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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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Photo: Anna Shvets from Pexels

 

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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Photo: August de Richelieu from Pexels

 

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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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: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Because of COVID-19, Massachusetts does not yet have a Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which would have gone into effect on July 1st of this year.

Last Friday, however, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a supplemental budget for the FY20 fiscal year. This budget includes critical funding for COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Baker said much of the bill, as it covers COVID-19 spending, will be reimbursable by the federal government,” MassLive.com reports.

A State House News article adds that the bill “also designates June 19 as a state holiday known as ‘Juneteenth Independence Day,’ commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Baker said that the holiday will be a time to ‘recognize the continued need to ensure racial freedom and equality.’ ”

For early education and care, the budget includes $36 million to cover the costs that the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) faces as it administers emergency child care for essential workers and replaces lost parent fees for state-subsidized providers.

The budget also includes $45.6 million in child care funding that was awarded in the federal CARES Act, which became law on March 27, 2020. EEC will distribute these funds as grants to providers who serve subsidized children or essential workers.

In addition, the budget establishes a new $500,000, Early Education and Care Public-Private Trust Fund to support technical assistance for child care providers as they engage in reopening and recovery efforts. The budget also directs the Department of Public Health to work with EEC to collect and publish the number of COVID-19-positive cases that occur among children, families, and child care staff. 

 To learn more, click here to see a list of early childhood state budget line items — and to see the FY21 budget proposal that Governor Baker filed in January.

For more information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org or (617) 330-7387.

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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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Webinar screenshot of Donna Warner, Dorothy Williams, Dr. Annie Vaughan, Amy O’Leary, Dr. Faye Holder-Niles, Sandra Fenwick, and Samantha Aigner-Treworgy.

 

How can early childhood programs get sound advice about reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic?

By talking to doctors who know about viruses.

Don’t know any infectious disease specialists?

No problem.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is already talking to doctors, thanks to a partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital. And EEC is sharing what early childhood providers need to know in a newly released webinar (the password is: 2V=9y215) on the physical and mental health needs of young children.

Sandra Fenwick, CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, introduces the webinar, which features a panel discussion that’s moderated by Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children.

In the webinar, EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy also thanks Children’s Hospital for its partnership, and acknowledges the many questions that early childhood providers have, chief among them: (more…)

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