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Archive for the ‘Pre-kindergarten’ Category

July 29, 2020

Dear Members of our Congressional Delegation:

Thank you for your efforts to support the needs of the Commonwealth’s residents as we continue to confront the myriad challenges caused by the pandemic.

We write today in appreciation of your demonstrated commitment to early education and care and to request that you each do everything within your power to ensure that the final relief bill currently being debated in Congress includes $50 billion in specific, dedicated funding necessary to stabilize our vital field.

The momentum behind the child care sector—both around the country and within the halls of the Capitol—has been gaining for weeks. Finally, the people and their representatives are realizing what we have all known for years: the child care sector is the backbone of our economy, providing education and care for our children while also facilitating parent reentry into the workforce.

Operating on razor-thin margins even before the pandemic, center-based, family child care, and afterschool providers in the Commonwealth are now facing even greater and longer-lasting challenges. The sector is being decimated by pandemic-required reduced capacity and increased cleaning and PPE costs. Cutbacks in services to families and widespread layoffs of staff are also adversely impacting our economic recovery. Worse yet, the damage to the workforce has a disparate impact on women and especially women of color who overwhelmingly serve in this critical, but underappreciated and underpaid role.

Many Massachusetts providers have already shuttered their doors, while the rest are cutting into whatever limited reserves they may have had and are headed for the same outcome. In a new report issued by NAEYC this month, average enrollment is down by 67% across the country and without an infusion of funding, 50% of all programs will be closed by December and only 18% will make it through a year. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

Because of COVID-19, Massachusetts does not yet have a Fiscal Year 2021 budget, which would have gone into effect on July 1st of this year.

Last Friday, however, Governor Charlie Baker signed into law a supplemental budget for the FY20 fiscal year. This budget includes critical funding for COVID-19 relief efforts.

“Baker said much of the bill, as it covers COVID-19 spending, will be reimbursable by the federal government,” MassLive.com reports.

A State House News article adds that the bill “also designates June 19 as a state holiday known as ‘Juneteenth Independence Day,’ commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. Baker said that the holiday will be a time to ‘recognize the continued need to ensure racial freedom and equality.’ ”

For early education and care, the budget includes $36 million to cover the costs that the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) faces as it administers emergency child care for essential workers and replaces lost parent fees for state-subsidized providers.

The budget also includes $45.6 million in child care funding that was awarded in the federal CARES Act, which became law on March 27, 2020. EEC will distribute these funds as grants to providers who serve subsidized children or essential workers.

In addition, the budget establishes a new $500,000, Early Education and Care Public-Private Trust Fund to support technical assistance for child care providers as they engage in reopening and recovery efforts. The budget also directs the Department of Public Health to work with EEC to collect and publish the number of COVID-19-positive cases that occur among children, families, and child care staff. 

 To learn more, click here to see a list of early childhood state budget line items — and to see the FY21 budget proposal that Governor Baker filed in January.

For more information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org or (617) 330-7387.

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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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Webinar screenshot of Donna Warner, Dorothy Williams, Dr. Annie Vaughan, Amy O’Leary, Dr. Faye Holder-Niles, Sandra Fenwick, and Samantha Aigner-Treworgy.

 

How can early childhood programs get sound advice about reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic?

By talking to doctors who know about viruses.

Don’t know any infectious disease specialists?

No problem.

The Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) is already talking to doctors, thanks to a partnership with Boston Children’s Hospital. And EEC is sharing what early childhood providers need to know in a newly released webinar (the password is: 2V=9y215) on the physical and mental health needs of young children.

Sandra Fenwick, CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, introduces the webinar, which features a panel discussion that’s moderated by Amy O’Leary, director of the Early Education for All Campaign at Strategies for Children.

In the webinar, EEC Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy also thanks Children’s Hospital for its partnership, and acknowledges the many questions that early childhood providers have, chief among them: (more…)

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

Here at Strategies for Children, COVID-19 has kept our advocacy focus on funding, health, and safety. Now that early childhood programs are reopening, we want to shine a spotlight on mental health.

As children, parents, and staff members continue to navigate life during a pandemic, they may need help managing mental health challenges.

Young children face a particularly high risk of being negatively impacted by the pandemic, Aditi Subramaniam said during a Strategies for Children Zoom call. She is the Early Childhood Mental Health Partnership Manager at the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Children may experience intense feelings or regress developmentally, and it may be emotionally tough for them to engage in social distancing, Subramaniam added. Fortunately, this risk can be mitigated by ensuring that children receive nurturing, responsive, and consistent care from caregivers and providers.

To help children, caregivers and providers can draw on several resources. (more…)

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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

Massachusetts’ legislators are listening, so please share your experiences.

Last week, the state’s Joint Committee on Education held part one of a virtual hearing on early education and care during the COVID-19 emergency. A video of that hearing is posted here.

Tomorrow — Tuesday, July 7, 2020 — the committee will hold part two.

You can join in by emailing written testimony through tomorrow at 5 p.m. to both of the committee’s chairs. Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) can be reached at Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov. And the email address for Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) is Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov.

It’s crucial to tell state legislators about the challenges that early educator and care providers will face as they reopen their programs. And, sadly, it’s also important to discuss that fact that some programs will not be financially able to reopen.

“Over the last two weeks, we have heard heartbreaking stories from directors and family child care of providers who are borrowing from their reserves in the hope of a child care bailout that may never come,” Amy O’Leary wrote in the testimony she shared at last week’s hearing. O’Leary is the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. (more…)

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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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This Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT, the movie “No Small Matter,” will have its live streaming national premiere on Facebook Live.

Click here to register – especially if you missed the local screenings.

“No Small Matter is the first feature documentary to explore the most overlooked, underestimated, and powerful force for change in America today: early childhood education,” the movie’s press kit explains, adding:

“Through poignant stories and surprising humor, the film lays out the overwhelming evidence for the importance of the first five years, and reveals how our failure to act on that evidence has resulted in an everyday crisis for American families, and a slow-motion catastrophe for the country.”

As the screening’s website says, the screening will be followed by “a live panel discussion highlighting the devastating impact of COVID-19 on children, families, and caregivers, and in turn, on the economy. Woven throughout the event will be video messages from celebrities, cultural influencers, and frontline workers thanking early educators for the challenging, exhausting, and essential work they do every day.”

Please share news of the screening on social media by using the website’s graphics and sample social media posts.

The movie highlights the urgent need for action, its website noting:

“The United States has always been defined by opportunity — and no issue so glaringly highlights our failure to deliver on this promise as the imbalance in the opportunities afforded to our youngest children.”

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“Portland City Council today approved $68 million in Portland Children’s Levy community investments over the next three years providing opportunities in education, youth development and family support.

“In its unanimous vote, Council members said they were pleased that Levy funding for 85 programs would go toward reaching city youth affected by generations of racial, ethnic and economic inequity. Some of the Levy partnering organizations will also use funds to respond to emergency needs during the COVID pandemic, especially in Black, Indigenous and communities of color.

“The approved three-year funding from July 2020 – June 2023 includes 22 grants for new programs, 10 expansions for currently funded programs, and 53 continuing grants to maintain current services:

• 16 grants in Early Childhood for $21 million

• 22 grants in After School for $12.6 million

• 16 grants in Child Abuse Prevention/Intervention for $12.2 million

• 12 grants in Foster Care for $8.5 million

• 11 grants in Hunger Relief for $7 million

• and 8 grants in Mentoring for $6.7 million

“Levy funded programs all work toward:

• Preparing children for school;

• Supporting their success inside and outside of the classroom; and

• Reducing racial and ethnic disparities in their well-being and school success.”

“Today’s vote comes after a two-year planning process by the Levy that included community outreach and engagement built around equity, transparency and inclusion in the funding process.”

 

“City Council Approves $68M in Levy community investments,” City of Portland press release, June 17, 2020

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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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