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Massachusetts child care providers – get ready to apply for a federal COVID-19 relief fund grant!

The funds are coming soon, and they will help providers emerge from the pandemic and rebuild.

Based on feedback from the field, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is committed to creating an “accessible application process.”
 

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Strategies for Children

 
There are a number of ways that you can learn more about these grants before the application is released. (more…)

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Yesterday, Governor Charlie Baker announced that the state will revise its COVID-19 policies, a move that includes good news for early education and care providers.

“…the Commonwealth is on track to meet the goal of vaccinating 4.1 million residents by the first week of June,” a press release from the governor’s office explains, and “all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted effective May 29.”

Massachusetts will also update its guidance on masks and face coverings to be consistent with recent mask updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, individual businesses and employers in Massachusetts will still be able to set their own mask rules.

On June 15, 2021, Baker will end the state of emergency that was triggered by the pandemic.

What does this mean for early educators?

The governor and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)are providing answers.

As the governor’s press release says, as of today, the Department of Early Education and Care will “no longer require masks for outdoor activities like recess.” This guidance will “remain in effect beyond May 29.” Children and adults should, however, continue to wear masks when they are indoors.

EEC also has a list of frequently asked questions regarding the current version of the state’s Child Care Playbook that provide additional useful information. Some partial examples are:

(more…)

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Marcela Simpson

Photo courtesy of Marcela Simpson

All Marcela Simpson wanted was a part-time job to carry her through to graduation. She was living in her native country of Honduras and majoring in business administration at UNITEC, the Central American Technological University.

Simpson applied for a position at a school called La Estancia, a renown bilingual school where she met the school’s director, Ana Aviles, who assigned Simpson to be a lead teacher in a preschool classroom.

“That’s where it all started. I learned that I loved children,” explains Simpson.

Because her grandfather insisted, Simpson completed her Business Administration degree and came to the United States to get her master’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she studied with George Forman, coauthor of The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach to Early Childhood Education.

Simpson went on to work at the Winston Prouty Center for Child and Family Development in Vermont, an early education program that provides inclusive classes for both typically developing children and for children with special needs and rights. In this position, she worked with teachers, assistant teachers, and paraprofessionals providing them with educational resources and sharing opportunities for professional development.

“Based on this experience, I felt the need to learn more about adult learning,” Simpson recalls, “and that guided me to a whole different place.” She contacted the local Resource and Referral Agency in Western Massachusetts and they connected her to provide professional development and coaching opportunities. She also joined the Institute for Professional Education, where she learned more about adult learning theories and principles.

(more…)

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Fifty years ago, Sandy Faiman-Silva was a young, single mother with a teaching job who couldn’t afford to pay all her bills, including her rent and child care costs. She ended up quitting her job and going on public assistance.

Today, Faiman-Silva is a professor emerita of Anthropology at Bridgewater State University – and she’s an activist pointing out that too many women still face the same challenges she did all those decades ago.

Faiman-Silva shares this story on a video posted by the Cape and Islands chapter of the Common Start Coalition, which is advocating for a bill in the Massachusetts State House – nicknamed the Common Start Legislation — that would set up a system of affordable, high-quality, universal child care. This bill is particularly crucial now, as Massachusetts and the world navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Representative Susan Moran (D-Falmouth) also appears in the video. A mother of three and a lawyer who has represented a child care center, Moran says:

“I lived the daily trials parents suffer to find the consistent, dependable child care and early education they need — and their children deserve — to allow them to focus on work so they can advance their careers. You all know what I’m talking about.”

(more…)

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Screenshot: The Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project

Five months ago, in the middle of the pandemic, Elizabeth Charland-Tait and Sheila Gould launched a Zoomcast series.

They nicknamed it the Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project (IBZP), although the formal name is “The More We Get Together: Conversations that Build Bridges in Early Childhood.”

Gould is a Holyoke Community College (HCC) professor and the coordinator of the Early Childhood Programs. Charland-Tait is an early childhood lead coach for Massachusetts’ Western StrongStart Professional Development Centers.

Their goal is to have meaningful conversations that connect early childhood professionals in Western Massachusetts.

(more…)

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Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

How, specifically, can the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – a federal COVID-19 relief package — help child care?

Here are some new, national tools and reports that have good answers.

Infants and toddlers: Get details on the opportunities for infants and toddlers on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at noon, when the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center will host a webinar. The policy impact center has also released a research brief that says in part: “The American Rescue Plan represents an unprecedented increase in funding for programs that improve the lives of families with young children. From the expanded child tax credit to economic stimulus payments and billions more in child care funding, this law provides a buffer for families, workers, caregivers, and child-serving organizations during an economic and public health emergency.”

The brief also explains how the American Rescue Plan ties into the impact center’s early childhood policy roadmap, which we blogged about here. The impact center is based at the University of Texas Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Fixing child care – and making it stronger than before: Last year, Opportunities Exchange, an early childhood nonprofit, published Louise Stoney’s article, “REINVENT vs. REBUILD: Let’s Fix the Child Care System.” Stoney, the co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, writes about the financial instability that early education and care programs have faced both before and during the pandemic. Stoney also recommends a “Child Care Come-Back Plan” that federal Covid funds could support. This plan explains how “public and private sector leaders” can “effectively lead a child care come-back effort” that includes provider-based technology, business coaching, and new rate setting strategies. (more…)

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Rosanna Acosta. Photo courtesy of Rosanna Acosta.

 

My name is Rosanna Acosta. I work in Springfield, Mass., as an early childhood educator in my own home daycare, Little Star Daycare. I have been in the field for four years.

The important part of my work is providing the foundational principles of education for young children in a safe and nurturing environment where they can grow and learn. I encourage parents and families to continue this education at home and to nurture their children to support their growth and development.

As an educator, I am always proud when I see my students grow each and every day. One of my favorite memories is when I went grocery shopping once and was hugged by one of my past students who said how much they’ve missed me. The parents told me that even after leaving my program, their child would talk about me and the things they learned and did. This showed me that my work really has an impact on the lives of my students. Regardless of the time that has passed, their early education experiences stick with them as they get older.

My own education started in the Dominican Republic, where I went to elementary and middle school. My family migrated to the United States, where I earned my GED. In 2020, I decided to go back to school, and now I am continuing my education at Springfield Technical Community College, where I am working on earning my CDA (Child Development Associate) certification as well as an associate degree in Early Education Childhood Development. I am also participating in a professional development program. We meet regularly every two months to discuss new activities and developments. (more…)

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“A major portion of Worcester’s childcare services are offered by home-based care givers known as family childcare providers, and COVID-19 has had a deleterious impact on these small businesses.

“Many of these providers, who open their homes and hearts to small groups of children, were forced to temporarily cease operations earlier this year and, as a result, now face severe financial challenges. This summer, Edward Street and Greater Worcester Community Foundation (GWCF) collaborated with the Commonwealth Children’s Fund (CCF) to provide grants to 85 local, high quality family child care providers, to help these businesses comply with the many new pandemic protocols required to safely re-open and remain a viable option for families returning to work.

“ ‘These, mostly women- and minority-owned, businesses did not have the scope of resources and support needed to navigate closures and prepare for the new re-opening regulations,’ said Eve Gilmore, Edward Street’s Executive Director. ‘They operate on razor-thin margins and many are struggling to stay afloat.’ ”

“One such provider is Gina Hamilton who, after receiving the funds, wrote: ‘I cannot explain how much this means to me and how this gives me some room to breathe. Last night, for the first time since our mandated shut down, I slept without nightmarish dreams.’

“Hamilton was able to purchase critical materials, such as a tent for outside play, an ultraviolet light air purifier, disinfectant supplies and a hand sanitizer dispenser, and to create a new check in station for families, in order to safely re-open. She was also able to apply funds towards her past due mortgage. These grants mean possibilities.”

 

— “Grants Provide Financial Assistance to Essential Worcester County Family Child Care Providers,” press release, October 5, 2020

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On streets across America, every night at around 6 p.m., child care programs shut their doors for the day — shutting out working parents who need late-night or early-morning child care programs.

It’s a problem that has grown more vivid as the COVID-19 pandemic reveals the fragility of the country’s child care systems. 

“In a resource-starved child care system, very few licensed child care providers can serve the child care needs of parents with schedules outside the old, standard, 9-to-5 business day,” Sandra Teixeira of the nonprofit organization New England United for Justice says in a new video.

The result, Teixeira says, parents get shut out of nighttime, weekend, and other off-hour jobs. 

That’s why a group of nonprofit organizations and labor unions convened by Community Labor United have launched a new initiative called Care that Works to transform child care delivery in Massachusetts.

The first step:

The “union-backed coalition, with help from the city of Boston, is launching a pilot program to provide childcare in the early morning, for workers in industries like construction that do not have standard work hours,” CommonWealth magazine reports. (more…)

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Jillian Phillips and her family. Photo courtesy of Jillian Phillips

 

Jillian Phillips is a working Massachusetts parent trying to navigate a pandemic. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job full of highs, lows, and a need for public policy innovations.

Phillips, a single parent by choice, has an 8-year-old daughter and twin sons who are 19 months old. Another daughter, who would be five years old, died in infancy.

Phillips had relied on her mother, a retired nurse, who lived with the family, to provide child care.

“If I hadn’t had my mom at the time, I certainly would not have gone on to have more children because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” Phillips says. “The cost of child care, especially in our state, is out of reach.”

Earlier this year, however, two tragedies struck. Phillips’ mother passed away unexpectedly, and the global pandemic exploded in the United States.

So Phillips had to manage her grief, take care of her children, and work full time. A social worker herself, she supervises social workers who provide early intervention services for families.

“I’ve found a rhythm, but I’m slowly drowning,” she says of her work, family, and personal responsibilities. “Thank goodness, my job is flexible. I can fit things in during the kids’ naps, after they go to bed, or before they wake up — which means I’m working all the time because there’s no other way to do it.” (more…)

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