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Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ Category

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Screenshot: Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

In the search for child care, many mothers end up making disappointing tradeoffs.

To better understand what parents face, the Federal Reserve Bank took a closer look at the challenges and released the findings in a new issue brief, “Child care tradeoffs among Massachusetts mothers.”

“Between October 2019 and January 2020, we interviewed 67 mothers in Massachusetts whose children had not yet started kindergarten,” the brief explains. It was written by Sarah Savage, a senior policy analyst and advisor at the Boston Fed, and Wendy Robeson, senior research scientist with the Work, Families, and Children Research Group at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

What Savage and Robeson heard from the mothers they interviewed were the many ways that child care tradeoffs have an economic impact. (Dads were invited to participate in these interviews, but all the responses came from moms.) This is pre-Covid research that shows how tough it was to find child care in normal times. Now in the midst of the pandemic, these challenges continue, and some have grown worse.

“This study reveals that an inadvertent effect of a mostly private market of child care is that it requires parents of young children to compromise and in some cases sacrifice what they need to achieve and maintain economic security, let alone advance it, with consequences for their children’s development,” the brief explains.

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Felicia Billy head shot

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, here, here, and here.

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Felicia Billy was working at a privately owned child care center — and applying for early education jobs at the YMCA of Greater Boston.

What made the Y attractive? 

“The benefits,” Billy says.

This sounds like a personal issue, but Billy is also putting her finger on the fact that so many early educators don’t have the kind of benefits – such as retirement savings plans — that K-12 educators and many other professionals can take for granted.

The Y also offered another perk that other early childhood programs don’t: a career ladder. Billy started as a teacher, became a curriculum coordinator, next she was the assistant early education director, and then she moved into her current position as the early education director.

The Y also allows for Billy’s creativity. 

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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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Amy O’Leary

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, was on Boston Public Radio yesterday talking about the high cost of child care.

Here are some excerpts of what she said:

“One of the things we have learned in the pandemic is we really saw what parent choice looks like. What has typically been a very personal decision, feeling that you’re on your own trying to navigate the bureaucracies really came to light [because] parents were more willing to talk to their employers about what was happening in reality in their homes.”

“We also saw flexibility from the government. So many of our policies are very rigid and have a lot of hoops to jump through for families,” O’Lear says, explaining how the pandemic has changed things. “Suddenly, we’re relaxed because the connection between early education and care programs, and our economy was so clear, even though we’ve had research and data and reports for decades… that tell us how critical early childhood is to brain development and supporting children in the earliest years.”

“We saw policy change pretty dramatically. And I think that has set the stage for what we think about for the future.”

However, O’Leary says, funding will be essential.

“I don’t know many young families who can afford $21,000 for their baby to go to child care.”

“We can’t one-time fund our way out of this decades-long crisis. We really have to think about sustainable, strategic funding and policies.”

To hear more, tune in!

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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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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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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


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Huong Vu

Huong Vu is a family engagement counselor at Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester – which is one way of saying she does a little bit of everything. She supports families in the Boys and Girls Club as well as families in the community. 

“We offer a free play group, a parent support group, and family engagement events,” she says of programs for families with young children, “and home visits and developmental screening.”

“Most of the families that we work with are low income or immigrants. English is not their first language. We work with families who speak Vietnamese, Spanish, Cape Verdean, and Haitian Creole. And they are not just from Dorchester, they’re from all across Boston.”

It’s work that has given Vu a great perspective on families and that makes her a great participant in Strategy for Children’s Advocacy Network, a year-long advocacy experience for early educators and emerging leaders.

One thing Vu has learned: “I didn’t know that I was already an advocate,” she says. “Every day, when it comes to work, my hope is that I can make small changes in families’ lives. Maybe I can connect them to a food program, or I can refer a child to an intervention program.

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state house

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Today the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released its $49.6 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

For early education and care, this budget includes several key provisions:

• $60 million in a salary rate reserve for providers who accept child care subsidies (line item 3000-1042). This line item also includes an additional $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare, a new initiative.

• $5 million for navigation support and outreach to families, including language continuing EEC’s recent policy of paying subsidies based on child enrollment instead of attendance (part of line item 3000-1000). 

• Increases for: Access Management (3000-2000, for resource and referral agencies); Head Start (3000-5000); and Workforce Development (3000-7066)

• Level funding for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (3000-6025) and early childhood mental health (3000-6075).

In total, the House budget proposal provides $91 million more for early education and care than the FY23 budget proposal that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

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