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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

 

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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Source: Strategies for Children

 

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Strategies for Children has set up a family survey so we can learn about parents’ and caregivers’ experiences with child care.

So far, there have been more than 1,550 responses. We’ve posted a summary of them, and we are sharing this information with policymakers to help guide their work.

Among the written responses is this troubling observation from Natick:

“It is proving difficult, draining, and detrimental to the mental well-being for working parents to juggle full time workloads and round-the-clock childcare. While many parents are non-essential, they are still working remotely but without the option of childcare. Needless to say, one person cannot perform two full-time jobs simultaneously. Parents need support in the form of teaching resources but also mental health and emotional support.”

Crunching the survey numbers produced these results: (more…)

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Senator Elizabeth Warren talks to a very young constituent. Source: Senator Warren’s Instagram account

 

“I just want to start by thanking you for all the work you’re doing to keep children safe and to support our community,” Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) said Friday when she joined a Strategies for Children Zoom call, adding:

“This is an unprecedented time for our communities, for our nation, for the entire world — and a time when it is so easy for the most vulnerable, the ones who don’t have their own lobbyists in Washington to get left behind.”

In a lively, inspiring conversation, Warren shared details about the $50 billon child care bailout bill she co-filed with Senator Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) to help the early education and care field survive the coronavirus pandemic and thrive afterwards. Warren also listened to questions and feedback from providers.

“I know that a lot of you on this call have concerns about how the childcare market is going to make it through this very challenging situation. And that is the reason why I’m fighting so hard to help every child care provider weather this crisis and come out on the other side stronger than ever before,” Warren said.

“We’re fighting in Congress to make sure that the funding is there, so that when it’s safe, every child care provider is able to reopen their doors.”

Warren has a three-part plan for the field: (more…)

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Source: Department of Early Education and Care

 

At a virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday, Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy shared plans for reopening Massachusetts’ early childhood programs.

A recording of the event is posted here.

“We’re looking toward the future and trying to think [about] and design strategies that can ensure that we are building a more supportive and more solid foundation for child care providers,” Commissioner Sam said at the town hall.

She is proposing a phased opening that builds on Governor Charlie’s Baker’s order that all schools and EEC programs remain closed through June 29, 2020.

As the slide below explains, EEC will engage in a three-step reopening process of assessing the EEC landscape, designing strategies that “addresses health and safety, sustainability, workforce, and financing,” and preparing to put these strategies into action. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

Local philanthropy “has an essential role to play.”

That’s the conclusion of an article about early education and care and the coronavirus pandemic.

“My biggest fear now,’ Janet Dotolo, of Melrose Day Care Center and Preschool in Melrose, Mass., says in the article, “is that I won’t be able to reopen when it is safe to do so, because my staff won’t come back.”

The article, which was published by the Bridgespan Group — a nonprofit organization that helps organizations and philanthropists “achieve breakthrough results” — explains:

“The United States has about 129,000 child care centers (a mix of nonprofit, for-profit, and faith-based) and 115,000 licensed home-based providers, who fill a critical need for families not well-served by centers.”

Having a functioning child care system is “of course, a vital resource for the healthy development of the 15 million children under age 6 with working parents.”

But the pandemic has created economic hardships that could force many programs to close permanently, which threatens communities’ abilities “to educate young children and restart their economies.” (more…)

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