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Photo: Eren Li from Pexels

 

In a new article, David Jacobson praises federal investments in early education and care. But, he writes, one “critically important” issue that receives less attention is partnerships.

Specifically, he asks, “how can elementary schools, early childhood programs, and health and social service agencies work together to improve quality and coordination across entire neighborhoods and communities and thus create the most positive overall environments possible for children and families?”

The article — “A game-changing opportunity: Rethinking how communities serve children and families” – appears on the website of Yale Medical School’s Partnership for Early Education Research (PEER).

Jacobson has been a longtime advocate of partnerships. He is the Principal Technical Advisor, Education Development Center, Inc., (EDC). And he also leads “EDC’s First 10 initiative, which supports school-early childhood-community partnerships to improve outcomes for children ages birth through 10 and their families.”

As he writes in the article: (more…)

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KIDS COUNT Screenshot

 

The new 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out.

Released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, this 32nd edition describes “how children across the United States were faring before — and during — the coronavirus pandemic.”

“This year’s publication continues to deliver the Foundation’s annual state rankings and the latest available data on child well-being. It identifies multiyear trends — comparing statistics from 2010 to 2019.” The KIDS COUNT data center provides more details.

This year’s good news: Massachusetts ranks an impressive #1 among all 50 states in overall child well-being.

The caveat: Massachusetts and all the other states still have to do substantial work to create equitable systems that serve all children and families and that provide access to high quality early education and care to everyone.

“The rankings in this edition of the Data Book, which are based on 2019 data, show that despite gains since the Great Recession, the nation was not ensuring every child had the opportunity to thrive.” (more…)

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EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy

Dear Program Leaders, 

Thank you all for the continued partnership and feedback as we continue to navigate this unprecedented time. As we continue to receive questions and feedback about the transition to post-COVID conditions, we wanted to assure you that EEC will continue to provide information and support throughout the months ahead as communities work to recalibrate our work through the summer. 

The Baker-Polito Administration announced that the remaining COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted beginning May 29, and EEC retired the Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety. We recognize that child care programs still face many challenges and our stakeholders need time to ensure the appropriate policies are put in place to meet the needs of the families you serve. EEC continues to be committed to supporting programs through this transition and assist you as you work to identify the path forward that works for your programs. As previously referenced, EEC will be establishing revised guidance around regulations and monitoring throughout the month of June and will not begin on-site monitoring until July. During the month of June we will send weekly communications to update providers and provide answers to the on-going questions received through office.commissioners@mass.gov.
 
EEC introduced Suggested Strategies for the Prevention and Response to COVID-19 in Early Education and Care Programs. We will continue to update this document with answers to frequently asked questions received through the months ahead.
 
To continue the ongoing dialogue with you all, I will be hosting a Conversation with the Commissioner on June 29th at 6pm. I look forward to hearing from you about the progress in your programs and to strategize together as we forge ahead.
 

Thank you for your commitment to the children and families of the Commonwealth and to the field of early education and care as a whole. We are building a better future together. 


Samantha Aigner-Treworgy
Commissioner of Early Education and Care
 

(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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Photo: Gustavo Fring from Pexels

 

There’s great news for the field.

Starting next week, on Thursday, March 11, early education and care providers and out-of-school-time educators can start scheduling their COVID-19 vaccines.

“Educators, assistants, and associated staff supporting in-person work with children will join the currently eligible groups,” Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care explains in an email.

“Early education and care educators and providers will be able to book appointments at all 170 sites currently open to eligible residents in Massachusetts and the Command Center will work on a plan to designate a limited number of days at the mass vaccination sites for educators specifically.”

One caveat: the supply of vaccine doses from the federal government is low, so “it is estimated that it will take up to one month for all eligible individuals to secure a first appointment. This timeframe is only subject to change if federal supply increases dramatically.”

The commissioner also has these answers to frequently asked questions:

• Saturday appointments will be a scheduling option

• eligibility will be verified through a self-attestation form completed by the person receiving the vaccination

• this eligibility only covers those who work directly with children and families; relatives of family child care providers can receive vaccines if they belong to other eligible groups

EEC will provide more information as they receive it, communicating directly with the field.

Aigner-Treworgy encourages anyone with questions about the vaccine and its safety, to check out these resources provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

To learn more, please read this press release from Governor Charlie Baker’s office and this article from the Boston Globe.

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“Our team has been researching and writing about the need to expand access to high-quality pre-K for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic brings added urgency to this issue. Pre-K is not a silver bullet, but after a year of children experiencing trauma from significant disruptions in their routines, economic insecurity, illness, and loss, high-quality pre-K can help get them on the path to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.

“We currently have a window of opportunity. The Biden administration has expressed interest in universal pre-K. Senator Murray, a former preschool teacher, is set to lead the Senate education committee and is an outspoken proponent of the Child Care for Working Families Act. The Democrats hold a slight majority in both the House and Senate, but do not possess the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster. However, we shouldn’t write pre-K off as an issue only supported by Democrats. National polls show there is strong support nationwide among voters from both parties. Oklahoma, one of the country’s most conservative states, was one of the first to create a well-regarded universal preschool program. And there is currently an appetite for investment in pre-K. Universal pre-K did well in the 2020 election at the state and local level. And California’s new masterplan for early education calls for universal pre-K for all four-year-olds.”

 

“Universal Access to Pre-K Should Be Part of Our Economic Recovery,” by Aaron Loewenberg and Abbie Lieberman, New America blog post,
January 14, 2021

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Photo: Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

 

Please ask Governor Charlie Baker for equity in COVID-19 testing. And check out a panel discussion on testing being held this afternoon. It’s organized by Neighborhood Villages and co-sponsored by Strategies for Children.

Last week, the governor announced that COVID-19 pooled testing would be made available to the state’s schools and school districts, building on earlier testing.

“This new pooled testing resource that we’re going to be providing going forward will give districts the ability to bring more students back into the classroom,” the governor said, according to WBUR.

Unfortunately, this announcement leaves out early education and out-of-school time providers, even though these organizations have been providing essential care for more than 100,000 children.

To address this inequity, Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations sent a letter to the governor, writing in part: (more…)

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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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To learn more about COVID-19, Yale University researchers have asked a key question: How has the virus spread through early childhood programs?

The answer is featured in a report – “COVID-19 Transmission in US Child Care Programs” – published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Central to the debate over school and child care reopening is whether children are efficient COVID-19 transmitters and likely to increase community spread when programs reopen,” the report says.

Led by Yale University professor Walter Gilliam, the research team surveyed 57,000 child care providers across the country about their experiences earlier this year. The researchers compared child care programs that had closed to programs that had remained open.

The report’s encouraging finding:

“Within the context of considerable infection mitigation efforts in U.S. child care programs, exposure to child care during the early months of the U.S. pandemic was not associated with elevated risk for COVID-19 transmission to providers,” the report says.

“Until now, decision makers had no way to assess whether opening child care centers would put staff at greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” Gilliam says in a Yale University article. “This study tells us that as long as there are strong on-site measures to prevent infection, providing care for young children doesn’t seem to add to the provider’s risk of getting sick.” (more…)

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Early educators who have medical questions as they navigate the pandemic can turn to local experts for help.

One of those experts is Dr. Katherine Hsu, the state’s designated child care epidemiologist.

She is on staff at both Boston Medical Center and at the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

As the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) explains, Dr. Hsu is “a resource for questions related to operating child care programs that require medical or scientific expertise.”

She can answer questions such as:

“My staff member does not want to wear a mask for a specific medical reason – does an exception make sense, and how should I account for that in my health and safety planning?”

And:

“A child in my care is immunocompromised – are there additional precautions I should take in caring for him/her?” (more…)

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