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Archive for the ‘Infants and toddlers’ Category

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families with young children want?

As we blogged last week, the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) conducted a statewide survey that asked this question and collected feedback from more than 1,200 families. MPIT is a collaboration of 40+ organizations and family engagement specialists.

The survey results were, however, collected, before COVID-19 shut down the country.

So now, to understand what families want in the middle of this pandemic, MPIT has asked its members to share the changes they’ve made in their services.

 

The Department of Public Health shifts to pandemic protection

At the state level, the Bureau of Family Health and Nutrition, part of the Department of Public Health, addresses the health needs of “mothers, infants, children and youth— including children and youth with special health needs.” Two of the bureau’s core values are culturally responsive family engagement and racial equity.

To do its work during the pandemic, the bureau has set up telehealth appointments via phone or video so that families can access the Early Intervention system, the WIC Nutrition program, and the Home Visiting program.

In Chelsea and Springfield, early childhood coalitions that are supported by the bureau’s MA Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems have distributed food, diapers, and diapering supplies to families, stepping in when grocery store shelves have often been bare.

To provide parents with more information, the bureau’s Division for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs has set up online information sessions for parents and posted new content — “Emergency Care Planning for Children & Youth with Special Health Needs during COVID 19 and Beyond” – on the Mass.gov website. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families want?

That’s the question that the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) asked last year in a statewide survey of 1,260 families with young children.

Facilitated by Strategies for Children, MPIT is a “unique collaboration between early childhood professionals inside and outside of government, at the state and local level, spanning early education and health,” a summary of the survey findings explains.

The survey’s goal was to “learn about families’ experiences with early childhood programs and services. What works, what doesn’t, what are the barriers to participation, and what would families like to see more of in their communities.” Respondents were asked about a wide range of programs, including Early Intervention, WIC, home visiting, play groups, and child care. In addition to the survey, there were five in-person family focus groups.

The results provide useful insights. Parents said they wanted a greater variety of more affordable early childhood programs – such as swimming, dance, music, and yoga – where they could interact with other parents. They want programs with flexible schedules and more opportunities to talk with local experts about child development and family wellbeing. (more…)

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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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How are babies doing?

The new “State of Babies Yearbook: 2020,” released by the national nonprofit Zero to Three, has answers.

“The Yearbook is the story of the 12 million infants and toddlers in the U.S. and their families,” the yearbook’s executive summary explains.

“But it is also the story of our nation’s future. The babies behind the numbers are our society’s next generation of parents, workers, and leaders. We can’t afford to squander the potential of a single child if our nation is to thrive—nor should it be acceptable that so many have barriers in their way.”

The yearbook’s goal is to bridge “the gap between science and policy with national and state-by-state data on the well-being of America’s babies.”

Grounded “in the science of early development,” the yearbook looks at how babies are doing in three developmental domains: good health, strong families, and positive learning experiences. Within each of these domains are a number of indicators including: (more…)

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Yesterday, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker released long-awaited reopening guidelines for the state’s child care programs: “Massachusetts Child and Youth Serving Programs Reopen Approach: Minimum Requirements for Health and Safety.”

Programs can reopen in Phase 2 of the state’s four-phase rollout. The exact date for reopening will depend on an ongoing analysis of the state’s COVID-19 data. The guidelines are being released now so that programs can plan for the operational changes they will need to make – and so that they can share these changes with families.

The reopening guidelines set high standards for health and sanitation that should protect children and staff. These standards were developed by an inter-agency working group of education, human services, and public health officials, and they were reviewed by medical experts at Boston Children’s Hospital.

As The Boston Globe reports, “…child care centers can begin to submit plans for reopening as soon as they satisfy newly released health and safety guidelines.” Massachusetts’ planning requirements are more thorough than those of most other states. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

“This is the pen you are going to use,” Maria Gonzalez Moeller — wearing a mask and holding a thermometer — says to families who walk into the lobby of the Early Learning Center run by The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass. “When you’re done with the pen, you put it down here.”

The pen, she explains, is what a parent or caregiver will use every time they sign their children in or out of emergency child care.

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, no one else will touch the pen.

“It’s the visual impact of the mask and the pen and thermometer that gives parents confidence,” Moeller, The Community Group’s CEO, says. Yes, this is a historically disastrous pandemic, but Moeller and her staff are going to make sure that the kids in their care have a good day.

“Parents are not allowed to see the building, but I offer them the option of meeting the teacher through a window,” Moeller explains.

The Early Learning Center has a license to provide emergency child care for children ages 2.9 to 10 years old.

“As soon as the opportunity to offer emergency child care became an option, we thought about it, and we decided it matched our mission,” Moeller says. “We were already a licensed childcare center, and we had strong connections with the community, so we opened our doors.” (more…)

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Briana Lamari

Briana Lamari went to Stonehill College thinking she would be a high school English teacher.

But after doing a school placement with a teacher who felt she couldn’t control what went on in her classroom because of all the policies made outside that classroom, Lamari’s interest began to shift.

In a sociology class, Lamari studied inequality in education. And during Lamari’s senior year in college, when she was looking for an internship, her sociology professor, Sinead Chalmers, who is also a senior associate at the Rennie Center, told her about Strategies for Children.

“I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to go beyond Stonehill and see education on a larger scale, especially at the state level. And it has turned out to be just that, the opportunity to see the landscape of early education and policy.” (more…)

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“If we care about equity, we have to build a system that nurtures healthy brain development starting at birth,” Shael Polakow-Suransky, the president of Bank Street College, said last month.

“When we provide babies and toddlers with regular access to a sensitively attuned caregiver, we literally feed the growing brain, helping to build the brain architecture that supports everything in life that follows—our learning, our behavior, and even our health.”

Polakow-Suransky was speaking at an event where Bank Street released a new report: “Investing in the Birth-to-Three Workforce: A New Vision to Strengthen the Foundation for All Learning.”

“We’re at a critical moment in this country where the question is not ‘why invest in early childhood?’ It’s ‘how do we invest in early childhood,’” Sarah Rittling, executive director of the First Five Years Fund, said at the event. (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Jessie Colbert wanted to address a silent epidemic: postpartum depression (PPD).

PPD and peripartum depression (which covers a range of emotional health challenges that occur before and after birth) can affect mothers – and sometimes fathers — and Colbert says not enough people are talking about it.

“The shame and the stigma and the silence perpetuates the problem both individually and in terms of our addressing it better as a public health issue,” Colbert said in a recent New England Weekend podcast. (more…)

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Karen Fabian teaching a yoga class for children. Photo courtesy of Karen Fabian

 

“I began to practice yoga for the first time ever in 1999. And after taking my first teacher training in 2002, I knew I wanted to teach full time,” Karen Fabian says. So she shifted out of her corporate career in health care administration, and started teaching in 2003.

“Over time, I started my own brand, Bare Bones Yoga. And I’ve been doing that ever since.”

These days, Fabian’s work includes teaching yoga to preschoolers, which she’s been doing for 13 years. She ran a program at the South Boston Neighborhood House for two years. And she currently teaches at two programs in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood that are part of Partners Healthcare system.

It’s easy to stereotype yoga as a silent practice done in a quiet room. But that’s not the way Fabian teaches it.

She engages children on multiple levels, mixing yoga poses with language and literacy. It’s familiar territory for Fabian: her mother was a preschool teacher for 35 years.

“Toddlers and four-year-olds, they really like Tree pose,” Fabian says of her youngest yoga students. “Kids, as young as two-and-a-half will do downward dog; it’s a universal pose that kids of all ages will do, even little ones.” (more…)

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