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Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ Category

 

There’s a new mental health resource for parents who are worried about their children, Handhold.

“You know your child better than anyone. But even you have a few questions,” Handhold says on its website, which helps parents find mental health programs for their children.

This is a particularly important resource now, as families grapple with the global pandemic. As Handhold explains:

“COVID-19 is putting incredible pressure on families. You might be noticing your child is struggling in new ways, or that old problems are getting worse. Should you worry about your child’s behavioral health? We’re here to help you figure that out.”

The website – organized by three state agencies: the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services – draws on community insights:

“Family partners and parents of kids with similar experiences to yours told us what they wished they had known earlier in their journey. Mental health experts, including child psychiatrists, social workers, and psychologists, selected the most relevant and useful resources.” (more…)

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Photo courtesy of Tiffany Lillie

Back in March, Tiffany Lillie was working hard as the Director of Community Resource Development at the Framingham Public Schools.

She had been thinking about her work running out-of-school-time programs, including child care programs, in her city. She had been in the office working. She had been at community meetings listening to parent feedback. Her 200 staff members were running programs that served 2,000 children a day.

Then, Lillie heard the first coughs of a global pandemic, which gradually turned into a roar.

“In Massachusetts, we were one of the first departments to have a positive COVID-19 case in early March, so we were unfortunately trendsetting,” Lillie says. “There weren’t other examples that we could follow as a department.”

When Governor Charlie Baker ordered schools to close, Framingham pivoted its programs online. COVID-19 infection rates soared across the state.

So what does a school administrator do in the midst of a global crisis where fear and uncertainty have seized center stage?

Well, in Framingham, Mayor Yvonne Spicer and the school department and Lillie and her colleagues kept talking, in calm, clear voices, in multiple languages – because while the world had changed, the work remained the same: educate children; engage families; provide community resources. (more…)

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This Thursday, the Massachusetts Head Start Association (MHSA) will launch its virtual fall conference, “Adapting to Change: Head Start in 2020 and Beyond.”

“2020 is a time for change and adaptation for early educators,” Michelle Haimowitz, MHSA’s executive director, says. “Our conference offers short professional development opportunities throughout October to help address our changing environment.”

The conference features eight virtual workshops that will take place from October 1, 2020, to Tuesday, October 20, 2020, and touch on the challenging issues of the day.

Kristin Tenney-Blackwell, a psychologist will kick things off with a workshop called, “Wellness: Taking Care of Yourself.” This workshop will “focus on understanding the importance of health and wellness of adults in a child’s life. Educators and program leaders will explore strategies and approaches to enhancing adult resilience,” the conference website explains.

Another workshop, “Supporting Children to Embrace Race: How we can & why we must,” led by Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, two parents who co-founded the organization Embrace Race, will feature a “presentation and Q & A that considers some of the evidence for racial bias and steps we can take to push back against it – in our children and ourselves.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

How are families doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Earlier this year, we created a survey to ask them. Many parents said they were struggling to juggle work, child care, and children who were attending school from home.

Last month, Strategies for Children followed up with another survey that found many parents were struggling to make child care arrangements for the fall. This survey was conducted by Beacon Research, a Boston-based polling firm, and funded by the Commonwealth Children’s Fund and Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

Hearing from parents is an essential step.

“Parent voices are critical to reopening and sustaining the child care industry,” Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, says. “This survey shows that parents have legitimate concerns over health and safety. Many parents cannot return to child care because their programs have closed permanently, are not yet reopened, or are at full enrollment.”

A press release and a slide deck summarize the survey’s results. This document lists the survey’s questions and tallies parents’ answers. And a memo focuses on the child care challenges for families with school-age children.

Among the survey’s key findings, parents’ fears have risen. Before the pandemic, 76 percent expected to use child care programs this fall. Since the pandemic, only 62 percent do. (more…)

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What’s your child care/early education story?

The Common Start Coalition — a group of organizations, providers, and individuals in Massachusetts — is gathering stories to demonstrate the need for affordable, high-quality early education and child care, especially during the pandemic. The stories will be shared publicly on social media and with policymakers.

Click here to share your story.

You’ll be joining others who have already shared their stories, including:

 

Carl R.: “I have two children, a daughter and a son, and they both have children of their own. My wife and I actually retired from our jobs to help care for our grandchildren due to child care issues. My daughter had a child back in 2016 and needed child care for her infant. She found out it was going to be $2000 a month. So my wife decided to retire to help care for the child. I started to think what would happen if my wife got sick and couldn’t watch the baby but luckily I was able to retire.

“A large part of my children’s issue is not only finding childcare but also finding a provider whose program runs late enough. My daughter works in Boston and the child care ends at 5:30. My daughter doesn’t know when she will be able to get home. That’s why I pick up my granddaughter, who is now 3 turning 4, from preschool. In my son’s case both he and his wife are teachers. The issue is that their children do not attend the school that he and his wife work at. They run into issues when their children’s schools have half days and the school they teach at doesn’t so they need someone to pick up the kids and keep an eye on them until they get home.”

 

Gloria: “I struggled a lot when my children were smaller because I did not have child care and I had to go to work to support my family. First I had my two older sons babysit but when they couldn’t I had to pay a family member to babysit when she was available. I had no vehicle at that time so I had to taxi to the babysitter. I was really struggling to support my family as a big amount of my check went to babysitter and taxi. Later when I couldn’t keep paying a babysitter I had to quit my job. Now that my kids are older and no longer need a baby sitter I went back to work. But even now that they no longer need a baby sitter I can’t afford a summer program because I do not have a voucher and summer camps/programs are ridiculously expensive.”

 

Shanice C.: “My heart hurts for the little ones going through this because they do not understand it. This is probably the biggest struggle in this pandemic: making sure the little ones are okay and preparing them for the NEW normal.”

 

Strategies for Children is a member of the Common Start Coalition as is Edward Street Child Services, Greater Boston Legal Services, Local 509 SEIU, the Worcester Food Policy Council, the Women’s Fund, and a host of other nonprofit organizations.

Click here to learn more — and to read more of these and other stories.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families with young children want?

As we blogged last week, the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) conducted a statewide survey that asked this question and collected feedback from more than 1,200 families. MPIT is a collaboration of 40+ organizations and family engagement specialists.

The survey results were, however, collected, before COVID-19 shut down the country.

So now, to understand what families want in the middle of this pandemic, MPIT has asked its members to share the changes they’ve made in their services.

 

The Department of Public Health shifts to pandemic protection

At the state level, the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition, part of the Department of Public Health, addresses the health needs of “mothers, infants, children and youth— including children and youth with special health needs.” Two of the bureau’s core values are culturally responsive family engagement and racial equity.

To do its work during the pandemic, the bureau has set up telehealth appointments via phone or video so that families can access the Early Intervention system, the WIC Nutrition program, and the Home Visiting program.

In Chelsea and Springfield, early childhood coalitions that are supported by the bureau’s MA Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems have distributed food, diapers, and diapering supplies to families, stepping in when grocery store shelves have often been bare.

To provide parents with more information, the bureau’s Division for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs has set up online information sessions for parents and posted new content — “Emergency Care Planning for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs during COVID 19 and Beyond” – on the Mass.gov website. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families want?

That’s the question that the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) asked last year in a statewide survey of 1,260 families with young children.

Facilitated by Strategies for Children, MPIT is a “unique collaboration between early childhood professionals inside and outside of government, at the state and local level, spanning early education and health,” a summary of the survey findings explains.

The survey’s goal was to “learn about families’ experiences with early childhood programs and services. What works, what doesn’t, what are the barriers to participation, and what would families like to see more of in their communities.” Respondents were asked about a wide range of programs, including Early Intervention, WIC, home visiting, play groups, and child care. In addition to the survey, there were five in-person family focus groups.

The results provide useful insights. Parents said they wanted a greater variety of more affordable early childhood programs – such as swimming, dance, music, and yoga – where they could interact with other parents. They want programs with flexible schedules and more opportunities to talk with local experts about child development and family wellbeing. (more…)

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Photo: Caroline Silber for Strategies for Children

 

One of the most powerful ways to help children succeed is through evidence-based family engagement efforts.

The challenge is how to do this work well, which is why a newly released state resource — “Strengthening Partnerships: A Framework for Prenatal through Young Adulthood Family Engagement in Massachusetts – is so important.

As this framework explains:

“Family engagement is crucial for healthy growth of children and youth in all domains of health and development.”

To help children achieve this healthy growth, the framework points to five guidelines:

• “Each family is unique, and all families represent diverse structures.”

• “Acknowledging and accepting the need to engage all families is essential for successful engagement of diverse families and includes recognizing the strengths that come from their diverse backgrounds.”

• “Building a respectful, trusting, and reciprocal relationship is a shared responsibility of families, practitioners, organizations, and systems.”

• “Families are their child’s first and best advocate,” and

• “Family engagement must be equitable.” (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Here at Strategies for Children, COVID-19 has kept our advocacy focus on funding, health, and safety. Now that early childhood programs are reopening, we want to shine a spotlight on mental health.

As children, parents, and staff members continue to navigate life during a pandemic, they may need help managing mental health challenges.

Young children face a particularly high risk of being negatively impacted by the pandemic, Aditi Subramaniam said during a Strategies for Children Zoom call. She is the Early Childhood Mental Health Partnership Manager at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Children may experience intense feelings or regress developmentally, and it may be emotionally tough for them to engage in social distancing, Subramaniam added. Fortunately, this risk can be mitigated by ensuring that children receive nurturing, responsive, and consistent care from caregivers and providers.

To help children, caregivers and providers can draw on several resources. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

This week, there are two important events that will help boost early childhood advocacy efforts.

The first event: Strategies for Children is adding a new, one-hour webinar to its Advocacy 101 series.

These conversations about the basics of early education and care advocacy are grounded in the current context of reopening child care programs, and you can watch live on three dates (click on the date to register for that session):

 

Advocacy 101: Reopening Child Care 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at 4 p.m.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at 5 p.m.

Thursday, June 18, 2020, at 11 a.m.

 

Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies’ Early Education for All Campaign, will discuss reopening as well as ways to get involved in local, state, and federal advocacy. Amy will talk about who to call, what to say, and when to take action.

The second event: (more…)

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