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Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ Category

“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“In Connecticut, there is a new call for universal child care. A coalition, that includes providers and parents, has launched a campaign called Child Care For Connecticut’s Future.

“They want long-term change, not what they believe is a band-aid fix or limited solutions. The group is already bringing ideas to lawmakers.

“The coalition released a video Friday to kick off the campaign. Organizers say early childhood education is underfunded. They say they want two concrete changes: fair compensation for educators and more affordable child care.

“ ‘If you look at an annual costs, it costs more to pay for early education for your little one than it does to put your child that’s going through a state university through University, which is kind of mind-boggling.’ Eva Bermuda Zimmerman, CSEA SEIU Local 2001 child care and organizing director, said.”

“Parents, Providers Join Campaign For Universal Child Care,” by Jane Caffrey, NBC Connecticut, November 10, 2021

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welcoming

Photo: Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

About 20 years ago, Wheelock College brought in trainers to teach a noncredit course for early educators called “Making Room in the Circle,” which covered how to welcome LGBTQ families into early childhood settings.

Some 50 early educators enrolled – and so did Wheelock professor Ellie Friedland along with other Boston area faculty. 

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Ellie Friedland

“The idea was that Wheelock professors who took the course would then go on to teach a for-credit course for students,” Friedland says. 

“One of the stories I like to tell is that when I proposed the course to the faculty at Wheelock College, there were no questions. Everyone immediately said, of course.”

Friedland doesn’t teach the class on her own. 

“I’m straight and cisgender, so that’s something I use in various ways in my workshops. But I never teach the class alone; it has to be co-taught by someone who identifies as something other than straight.” 

“What we found was that there were always students who took the course because they were already immersed and active. And there were students who took the course because they didn’t know anything and felt the responsibility to learn. And there were students who took it because they were questioning their own identities. And for all students it was vital to have a professor they could identify with and feel comfortable with.” 

Today, Friedland is still a professor at Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development, and she is still sharing the importance of welcoming LGBTQ+ families, teaching classes, running workshops, and talking to Strategies for Children’s 9:30 callers. 

We asked Friedland what barriers early educators face in welcoming families. 

Her answer: “Fear.”  (more…)

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principles photo

Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

What’s the best way to invest in early education and care?

State advocates have come up with nine guiding principles for policy leaders.

These policies are “designed to help create one mixed delivery system of care that is equitable and inclusive of all providers including family child care, public and private child care centers, Head Start, and public schools,” The Alliance for Early Success explains on its website where the nine principles are listed.

These principles also:

• focus on family choice and preferences

• ensure access to quality programs for all families

• create supply that can meet demand, and

• respond to communities’ needs and values

The nine principles are:

make child care affordable
Families living at or below the poverty level would not have to pay a fee for child care. And no family would pay more than 7 percent of their income.

fund the real cost of care
Child care providers should receive government funding that is based on the actual, full costs of providing high-quality care.

enact reforms and policies that are equitable
Equitable reforms and policies should benefit all families and invest additional resources in “communities that have been traditionally underserved.” (more…)

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Photo: nappy from Pexels

There’s a new child care survey for Massachusetts parents.

So please ask the parents in your programs to fill it out. It should take less than five minutes.

“Help us to identify what is most important to you as a parent/guardian of 0-5 year old child(ren),” the survey says.  “We will use this information to guide expansion of child care supports.”

As we’ve blogged (here and here), gathering data from families is a crucial step in developing successful child care policies.

The survey is the result of a partnership between the Boston Public School’s Department of Early Childhood; the City of Boston’s Economic Mobility Lab — a team of social entrepreneurs who work in the Mayor’s Office of Policy to “advance the upward economic mobility of Bostonians;” and the Boston Opportunity Agenda, which is part of StriveTogether, “a national network of local communities striving to achieve racial equity and economic mobility.” (more…)

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Elliot Haspel, a former fourth grade teacher and policy expert, is calling for “a new form of local infrastructure,” the “early childhood district.”

These districts would create an easy way for parents to understand what – and where — their early education and care options are.

Haspel explains his take on this approach in a new white paper posted on the policy website Capita:

“Child care is not yet a right, and it lacks this kind of easily recognized governmental entity to oversee and provide services. If Kindergarten finds you, child care requires you to find it hidden within a deep, dark forest.”

“In a sentence: Early childhood districts are like school districts but for children five and under.”

This kind of local governance of early education is a concept that Strategies for Children explored in 2019, when we released the policy brief, “Local Governance for Early Childhood: Lessons from Leading States.” We pointed to North Carolina as a good example. (more…)

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“Eight years ago, in the last open race for mayor in 2013, candidates like John Barros talked about the developmental advantages of early education, but it was hardly a campaign issue. Even the ambitious, and unfulfilled, campaign promise tossed out by Martin J. Walsh — to create free universal preschool for all city 4-year-olds — barely registered as news.

“But in this year’s contest, following a pandemic that wreaked havoc on parents’ ability to work, early education and child care have leaped to the forefront of political consciousness. Four of the five major contenders have presented detailed campaign plans on the issue and all have endorsed the recent recommendations of the Birth to Eight Collaborative, a coalition of parents, nonprofits, schools, and advocates working to ensure all children are prepared to succeed when they enter school.

“ ‘To see the issue of child care move into the center of public discourse is so important,’ said Sarah Muncey, a Jamaica Plain mother and a leader in early education who has been advocating for systemic changes — to little effect, before now. ‘The pandemic showed us that this is an economic issue — that underneath it all, this humming city, is an invisible child-care force. We are not invisible anymore.’ ”

“Child care is now a major political issue. Here’s how the Boston mayoral candidates want to reform it,” by Stephanie Ebbert, The Boston Globe, August 4, 2021

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The pandemic has taken a dire toll on families and on early education. But, according to a new report from the Saul Zaentz Early Education Initiative at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, this global crisis also produced important lessons for the future.

The report – “Persevering through the Pandemic: Key Learnings about Children from Parents and Early Educators” – “contains five snapshots addressing two guiding questions: How are children doing? And what is helping children and families cope with the challenges they have faced over the past fifteen months?”

The snapshot topics are:

• parents’ concerns about children’s academic and social/emotional development

• early educators’ reports on children’s behavior: a mix of negative but also positive details

• parents’ perspective on how supportive early education programs and school have been

• early educators’ reports on how they have helped children navigate and process the pandemic, and

• how families have drawn strength from their time together

As a press release explains, the report draws on data from the Early Learning Study at Harvard’s surveys of parents and early educators.

(more…)

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kristina pic

Kristina DiMaria

“My mother was the secretary of the K-to-4 principal at the Malden public schools, so I was always around education,” Kristina DiMaria says of her childhood. “It was amazing. My mother knew the children, their families, their grandparents on a first name basis. And she wouldn’t leave for the day until the last child left.” 

“But what really made me an early educator was when I was at Pope John for high school. I had to do community service my senior year, so I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom.” 

DiMaria fell in love with the volunteer job, but at age 18, she didn’t think she could make a career out of working with children. 

So DiMaria went to Bay State College and earned a two-year degree in fashion merchandising. But she also kept her connection to her mother’s school, volunteering and working in summer programs. And she continued her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she majored in English, minored in psychology, and took several early education classes.

Earning this degree was bittersweet, a personal achievement and something DiMaria did to honor her father who had passed away, but always emphasized the importance of going to college. 

Eventually, DiMaria took a job as a kindergarten teacher at a private school, Independence Route. The curriculum included STEM activities and “purposeful play.” 

“It became my passion, and I learned so much about teaching.”  (more…)

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“Child care is a workforce issue, and prioritizing investment in the following ways will help to overcome this barrier:

• Investments in the child care workforce. In the short term, states can offer incentives such as signing bonuses for child care workers to return to work, and retention bonuses for established early childhood educators. In the long term, continued education grants and apprenticeship programs to support early childhood educators can meet the incredible demand for quality child care.

• Supporting working parents. States can and should invest in their data infrastructure. By creating databases that monitor the type and supply of child care available to communities, families and child care providers both benefit.

• Investing in the business side of child care. Stabilizing and growing the child care industry is a must. Grant and loan programs to stabilize existing child care programs and launch new, quality options will prevent child care deserts from growing, promote innovation from providers, and increase options for families.

“Many states are already leading by example.

“Arizona channeled $300 million in federal resources into return-to-work incentive programs that include $2,000 bonuses for those who return to the workforce, three months of child care assistance for people with children who return to work after collecting unemployment benefits, and housing assistance.”
 

“States taking the boldest actions on child care should be national models,” by Cheryl Oldham, Opinion Contributor, The Hill, July 15, 2021

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