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Archive for the ‘Infants and toddlers’ Category

“Mayor Michelle Wu today announced a $20 million investment in early education through Boston’s Universal Pre-K (UPK) program, a partnership between BPS [Boston Public Schools] and the Office of Early Childhood. This investment builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all infants, toddlers, and children under five.”

“For the second year in a row, Boston UPK will increase the number of seats available to both 3- and 4-year-olds at community-based providers. Specifically, UPK will now offer up to 992 seats at community providers, with up to 627 seats for 4-year-olds and up to 365 seats for 3-year-olds.“

“ ‘The greatest investment we can make in our future is to support and center our young people,’ said Mayor Michelle Wu. ‘With this historic investment in early childhood education, we can kickstart an increase in high-quality Pre-K seats, bring family child care providers into the UPK network, and ensure all of our families have access to free and accessible early childcare and education.’ ”

“Mayor Wu Announces $20 million investment to expand Boston’s universal pre-K program,” Boston Mayor’s Office, July 6, 2022

See also: “Boston to spend $20 million to expand pre-K program,” by Stephanie Ebbert and Adria Watson, The Boston Globe, July 6, 2022

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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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Center

Photo: Bruna Saito from Pexels

It’s time to tell a new story about early childhood development, but first a little bit about the old story.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician, has been explaining brain science to policymakers. Specifically, Shonkoff and his colleagues at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, have pointed to three crucial concepts:

• how children’s early experiences affect their “brain architecture”

• the importance of “serve and return” interactions between children and adults, and

• how “toxic stress” caused by poverty and other factors can impair health child development

“Over the past two decades, the ‘brain science story’ has made a powerful case for investing in the early childhood period,” the center explains on its website.

But it is current events – the pandemic and the renewed public focus on systemic racism – that have “intensified the demand for fresh thinking about the future of the early childhood field.”

So now, the center is rolling out a new way of thinking called Early Childhood Development 2.0. The goal is to spark “science-based innovation” that transforms early childhood policies and practices. Building on “the strong foundation” of brain architecture, serve and return, and toxic stress, the center is adding three new concepts: (more…)

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“What if I was to tell you that game of peekaboo could change the world? sounds impossible. Right? Well, I’m here today to prove it’s not. Hi, I’m Molly, and I’m seven.”

“Our brains grow faster in our early years than any other time in our lives. It can create up to 1 million neural connections every second, but we need your help. Our healthy development depends on these top five things, one, connecting; two, talking; three playing; four, a healthy home, five community. All of this helps our brains and us reach our full potential.

“So what’s something you can do that could really make a difference? Scientists call it serve and return. That’s just the grown up way of saying connect talk and play with us.”

“Molly Wright: How every child can thrive by five” TED Talk, August 9, 2021

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“Compared with K through 12 students, preschoolers are suspended at nearly 3 times the frequency of older students,” Molly Kaplan, the host of the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast, explains in a recent episode called, “How To End the Preschool to Prison Pipeline.”

The episode focuses on the racial and social inequities that even very young children must face.

To explore the issue, Kaplan interviews Rosemarie Allen, a School of Education professor at the State University of Denver.

As Allen’s faculty webpage explains, “Her life’s work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate… Her classes are focused on ensuring teachers are aware of how issues of equity, privilege, and power impact teaching practices.”

On the podcast, Allen describes the cascade of expulsions that young children can face.

“We’re finding that children as young as eight months old began to be suspended and expelled from their child care programs, usually for doing typical things that babies do, like crying or biting,” she says.

(more…)

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Nicole Simonson

During this extremely unique and challenging year, I have had the privilege of interning with Strategies for Children through my graduate program in Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I am also an elementary school social worker as well as a mother of two young boys, one of whom is in preschool. I came to this internship with a level of frustration and a gnawing need to examine the systemic barriers that block the children I work with from accessing timely and appropriate behavioral health services. Throughout my career as a social worker, I have worked my way backwards in a sense from helping the most severely mentally ill adolescents in a residential program to ultimately seeking work that focuses on a model of prevention for young children.

Enter Strategies for Children.

My internship project for the year has been to examine the landscape of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) programs in Massachusetts. For this project, I interviewed various stakeholders who encounter IECMH from a variety of angles. To those who were so generous with their time for this project, I thank you. 

(more…)

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“I feel a great responsibility to remember and think of the educators, program directors, family childcare providers, school staff, CEOs, and community leaders who have shown up every day for children and families to start with this pandemic.

“We continue to be inspired by this resilient workforce, but we know that is not enough. We cannot return to the way things were. We cannot call child care essential for the economy and then continue to have 37% of early educators in Massachusetts eligible for public assistance. We cannot make decisions about the K-to-12 side of this system without considering the implications for babies, toddlers, before- and afterschool, summer and school vacations. We cannot give access to consistent testing to people in one part of the system and not continue to think about the children and families, and [about] the [early education] teachers who are there every day with children.”

“We know that families don’t live in funding streams, but many of our decisions have been based on those funding streams.”

[Amy starts speaking at the video’s 1:00 time mark.]

— Amy O’Leary, “Reimagining Early Care and Education: A New American Vision,” A New America webcast, March 30, 2021

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Photo: Ivan Samkov from Pexels

 

How, specifically, can the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan – a federal COVID-19 relief package — help child care?

Here are some new, national tools and reports that have good answers.

Infants and toddlers: Get details on the opportunities for infants and toddlers on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, at noon, when the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center will host a webinar. The policy impact center has also released a research brief that says in part: “The American Rescue Plan represents an unprecedented increase in funding for programs that improve the lives of families with young children. From the expanded child tax credit to economic stimulus payments and billions more in child care funding, this law provides a buffer for families, workers, caregivers, and child-serving organizations during an economic and public health emergency.”

The brief also explains how the American Rescue Plan ties into the impact center’s early childhood policy roadmap, which we blogged about here. The impact center is based at the University of Texas Austin’s LBJ School of Public Affairs.

Fixing child care – and making it stronger than before: Last year, Opportunities Exchange, an early childhood nonprofit, published Louise Stoney’s article, “REINVENT vs. REBUILD: Let’s Fix the Child Care System.” Stoney, the co-founder of the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance, writes about the financial instability that early education and care programs have faced both before and during the pandemic. Stoney also recommends a “Child Care Come-Back Plan” that federal Covid funds could support. This plan explains how “public and private sector leaders” can “effectively lead a child care come-back effort” that includes provider-based technology, business coaching, and new rate setting strategies. (more…)

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Sarah Mills

How do you go from being a preschool teacher to working as a legislative aide in the Massachusetts State House? 

For Sarah Mills, it’s all about loving the work of interacting with young children. 

In elementary and middle school, Mills enjoyed helping out with infants and toddlers who were enrolled in her public school’s preschool program. 

As a Syracuse University college student, Mills got a work-study job at her campus’ early education center. 

And when she came to Boston to attend graduate school at Simmons University, she needed to work full-time, so she found a job at KinderCare in downtown Boston where she spent half her time working with infants and half her time working in the afterschool program. 

“When I was younger, I just loved kids; they were so much fun to hang out with,” Mills recalls. “It’s really exciting being with kids who are ages zero to five because you get to watch them go through so many significant milestones, whether it’s their first steps or their first words. Being with kids at this age is truly joyful.” 

“Another wonderful thing is that you get to know the families. I had a lot of families with first-time babies, and so I had the responsibility of helping to educate them and helping them to feel comfortable, because it’s scary to drop your child off for the first time with people you’ve just met. And I was working before the paid family leave law. So I saw parents who had no choice but to bring children who were six weeks or 12 weeks old to our program.”  (more…)

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A new policy roadmap charts a course for how states can help children thrive in their first three years of life.

The Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap 2020 was just released by the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

The roadmap is “a guide state leaders can use to develop and implement the most effective policies to strengthen their state’s prenatal-to-3 (PN-3) system of care,” the roadmap’s executive summary explains.

“The science of the developing child is clear: Infants and toddlers need loving, stimulating, stable, and secure care environments with limited exposure to adversity. However, to date states have lacked clear guidance on how to effectively promote the environments in which children thrive.”

The roadmap calls on states to:

• prioritize science-based policy goals to promote infants’ and toddlers’ optimal health and development

• adopt and implement effective policies and strategies to improve prenatal-to-3 goals and outcomes

• monitor the progress being made toward adoption & implementation of effective solutions, and

track outcomes to measure impact on optimal health and development of infants and toddlers

The roadmap says states should have 11 effective policies and strategies in place.

The policies are: (more…)

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