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Archive for the ‘Massachusetts Cities and Towns’ Category

Last week was the kickoff of The Early Childhood Agenda, a brand new effort to develop a broadly inclusive agenda of early childhood policy priorities. So far, nearly 400 parents, providers, and partners have signed up to be part of this effort. To join them, click here.

The Agenda, as its new website explains, “takes a whole-child approach, working across sectors for better policy development and to identify effective solutions that may not be visible from one sector’s viewpoint.”

The Agenda’s goal is to help Massachusetts make historic and sustainable progress.

Missed the kickoff event? You can watch it by clicking on the video posted above. Related materials are posted here.

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Last week, Strategies for Children hosted an open house event for the Early Childhood Agenda, our exciting new, initiative to build a consensus on early childhood needs in Massachusetts by connecting organizations, parents, advocates, businesses, educators, providers, and government representatives.

Did you miss it? No problem. Just watch the video above. The slides are available here.

And you can click here to sign up and join this effort along with the hundreds of early childhood advocates, providers, educators, and parents.

Please also join us for a kickoff meeting that will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, October 19, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Everyone who completes the sign-up form will automatically receive the Zoom link and instructions for this meeting.

Now is the time to take action.

As we’ve reported, this year’s state budget includes historic funding for early education and care. Advocates are eager to build on this momentum to achieve a sustainable system and lasting change. To encourage this change the Agenda will address the often interrelated issues of early childhood by taking a holistic view, going beyond child care to include any early childhood systems, programs, and policies that impact young children and families.

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“I was at a turning point in my life… that fork in the road, and there was a job opportunity in 2004. [It was] my perfect job Family Support Coordinator… And so that’s how I came to the Cape Cod Children’s Place.”

“Our mission really says who we are, a nonprofit resource referral and education center committed to providing high-quality, early education and care, support, and advocacy for families with young children.”

“I think being a parent today is the hardest job you’ll ever do and the most important job that you’ll ever do. In other parts of the world, the way that they regard families is really [as a] top priority, and we often disregard that important job. And so I believe truly if we do it really well with young families, the outcomes for the whole community is that much higher.”

The Person of the Week for October 13th, 2022 – Cindy Horgan – executive director of Cape Cod Children’s Place, MVY Radio

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Photo: Pixabay from Pexels

We’re excited to announce the launch of The Early Childhood Agenda!

This is a new partnership that invites stakeholders like you to build a consolidated agenda for early education and care. 

The Early Childhood Agenda will connect organizations, parents, advocates, businesses, educators, providers, and government representatives that all support the growth, development, and education of our youngest children and the wellbeing of families in Massachusetts through public awareness, policy development, and advocacy efforts.

Strategies for Children will host a series of meetings and facilitate a consensus building process composed of five working groups:

These meetings will produce a list of policy priorities shaped by community needs and the lived experiences and perspectives of our partners.

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Congratulations to Maria Gonzalez Moeller for being appointed by Governor Charlie Baker to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC)! 

As the CEO of The Community Group (TCG) in Lawrence, Moeller brings the perspective of early educators and families, and she has become an expert in managing the global pandemic so that children and families can get needed support.

She can also share how local early childhood innovations have helped move Massachusetts through the Covid-19 era.

“We had to do everything from scratch,” Moeller says of how her staff coped with the pandemic, “and we adjusted and evolved. That required a lot of flexibility from our staff and a lot of empathy. We knew everyone was going through a hard time.”

To keep its early childhood classes running even when staff were out sick with Covid, The Community Group developed its own employee pipeline, an apprenticeship program for early educators that began as an internal pilot program and then, with funding from the United Way, expanded to include other early childhood centers in the city.

“Training has been a big priority for us, specifically training in Spanish,” Moeller says. “There are a lot of new residents who come to Lawrence looking for a new career. Many of them are women who were teachers in their own countries. So we offer them the opportunity to become an early childhood professional.”

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Advocates have long called for early education and care to be treated as a public good – just like public schools or the infrastructure of roads and bridges needed to maintain a 21st century workforce. We are grateful for the close collaboration and appreciate the decisions our elected officials have made to support and stabilize the early education and care sector over the last two pandemic years.

While the worst may be behind us, we’re not out of the woods yet. This election year is especially important as we move towards sustainability and growth.

So please be a Champion for Young Children! Here’s how:

As a Voter

• REGISTER: If you are new to voting in U.S. elections, you have recently moved to the state of Massachusetts, or you simply need to update your registration information, visit the Online Voter Registration System. The voter registration deadline is Saturday, October 29, 2022.

• Learn about with your district and elected officials. Every 10 years, districts for members of Congress, the State House of Representatives, the State Senate, and the Governor’s Council are re-drawn by the Legislature. This process happens after each federal census in order to make sure each district is made up of approximately the same number of people. Learn more about redistricting in Massachusetts here.

• Learn about the candidates. Click here for the full list of state election candidates.

• Engage Candidates and Community: Ask questions about their education platforms and/or write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper urging candidates to prioritize young children in the election. If you need assistance, contact Marisa FearStrategies for Children’s associate director of research and policy.

• VOTE on (or before) Tuesday, November 8th! Click here for early voting information and instructions on how to vote by mail. Plan ahead for in person voting by looking up your poll place and election information.

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Last month, Strategies for Children hosted a Reception for Reflection for the first cohort of our Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care – and we’ve created a highlights video to showcase the work of our Advocacy Network participants.

The Advocacy Network is an engaging, year-long experience for emerging leaders. It creates a new structure for connecting and supporting educator-advocates across all regions of the state, while building participants’ advocacy skills and first-hand experience. 

For Anna Ricci-Mejia, an early educator at the East Boston Social Centers, the Advocacy Network experience was inspiring. 

“I decided to speak up more for children’s sake,” she says. “Every word counts. I know there’s a lot of frustration; this is a low-paying career. But when you’re compassionate with children, you learn something new every day.”

Marcia Gadson-Harris, a family child care provider and Advocacy Network participant, adds:

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Massachusetts is a leader in educational excellence, but not for all its students.

As a new report – “There Is No Excellence Without Equity: A Path Forward for Education in Massachusetts” — from the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) explains, “for a long time now, our state’s high overall rankings have masked deep inequities in student learning experiences and outcomes.”

Strategies for Children is a MEEP member.

The disparities the report cites were bad before Covid hit, and many have been aggravated by the pandemic.

“In parts of Boston and cities like Chelsea, Brockton, and Springfield, where infection and death rates were highest, the pandemic inflicted new levels of trauma and anxiety on families already facing significant adversity,” the report says.

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The new 2022 KIDS COUNT Data Book is out. It’s the annual, Annie E. Casey Foundation report that takes a deep dive into how the nation’s children are doing.

This year, the data book points out that while the pandemic and widespread economic uncertainty have caused harm, there are also pockets of progress. 

This year’s report focuses on children’s mental health.

“As of July 2022, the health crisis had killed more than 1 million people in America, including more than 1,600 children,” the foundation says of the pandemic’s impact. “During this same time span, more than 200,000 kids had lost a parent or primary caregiver to the virus.”

This has “helped fuel what the U.S. surgeon general has called a mental health pandemic for youth. According to the Data Book, the incidence of anxiety and depression among kids has spiked. Comparing pre-pandemic to the first year of the COVID-19 crisis: The share of children struggling to make it through the day rose nearly 26% — from 9.4% (5.8 million kids) in 2016 to 11.8% (7.3 million kids) in 2020.”

Another challenge is racial and eth­nic dis­par­i­ties that have con­tributed to “dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly trou­bling men­tal health and well­ness con­di­tions among chil­dren of col­or. Nine per­cent of high-school­ers over­all but 12% of Black stu­dents, 13% of stu­dents of two or more races, and 26% of Amer­i­can Indi­an or Native Alaskan high-school­ers attempt­ed sui­cide in the year pri­or to the most recent fed­er­al sur­vey.”

In addition, “many LGBTQ young peo­ple are encoun­ter­ing chal­lenges as they seek men­tal health sup­port. Among het­ero­sex­u­al high school stu­dents of all races and eth­nic­i­ties, 6% attempt­ed sui­cide; the share was 23% for gay, les­bian or bisex­u­al students.”

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If workers’ salaries were based on the value they provide to society, Andre Green, the executive director of the local nonprofit SkillWorks writes in a new Boston Foundation report, “few people would make more than child-care workers, home care workers, and long-term care facility workers. Almost none of us will get through life without needing at least one of them.”

Unfortunately, care workers typically receive low salaries and limited appreciation.

The report – “Care Work in Massachusetts: A Call for Racial and Economic Justice for a Neglected Sector” — adds:

“Over centuries, policies driven by racism, xenophobia, and misogyny have closed professional doorways and shunted many women of color, particularly immigrant women, into care work, where they contend with low wages, few benefits, and challenging working conditions. As this segment of our economy continues to grow, these issues will confront more and more workers until they are addressed.”

“Nothing made the importance—or precarity—of care work clearer than the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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