are suspended at nearly 3 times the frequency of older students,” Molly Kaplan, the host of the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast, explains in a recent episode called, “How To End the Preschool to Prison Pipeline.”

The episode focuses on the racial and social inequities that even very young children must face.

To explore the issue, Kaplan interviews Rosemarie Allen, a School of Education professor at the State University of Denver.

As Allen’s faculty webpage explains, “Her life’s work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate… Her classes are focused on ensuring teachers are aware of how issues of equity, privilege, and power impact teaching practices.”

On the podcast, Allen describes the cascade of expulsions that young children can face.

“We’re finding that children as young as eight months old began to be suspended and expelled from their child care programs, usually for doing typical things that babies do, like crying or biting,” she says.

(more…)

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Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak

Hilary Peak graduated from Wilson College with a degree in environmental studies. But her original major was equestrian studies.

Peak loved horses.

Horses, however, didn’t seem like enough to build a career on, and after Peak graduated, jobs related to her environmental studies major were hard to come by, so, following a stint as a Five Guys manager, Peak decided to work with children.

Which led her back to horses.

Peak volunteered at therapeutic riding centers, including Shepard Meadows Equestrian Center in Bristol, Conn., where volunteers work with children and adults who have special needs, including autism, depression, and multiple sclerosis.

From there, Peak took a job with a private company as a play therapist. She traveled to different sites to work with children. And what she saw in this job were teachers who didn’t have enough knowledge about children with special needs. It was a gap that Peak believed she could fill. (more…)

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