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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

Photo: Courtesy of Jodilynn Machado

 

At the YMCA Southcoast in New Bedford, coping with the COVID-19 pandemic started with offering emergency child care.

Now the Y is also getting ready to reopen its child care program by early July – working to keep children engaged and meet strict state safety regulations.

Providing emergency child care

“We’re changing gloves constantly, between every transition that we do, gloves are being changed, masks are being put on,” Jodilynn Machado, the Y’s child care director, said last month in the midst of providing emergency child care for 30 children ages 2.9 to 13 years old, including seven preschoolers.

In addition, Machado and her staff were also doing a lot of cleaning, sanitizing chairs, toys, and anything else that the children in their care have touched.

“We also check in with parents,” Machado said, “we always ask them if there’s anything that they need that we can assist them with.” One pressing need for many families has been food. So the Y has connected them to food programs. (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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Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera. Source: City of Lawrence Instagram page

“Are we in a place where we can safely go back to business, go back to work or go back to life?” Lawrence, Mass., Mayor Dan Rivera said last week on a Zoom call with the early childhood community.

This question, Rivera explained, is what the members of the Massachusetts Reopening Advisory Board have been asking as they grapple with how to emerge from the statewide shutdowns caused by COVID-19.

Rivera serves on the reopening board, and he’s working hard to protect his city, which has had, as of Tuesday, 3,438 COVID-19 cases and 127 deaths. Last month, The Boston Globe reported that Lawrence had become “a coronavirus hot spot, with the fourth-highest per capita rate of infection in Massachusetts.”

On the Zoom call, Rivera provided a mayor’s-eye-view of the crisis and its impact on child care.

Handling disasters isn’t new work for Lawrence. In 2018, gas line explosions shoved the city into crisis mode.

“Because of the Columbia Gas crisis, we know what suffering would look like if we didn’t step up right away,” Rivera explains in a follow-up interview. (more…)

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Photo: Gustavo Fring. Source: Pexels

 

As the country moves through the coronavirus crisis, states will be able to learn from each other about how to navigate the pandemic and reopen early education and care problems.

The starting line for all states is reviewing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But individual states are taking their own approach.

A number of national organizations are tracking state responses, including the Hunt Institute, a national nonprofit organization that has released a summary of state actions.

“States are devising a number of health and safety protocols to address the new situation we’re in, so that they can promote child development while complying with social distancing guidelines,” Ryan Telingator, Strategies for Children’s new intern, says. Telingator has been monitoring these varied approaches.

Massachusetts, for example, has largely steered its own course. Governor Baker chose to close child care programs when coronavirus first hit the country hard and only offer emergency child care. Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and a handful of other states made the same choice, and so did New York City. (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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Yesterday Governor Charlie Baker announced a four-phase reopening plan for Massachusetts. It’s a comprehensive strategy to safely get people back to work and ease restrictions while minimizing the health impacts of COVID-19. Visit the new Reopening Massachusetts webpage for details and read the report from the Reopening Advisory Board.

What does this mean for child care?

• During phase 1, exempt emergency child care will remain in place to meet the needs of families with no alternatives for child care. Currently this system, which can serve up to 10,000 children, is at only 35% capacity

• The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the Department of Public Health are creating additional health and safety standards for serving more children and families

• For additional information, visit EEC’s new webpage, Reopening Child Care: A Phased Approach

• To craft its regulations, EEC is drawing on public health guidance as well as field data from educators and families

There are still many unknowns for families, educators, program directors, and state officials. What we know for sure, however, is that safe, high-quality child care is essential to any reopening plan and to the state’s economic recovery.

We’ll share more information and advocacy opportunities in the coming days and weeks.

Thank you for all you are doing to support children and families.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

“What Will Child Care Look Like In Our New Normal?” WBUR’s Radio Boston show asked this week.

Featured on the show were Sandy Emery, the owner of Sandy’s Tiny Tykes in Haverhill and Emma LaVecchia, co-founder of Pine Village Preschool — as well as Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children.

Setting the policy stage, Amy explained that, “The Governor working alongside the Commissioner of Early Education and Care closed child care. Many states never made this choice… So with closing chid care and then opening in emergency sites, we are seeing an opportunity, as we think about reopening, [to think] about what it looks like to reopen stronger than we were before.”

Check out the rest of the segment and leave a comment sharing your experiences.

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

COVID-19 has exposed long-term weaknesses in Massachusetts’ early education and care system – and made them worse, Joan Wasser Gish explains in a new CommonWealth Magazine article, “An early education system for a post-pandemic world.”

“If we are going to restore our economy, now and in the future,” the article says, “it will require a functioning system of affordable, accessible, high quality early education and care.”

Wasser Gish is a member of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care – and a former director of research and policy at Strategies for Children.

Long before COVID-19, she notes, families and early childhood programs have struggled with costs.

“Massachusetts has the second highest cost of child care in the nation, swallowing 39 percent of earnings in a typical Massachusetts family. For parents who work odd or unpredictable hours, or plan around the agrarian school calendar, child care is a decades-long, fraught, expensive patchwork.” (more…)

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How should Massachusetts reopen its early education and care programs?

By being responsive to the new needs that parents and employers have in a COVID-19 world.

That’s why Strategies for Children and 38 other organizations have submitted a letter to Governor Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board, which is actively seeking public feedback as it develops a plan “to reopen the economy in phases based on health and safety metrics.”

As our letter explains, taking careful next steps is essential.

“As you develop recommendations for how best to re-boot economic recovery in Massachusetts,” the letter says, “we ask that you include an intentional focus on reopening and strengthening the child care sector. No recovery will be successful if employees and working families do not have access to safe, affordable, high-quality child care for their children.”

The letter also points to the business sector’s support for child care, explaining: (more…)

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