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Archive for the ‘Early educators’ Category

The Early Childhood Agenda is making progress. This convening series hosted by Strategies for Children has brought together more than 400 individual advocates and partners. Participants have been meeting in five working groups to identify systemic challenges and set priorities.

Last week, participants attended a whole group meeting – dubbed “Bringing it all Together” and recorded in the video above – to talk across the Agenda’s working groups and ensure that the groups’ efforts are aligned and that any gaps in the work are addressed.

Among the themes that were discussed:

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Great news! Early education and care got a financial boost earlier this month when Governor Charlie Baker signed a $3.76 billion economic development bill into law.

As our FY’23 budget webpage explains, this investment includes “an additional $150 million to continue the C3 Stabilization Grants through the end of the fiscal year in June 2023, and an additional $315 million in the newly created High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Fund.”

We are grateful to the Legislature for passing this bill and to the governor for signing it.

In a State House News story that ran in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Baker says Massachusetts can invest in child care and be fiscally prudent:

“Recognizing the importance of childcare investments, I am approving sections in this bill that redirect $315 million from the Commonwealth Taxpayer Relief Fund to the High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund. However, we can invest in childcare and make sensible tax changes at the same time. With the state in a historically strong fiscal position, the tax cuts that the Legislature has committed to prioritizing next session will be affordable without a special set-aside.”

A WBUR report focuses on the relief for some workers, noting:

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“My name is Gillian Budine. I have been a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grant program coordinator for many years, including during the Community Partnership and Family Network days. Locally we call our CFCE program the Community Network for Children (CNC) Program and our priority communities are Erving, Leverett, New Salem, Shutesbury and Wendell, but our programs reach families beyond those five towns to neighboring towns with our CFCE programming.”

“CFCE programs have been a crucial hub of support and resources for families. Especially in our small rural communities.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 6, November 8, 2022

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What parents said:

“Working with CNC has been incredible throughout the time we have been involved, from last trimester of pregnancy to current days of our daughter being 1. Our daughter has learned so much and is quite advanced as a result of this program and what it offers.”

“My son and I have been attending CNC programs since he was a few months old. He now has such a fondness for music and stories. During the pandemic, we have been so grateful to have a safe, welcoming environment to attend, learn, and grow. Without the CNC programs, my son would not have had the opportunity at his young age to listen to live guitar, [engage in] singing as a group, read alouds, and exploration. Thank you for this incredible opportunity!”

“Our playgroups in Shutesbury and Erving have been of utmost importance in maintaining social connections and parental support throughout the pandemic, especially during the winter months. We have appreciated the efforts of all staff involved in planning, coordinating, and implementing these groups. My daughter lights up with excitement to see Ms. Katie play guitar and sing songs. She practices social skills of waving and taking turns when with her peers. She’s developed a sense of pride and independence when giving supplies back to Ms. Gillian to help clean up. To see other parents has also helped give me support and comfort during these times of being in isolation throughout the cold months.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 7, November 8, 2022

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Playing outside is a source of joy for children — and an opportunity for early educators to teach amazing lessons.

But many early childhood programs don’t have the information and resources they need to build engaging outdoor play spaces.

A policy brief from New America — Rethinking Outdoor Space for High-Quality Early Learning –addresses this by sharing the many options for creating an engaging “outdoor learning environment” or OLE.

The brief starts with a story about butterflies:

“Tiny monarch caterpillars arrived at the school, not floating through the air, but with the thud of a package on concrete.

“Our postal carrier had no idea how many lessons were going to emerge from that box for the prekindergartners at our public school in Washington, DC. First, we created a mesh net habitat and placed it in the tiny side yard of our concrete school building, which is just a few feet from a busy street known for nightlife, not nature. Within a day, the caterpillars doubled in size and the students watched, fascinated, commenting on the bite marks in the plants and listening closely for crunching.

“Over the next four weeks, children took turns watering the plants in the garden beds and tore off leaves to place in the mesh cage for the very hungry caterpillars.”

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“On Tuesday, New Mexico became the first state in the nation to create a permanent fund for child care. More than 70 percent of New Mexicans agreed to amend the state constitution and spend about $150 million a year on early learning. The next morning, providers from across the country gathered on a Zoom call to celebrate.

“Many wiped away tears as an advocate relayed the news: The fund would make child care more affordable for hundreds of thousands of families, and workers would finally win the wage increases they’d long needed.

“ ‘I’m emotional right now,’ Ivydel Natachu said. She works with 3-year-olds at a preschool in Albuquerque, and she’d spent years advocating with the nonprofit organization Olé to create the fund. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the 52-year-old earned only $10 an hour. But the state’s leaders had funneled federal relief into temporary raises, and Natachu’s pay had risen to $15 an hour.

“ ‘And now I’m starting to save money,’ she told the group of about 50 providers on the Zoom call. ‘I’m saving money to buy a house. That’s my personal goal. With the constitutional amendment passing, I think my dream’s going to come true.’ ”

Only some of the providers who’d logged on that morning were from New Mexico, but nearly everyone cheered. Tuesday’s victory wasn’t just a win for New Mexico, many said. It was a road map.”

“As Natachu finished speaking, providers from Minnesota, Ohio and California said they felt energized. New Mexico had long been ranked one of the country’s worst states for child well-being, and activists there had faced a decade of opposition. If they could turn it around, couldn’t anyone?”

“In N.M. child-care funding win, providers nationwide see road map,” by Casey Parks, The Washington Post, November 10, 2022

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This past summer, Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child “welcomed Lindsey Burghardt, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, as our Chief Science Officer.” Dr. Burghardt “leads our efforts to translate the science of early childhood—particularly the science behind ECD 2.0—for key audiences in the health sector, from policymakers to pediatricians. As a practicing pediatrician herself, Dr. Burghardt brings a clinician’s perspective to this work.

“In recognition of Children’s Health Month, Dr. Burghardt shares her thoughts on the importance of understanding and supporting sound mental health, particularly for our youngest children.

“Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to tremendous challenges for both children and caregivers, including an increase in mental health issues and a lack of access to providers who can help. As a pediatrician, what are some of the issues you have been seeing in your own practice on this front?

“A: ​There have been so many strains on caregivers during the pandemic. In particular, many working families have struggled to maintain access to consistent, high-quality childcare, which puts incredible stress on both caregivers and young children. The childcare environment is so important for children’s healthy development—their relationships with immediate caregivers matter a great deal, but so do their relationships with providers in early care and education, as well as with other adults in their communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put significant stress on an already strained system, with a shortage of providers and limited options for parents to balance caring for their children and working to maintain their income. I’ve heard from many caregivers that they are experiencing significant stress, and in some cases job insecurity, due to the lack of consistent childcare. For caregivers who work nontraditional hours such as overnight shiftwork, or for those who care for multiple children, the stresses can be even greater. I’ve also observed increases in behavioral challenges and anxiety, including among young children.

“Q: Amidst all these challenges, how can caregivers and providers help create environments that foster strong mental health for babies and toddlers in a post-COVID world?

“A: The role of caregivers and providers is critical in fostering good mental health, so we must support the needs of the adults who care for children, through both individual and systems level approaches. When we support adults directly and tackle the systemic inequities that challenge families and providers, we help ensure that children can develop in health-promoting environments.”

“Children’s Health Month: The Importance of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health,” Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, October 2022

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Last week was the kickoff of The Early Childhood Agenda, a brand new effort to develop a broadly inclusive agenda of early childhood policy priorities. So far, nearly 400 parents, providers, and partners have signed up to be part of this effort. To join them, click here.

The Agenda, as its new website explains, “takes a whole-child approach, working across sectors for better policy development and to identify effective solutions that may not be visible from one sector’s viewpoint.”

The Agenda’s goal is to help Massachusetts make historic and sustainable progress.

Missed the kickoff event? You can watch it by clicking on the video posted above. Related materials are posted here.

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Last week, Strategies for Children hosted an open house event for the Early Childhood Agenda, our exciting new, initiative to build a consensus on early childhood needs in Massachusetts by connecting organizations, parents, advocates, businesses, educators, providers, and government representatives.

Did you miss it? No problem. Just watch the video above. The slides are available here.

And you can click here to sign up and join this effort along with the hundreds of early childhood advocates, providers, educators, and parents.

Please also join us for a kickoff meeting that will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, October 19, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Everyone who completes the sign-up form will automatically receive the Zoom link and instructions for this meeting.

Now is the time to take action.

As we’ve reported, this year’s state budget includes historic funding for early education and care. Advocates are eager to build on this momentum to achieve a sustainable system and lasting change. To encourage this change the Agenda will address the often interrelated issues of early childhood by taking a holistic view, going beyond child care to include any early childhood systems, programs, and policies that impact young children and families.

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Photo: Pixabay from Pexels

We’re excited to announce the launch of The Early Childhood Agenda!

This is a new partnership that invites stakeholders like you to build a consolidated agenda for early education and care. 

The Early Childhood Agenda will connect organizations, parents, advocates, businesses, educators, providers, and government representatives that all support the growth, development, and education of our youngest children and the wellbeing of families in Massachusetts through public awareness, policy development, and advocacy efforts.

Strategies for Children will host a series of meetings and facilitate a consensus building process composed of five working groups:

These meetings will produce a list of policy priorities shaped by community needs and the lived experiences and perspectives of our partners.

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”Governor Ned Lamont today announced that his administration is releasing $70 million in state funding that will be used to provide bonus payments to the staff of child care providers in Connecticut who provide safe and nurturing care to the state’s youngest infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Individual bonuses will amount to $1,000 for full-time workers and $400 for part-time workers.

“The governor explained that this initiative, known as Wage Supports for Early Childhood Educators, was created to show gratitude for the service of child care workers, particularly during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was included as part of the state budget bill that he signed into law earlier this year.

“ ‘Child care staff work consistently to provide critically needed care to ensure that children are safe and their parents and guardians have the support necessary to go to work,’ Governor Lamont said. ‘They are an essential part of our economy and help make Connecticut the most family-friendly state in the country. We need to support this important industry that is vital to families, the workplace, and society.’ ”

“Governor Lamont Announces $70 Million in Appreciation Bonus Payments for Connecticut Child Care Workers,” The Office of Governor Ned Lamont, October 6, 2022

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