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Archive for the ‘Pre-kindergarten’ Category

Next month, Massachusetts will have new leadership, so it’s time for advocates to learn about and reach out to key players in state public policy.

One good place to start is learning about the transition teams that have been created by Governor-elect Maura Healey and Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Driscoll.

The key committee for early childhood advocates to focus on is called “Thriving Youth and Young Adults.”

Chaired by Amanda Fernandez, the CEO of Latinos for Education, and Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Rachel H. Monárrez, the committee is looking at, “How we address learning loss from the pandemic and give all children and families equitable access to the educational, social, emotional and behavioral supports they need.”

Serving on the committee are well known members of the early education and care community, including:

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The Early Childhood Agenda is making progress. This convening series hosted by Strategies for Children has brought together more than 400 individual advocates and partners. Participants have been meeting in five working groups to identify systemic challenges and set priorities.

Last week, participants attended a whole group meeting – dubbed “Bringing it all Together” and recorded in the video above – to talk across the Agenda’s working groups and ensure that the groups’ efforts are aligned and that any gaps in the work are addressed.

Among the themes that were discussed:

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Great news! Early education and care got a financial boost earlier this month when Governor Charlie Baker signed a $3.76 billion economic development bill into law.

As our FY’23 budget webpage explains, this investment includes “an additional $150 million to continue the C3 Stabilization Grants through the end of the fiscal year in June 2023, and an additional $315 million in the newly created High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Fund.”

We are grateful to the Legislature for passing this bill and to the governor for signing it.

In a State House News story that ran in the Sentinel & Enterprise, Baker says Massachusetts can invest in child care and be fiscally prudent:

“Recognizing the importance of childcare investments, I am approving sections in this bill that redirect $315 million from the Commonwealth Taxpayer Relief Fund to the High-Quality Early Education & Care Affordability Fund. However, we can invest in childcare and make sensible tax changes at the same time. With the state in a historically strong fiscal position, the tax cuts that the Legislature has committed to prioritizing next session will be affordable without a special set-aside.”

A WBUR report focuses on the relief for some workers, noting:

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

“My name is Gillian Budine. I have been a Coordinated Family and Community Engagement (CFCE) grant program coordinator for many years, including during the Community Partnership and Family Network days. Locally we call our CFCE program the Community Network for Children (CNC) Program and our priority communities are Erving, Leverett, New Salem, Shutesbury and Wendell, but our programs reach families beyond those five towns to neighboring towns with our CFCE programming.”

“CFCE programs have been a crucial hub of support and resources for families. Especially in our small rural communities.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 6, November 8, 2022

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What parents said:

“Working with CNC has been incredible throughout the time we have been involved, from last trimester of pregnancy to current days of our daughter being 1. Our daughter has learned so much and is quite advanced as a result of this program and what it offers.”

“My son and I have been attending CNC programs since he was a few months old. He now has such a fondness for music and stories. During the pandemic, we have been so grateful to have a safe, welcoming environment to attend, learn, and grow. Without the CNC programs, my son would not have had the opportunity at his young age to listen to live guitar, [engage in] singing as a group, read alouds, and exploration. Thank you for this incredible opportunity!”

“Our playgroups in Shutesbury and Erving have been of utmost importance in maintaining social connections and parental support throughout the pandemic, especially during the winter months. We have appreciated the efforts of all staff involved in planning, coordinating, and implementing these groups. My daughter lights up with excitement to see Ms. Katie play guitar and sing songs. She practices social skills of waving and taking turns when with her peers. She’s developed a sense of pride and independence when giving supplies back to Ms. Gillian to help clean up. To see other parents has also helped give me support and comfort during these times of being in isolation throughout the cold months.”

Testimony submitted to the Board of the Department of Early Education and Care, p. 7, November 8, 2022

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Playing outside is a source of joy for children — and an opportunity for early educators to teach amazing lessons.

But many early childhood programs don’t have the information and resources they need to build engaging outdoor play spaces.

A policy brief from New America — Rethinking Outdoor Space for High-Quality Early Learning –addresses this by sharing the many options for creating an engaging “outdoor learning environment” or OLE.

The brief starts with a story about butterflies:

“Tiny monarch caterpillars arrived at the school, not floating through the air, but with the thud of a package on concrete.

“Our postal carrier had no idea how many lessons were going to emerge from that box for the prekindergartners at our public school in Washington, DC. First, we created a mesh net habitat and placed it in the tiny side yard of our concrete school building, which is just a few feet from a busy street known for nightlife, not nature. Within a day, the caterpillars doubled in size and the students watched, fascinated, commenting on the bite marks in the plants and listening closely for crunching.

“Over the next four weeks, children took turns watering the plants in the garden beds and tore off leaves to place in the mesh cage for the very hungry caterpillars.”

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we voted

The Election Day results from Massachusetts are in!

Congratulations to Governor-Elect Maura Healey, Lieutenant Governor-Elect Kim Driscoll, the returning members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, and the winners of other statewide offices.

We are also excited to congratulate all returning and newly elected members of the Massachusetts Legislature.

What’s next?

Join us on Monday, November 21st, 2022, at 1 p.m. for a post-election webinar to discuss next steps and how we can work together to build relationships and engage elected officials in supporting early childhood in 2023!

Click here to register.

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One of the most important lessons you learn in a conversation with Mo Barbosa is that everything in youth development work is – or should be – connected.

“The better we do with zero to five,” Barbosa says of working with young children, “the better we’re going to do with the next 10 to 15 years of development.”

Barbosa is the senior director of Community Engagement at Health Resources in Action, where his goal as a trainer and facilitator is to professionalize the youth work field. He is the facilitator for convenings of The Early Childhood Agenda, which are hosted by Strategies for Children.

Barbosa’s sweeping focus is on the zero-to-24 age range – “or 24-ish” he says, “as we’re starting to understand the brain, we’re going a little bit later.”

But instead of a well-paved road that leads from birth to early adulthood, children and families in Massachusetts — and the rest of the country — face a fractured system. 

“There has been this historic difference between where you get child care and how much of it is early education and how much of it is just a place to put your kid,” Barbosa says. “And that difference has dictated quality. It has dictated pay. And it has dictated opportunity.”

Barbosa recalls running an early childhood program in St. Louis where children who lived in local housing projects would not go to kindergarten because they could not pass the screening test. Instead, they would enter first grade as six-year-olds with no early childhood classroom experiences.

The solution?

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vote-blog

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

It’s Election Day! Please go out and vote!

Here are some useful voting facts and links:

• polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. in Massachusetts. Click here to see where you vote

• you can also check the Secretary of State Elections Website

• you can see information about the Ballot Questions here

If you’ve already voted, thanks for your participation.

To learn more about voting, please check out Strategies for Children’s “Vote 2022” webpage. It has a number of voting resources as well as details on how we’re working to build more equitable access to early childhood programs.

Once again, please vote. 

Your participation matters to the future of children across Massachusetts.

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“Our child care system is broken.”

“Initially, to address this crisis as an employer, I considered hosting onsite child care; however, I quickly realized this was a mere stop-gap to a much larger, systemic challenge. Systemic challenges require systemic solutions, which is why the only solution to Vermont’s child care crisis is increasing public investment in our 0-5 child care system. Not just temporarily, but for the long-term, with a sustainable funding source.”

“Column: Lack of child care hinders small businesses,” by Sam Hooper, Valley News, October 25, 2022

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“Over the past couple years, Vermont has seen an influx of thousands of new people and families moving to the state. In Chittenden County alone, from 2020 to 2021, 605 new businesses launched or opened new locations, a massive spike over the previous year. However, it’s increasingly challenging to find workers here in Vermont or those willing and able to relocate and the top reason we hear is lack of high-quality, affordable child care. It’s estimated that there are over 5,000 parents living in Vermont right now who want to work but can’t because they don’t have the child care they need.”

“Hamel, Grace & Wall: The weight of the child care crisis is crushing Vermont’s workforce,” by Carina Hamel, Aba Grace & Tim Wall, Vermont Business Magazine, October 27. 2022 

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This past summer, Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child “welcomed Lindsey Burghardt, M.D., M.P.H., FAAP, as our Chief Science Officer.” Dr. Burghardt “leads our efforts to translate the science of early childhood—particularly the science behind ECD 2.0—for key audiences in the health sector, from policymakers to pediatricians. As a practicing pediatrician herself, Dr. Burghardt brings a clinician’s perspective to this work.

“In recognition of Children’s Health Month, Dr. Burghardt shares her thoughts on the importance of understanding and supporting sound mental health, particularly for our youngest children.

“Q: The COVID-19 pandemic has led to tremendous challenges for both children and caregivers, including an increase in mental health issues and a lack of access to providers who can help. As a pediatrician, what are some of the issues you have been seeing in your own practice on this front?

“A: ​There have been so many strains on caregivers during the pandemic. In particular, many working families have struggled to maintain access to consistent, high-quality childcare, which puts incredible stress on both caregivers and young children. The childcare environment is so important for children’s healthy development—their relationships with immediate caregivers matter a great deal, but so do their relationships with providers in early care and education, as well as with other adults in their communities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put significant stress on an already strained system, with a shortage of providers and limited options for parents to balance caring for their children and working to maintain their income. I’ve heard from many caregivers that they are experiencing significant stress, and in some cases job insecurity, due to the lack of consistent childcare. For caregivers who work nontraditional hours such as overnight shiftwork, or for those who care for multiple children, the stresses can be even greater. I’ve also observed increases in behavioral challenges and anxiety, including among young children.

“Q: Amidst all these challenges, how can caregivers and providers help create environments that foster strong mental health for babies and toddlers in a post-COVID world?

“A: The role of caregivers and providers is critical in fostering good mental health, so we must support the needs of the adults who care for children, through both individual and systems level approaches. When we support adults directly and tackle the systemic inequities that challenge families and providers, we help ensure that children can develop in health-promoting environments.”

“Children’s Health Month: The Importance of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health,” Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, October 2022

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