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Archive for the ‘Family engagement’ Category

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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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“Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood announced Thursday it has established a parent cabinet, a parent-led advisory group intended to infuse the voice of caregivers into policy and decision-making.

“State leaders say the cabinet will create a ‘feedback loop’ of communication between the office — which oversees child care, Care 4 Kids and other early childhood services — and parents, whose needs are not always heard.”

“Christina Augliera, of Torrington, is the mother of two sons, with the youngest on the autism spectrum. Augliera founded the nonprofit Torrington Area Families for Autism, and wants to use her seat on the parent cabinet to advocate for special programming in rural Connecticut.

“The cabinet framers made a concerted effort to reach out to fathers, whose role in communities and in early childhood is sometimes overlooked.

“Joshua Vaughn, a father of four from Naugatuck, said he wants to be a voice for fathers and all caregivers who make daily sacrifices for the well-being of their children.

“ ‘The importance of male figures within the community is dynamic,’ Vaughn said. ‘The goal is to equip, educate and coach men from all walks of life for the preparations of leadership. Committing to this cause will provoke change and awareness.’ ”

“State officials heralded the cabinet’s creation. Listening to parents ‘is not the afterthought anymore, it’s central,’ Commissioner Beth Bye said Thursday at a press conference in Hartford. ‘This is a great day, this is historic.’ ”

“Connecticut adds Parent Cabinet to center parent voices in child care decision-making,” by Seamus McAvoy, Hartford Courant, April 7, 2022

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Please come to the Common Start Coalition’s rally – and support proposed legislation to build a stronger system of early education and care in Massachusetts!

The rally is being held this Saturday, April 9, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Command.

“Learn how you can get involved to help create a more equitable childcare and early education system,” the coalition says on its Facebook page.

As we’ve blogged, the coalition — a statewide group of advocates and organizations, including Strategies for Children — supports a bill known as The Common Start Legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and care in Massachusetts.

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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has created a promising new Office of Early Childhood, and this office has a new leader, Kristin McSwain.

The office will “advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five,” by:

• expanding access to early education and childcare programs

• investing in Boston’s early education and care workforce

• accelerating “the creation of a universal pre-K system that stretches across Boston Public Schools (BPS), community-based organizations, and family-based childcare programs”

• expanding high-quality, affordable options for infants and toddlers, and

• serving as “a central point-of-entry for residents looking for information on early education and childcare programming and wraparound services for young children and their families”

Mayor Wu, the mother of two young boys, sums up the vital importance of this work, saying, “Every bit of investment in our children and families to close gaps in early education and care is an investment in our collective future.”

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

It’s that time of year.

Time for Boston parents and guardians with children ages 0 to 5 to respond to the city’s Child Care Census, a survey about child care needs.

The survey is available online and can be taken in seven different languages. Boston residents can also fill out a paper copy of the survey that was mailed to all Boston residents.

Please ask the Boston parents and guardians that you know to respond!

The survey will help the City of Boston learn more about child care needs and do a better job of meeting them.

Now is a great time to speak up, because Boston Mayor Michelle Wu recently announced “the creation of the Office of Early Childhood to advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five.”

The office will be led by Kristin McSwain who “brings more than ten years of experience as the Executive Director of the Boston Opportunity Agenda.”

The goal is to “address needs highlighted in Boston’s 2021 Childcare Census Survey report.” Among the report’s key findings:

• families are relying on “parent/guardian care” more often than the would like to

• 81% of respondents who rely on a parent/guardian care arrangement for their children are women, and caring for children interfering with their career desires

• respondents with 3-5 year old children “strongly prefer public/charter school care arrangements, but are not able to access them,” and

• “the average cost of center-based care is greater than the Massachusetts state average, which is already the 2nd highest in the nation behind only Washington, D.C.”

To get an even clearer picture of the current need, Boston needs to hear from families!

So, please reach out to young children’s parents and guardians and ask them to take the survey.

It would be great if all of Boston’s families participated, so that all families’ needs could be heard.

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“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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