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Archive for the ‘Diversity equity and inclusion’ Category

Massachusetts is a leader in educational excellence, but not for all its students.

As a new report – “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts” — from the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) explains, “for a long time now, our state’s high overall rankings have masked deep inequities in student learning experiences and outcomes.”

Strategies for Children is a MEEP member.

The disparities the report cites were bad before Covid hit, and many have been aggravated by the pandemic.

“In parts of Boston and cities like Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield, where infection and death rates were highest, the pandemic inflicted new levels of trauma and anxiety on families already facing significant adversity,” the report says.

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The new 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out. It’s the annual, Annie E. Casey Foundation report that takes a deep dive into how the nation’s children are doing.

This year, the data book points out that while the pandemic and widespread economic uncertainty have caused harm, there are also pockets of progress. 

This year’s report focuses on children’s mental health.

“As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children,” the foundation says of the pandemic’s impact. “During this same time span, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.”

This has “helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.”

Another challenge is racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties that have con­tributed to “dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races, and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey.”

In addition, “many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.”

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If workers’ salaries were based on the value they provide to society, Andre Green, the executive director of the local nonprofit SkillWorks writes in a new Boston Foundation report, “few people would make more than child-care workers, home care workers, and long-term care facility workers. Almost none of us will get through life without needing at least one of them.”

Unfortunately, care workers typically receive low salaries and limited appreciation.

The report – “Care Work in Massachusetts: A Call for Racial and Economic Justice for a Neglected Sector” — adds:

“Over centuries, policies driven by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have closed professional doorways and shunted many women of color, particularly immigrant women, into care work, where they contend with low wages, few benefits, and challenging working conditions. As this segment of our economy continues to grow, these issues will confront more and more workers until they are addressed.”

“Nothing made the importance—or precarity—of care work clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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“In this article, we aim to shed light on the race and parental status of the workers who were more likely to leave the ECE industry and how working conditions have changed for those who remain. These differences can help policymakers better understand the challenges facing the industry and how to best allocate a recent influx of federal funds for ECE.”

“We found that, compared with the pre-pandemic period:

• ECE teachers are less racially diverse and are less likely to be mothers of young and school-age children.
• Those who stayed in the ECE industry had higher health risks but only a small pay increase.
• None of these effects are found among K–8 teachers.”

“…at a time when there are unprecedented federal funds allocated to improve the ECE industry, prioritizing efforts to make the industry more career oriented could improve the outcomes of ECE teachers, the children attending centers and their families. As this funding runs out in the coming years, fundamental hurdles will remain as the ECE industry recovers from the pandemic.”

“Black Workers, Mothers Leaving Early Education and Child Care Jobs amid Health Risks, Low Pay,” by Anna Crockett and Xiaohan Zhang, The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, August 11, 2022

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We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here and here and here

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Anna Ricci-Mejia is an example of how multifaceted a Bostonian’s life can be. She grew up in Boston’s North End neighborhood. She’s an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers. Her parents immigrated to Boston from Italy. Her husband is from Central America. She speaks English and Italian. And in high school she learned to speak Spanish. 

When Ricci-Mejia heard about Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network, she was immediately interested. She wanted to speak up for people. In any of her three languages.

“I know a lot of people, especially undocumented immigrants, are afraid to speak up or even get quality childcare for their children. And I always say, it doesn’t matter what your immigration status is. Your kids have to learn, and they have to learn and socialize when they’re young, because if they don’t, it will be harder later on.”

In the classroom, Ricci-Mejia speaks whatever language children in her care respond to, creating the kind of supportive environment she didn’t have as a kid who went straight from her mother’s care into kindergarten. She didn’t speak English. Other kids teased her. But over time she learned this new language. 

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

In most of Massachusetts, full-day kindergarten classes are a free part of what local public schools provide.

But as our past intern Cheyanne Nichter found when she researched the issue, there are 38 school districts in Massachusetts that have charged tuition for full-day kindergarten during the last few years. Nichter’s work helped us develop a fact sheet on full-day kindergarten tuition costs.

Kindergarten enrollment, as the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education explains, “is encouraged but not required in Massachusetts. All school districts are required to provide free half day kindergarten to families but many provide a full day option (either free or tuition based).”

Charging tuition for kindergarten creates a financial burden for parents and an inequitable situation since the amounts parents pay vary by district.

In Acton-Boxborough, for example, kindergarten tuition was $4,500 in the 2019-2020 school year. There was no kindergarten program in 2020-2021. And the tuition for the current 2021-2022 year is $3,750.

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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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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:

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Photo: report screenshot

Both before the pandemic and now, child care providers of color have faced troubling and persistent racial inequities.

A new report – “Equity in Child Care is Everyone’s Business” — explores this challenge and proposes solutions. An accompanying policy brief is posted here.

Released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The Education Trust, a national nonprofit, the report is a chronicle of unfair economic realities.

“Amid the COVID-19 crisis, child care providers, many of whom are women of color, face funding challenges, safety and health concerns, and talent acquisition/professional development barriers,” the report says. “Several providers reported that racial and gender bias has posed challenges within their local business community, including feeling less supported than other businesses due to their race.”

Specific findings include:

• “In 2015, more than 1 in 6 female child care workers lived below the poverty line (that’s twice the poverty rate of female workers overall), and Black and Latina child care workers with children of their own were more than twice as likely to live below the poverty line”

• “59% of all home-based child care workers have household incomes below the national median, and this number is 75% for Black home-based child care workers,” and

• “Black early educators earn an average of 78 cents less per hour than their White counterparts, even when controlling for education level” (more…)

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