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Federal Reserve photo

Photo: Huong Vu for Strategies for Children

What happens when an early educator and a community leader team up with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston?

Everybody wins.

That’s what occurred when two members of the Boston Fed’s Leaders for Equitable Local Economies (LELE) program saw the damage caused by the pandemic.

“After COVID-19 hit, Marites MacLean and Beth Robbins noticed a worrying trend: Dozens of child care centers were closing across central Massachusetts. And as families lost reliable child care, local businesses increasingly struggled to fill jobs,” a Boston Fed article says.

MacLean is a longtime early educator and one of Strategies for Children’s original 9:30 Call participants. Robbins was helping “jobseekers through a local nonprofit called WORK Inc.” Both women are also residents of Fitchburg, Mass. And the LELE program they participate in supports and strengthens leaders like them who are “taking on the critical work of rebuilding economic systems in Massachusetts’ smaller cities.”

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We’re continuing to highlight our Advocacy Network participants, and we’re excited about all the work they’re doing in the field and across the state. For past blogs click here and here.

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Kelly Marion first came to the Gladys Allen Brigham Community Center when she was 11 years old. Her father had just passed away. He had been the victim of a violent crime. And Marion’s mother wanted Marion and her siblings to stay engaged with the community – and the world.

Today, Marion is the CEO of the community center, where she has worked for over 30 years. The center currently serves 2,500 families in and around the Western Massachusetts city of Pittsfield, in Berkshire County. 

“The majority of our families are socio-economically challenged,” Marion says. “We have a lot of single-parent households and grandparents raising their grandchildren.”

The center has a number of programs that support children, all the way from birth to age 13, including child care programs and an array of programming for middle and high school students. Once they’re old enough, many of these children are hired as center staff.

Thanks to her work, Marion is a seasoned advocate. So for her, joining Strategies for Children’s Advocacy Network was a chance to connect with other early educators from across the state — and share a vital message. 

“I don’t think people see how important early childhood education is, and how important high-quality early education is,” Marion says. 

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Amy O’Leary at the Massachusetts State House in 2011

We’re thrilled to wish Amy O’Leary a happy 20th anniversary! She started working at Strategies for Children on June 24, 2002.

We sat down with O’Leary to talk about this milestone.

“I have to say how grateful I am to have been at Strategies for Children for the last 20 years,” O’Leary says. “I would have never imagined that I would have this kind of job.”

O’Leary’s work with young children started at Skidmore College where she earned a degree in psychology and early education.

“I didn’t do a traditional K-12 education major,” O’Leary recalls, “because I was very interested in understanding why children did what they did, and how they sat in the context of family and community.” 

O’Leary’s campus job as a financial aid student was working as a classroom assistant at the Skidmore Early Childhood Center, a laboratory school affiliated with Skidmore’s Education Department, where she also did her student-teaching. 

“It was such an important part of my college experience to have that world where I could go three times a week, whether it was to my campus job or [for] student teaching, and develop relationships with families.”

“I don’t think I realized how wonderful the program was, and how it prepared me for my next job as a preschool teacher in Boston.”

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

The state budget process for fiscal year 2023 is entering its final stages. A six-member conference committee of legislators is meeting now to negotiate differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. For early education and care, there is $344 million at stake

That is the difference between House and Senate proposals, including $250 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants in the Senate proposal as well as $70 million in rates in the House proposal, which includes $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare. 

Click this link to email the conference committee today, and ask them to advocate for early education and care in the conference committee budget. Specifically, this email says:

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The Massachusetts Legislature is poised to take an exciting step forward. 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has just released a bill, An Act to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care.

It’s an investment in young children and the early education workforce that promises to make the state stronger as these children grow.

The bill draws heavily on the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which released a report in March. The bill also includes many of the policies advocated for by the Common Start Coalition in a bill it worked to file in 2021.

When it’s fully implemented, this legislation “will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” according to a statement released by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester).

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“Last night, at Robin Hood’s annual benefit to support poverty-fighting efforts in New York City, Robin Hood, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, and venture capitalist Alexis Ohanian announced the formation of a $100 million Child Care Quality & Innovation Initiative for New York City. The initiative includes $50 million from Robin Hood – including a $25 million donation from Alexis Ohanian’s 776 Foundation – and a $50 million commitment from New York City.”

“The Child Care Quality & Innovation Initiative will seek to make high-quality, affordable child care more accessible while improving the quality of care provided to New York children. This new funding will go towards expanding access in child care deserts – neighborhoods without enough licensed child care providers – and provide options beyond traditional working hours to accommodate parents with atypical schedules. Additionally, it will oversee the creation of a single online portal to streamline the application process for vouchers and integrate them with existing benefits. Finally, the initiative will support workforce development programs that help drive quality across New York City, including encouraging models that compensate providers more fairly, reducing turnover, and creating opportunities for growth within the sector.

“ ‘We need to get New Yorkers back to work while uplifting families, lowering the cost of child care while increasing options to remove obstacles that are holding too many parents back. Investing in child care is a down payment on progress and the future of our kids,’ said New York Mayor Eric Adams.”

“Robin Hood, Mayor Eric Adams, and Alexis Ohanian Announce $100 Million Initiative for Child Care Quality & Innovation at Robin Hood’s Annual Benefit,” Robin Hood press release, May 10, 2022

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Here’s an update on two of our Advocacy Network participants.

Stay tuned for more Advocacy Network updates in the coming weeks.


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Huong Vu

Huong Vu is a family engagement counselor at Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester – which is one way of saying she does a little bit of everything. She supports families in the Boys and Girls Club as well as families in the community. 

“We offer a free play group, a parent support group, and family engagement events,” she says of programs for families with young children, “and home visits and developmental screening.”

“Most of the families that we work with are low income or immigrants. English is not their first language. We work with families who speak Vietnamese, Spanish, Cape Verdean, and Haitian Creole. And they are not just from Dorchester, they’re from all across Boston.”

It’s work that has given Vu a great perspective on families and that makes her a great participant in Strategy for Children’s Advocacy Network, a year-long advocacy experience for early educators and emerging leaders.

One thing Vu has learned: “I didn’t know that I was already an advocate,” she says. “Every day, when it comes to work, my hope is that I can make small changes in families’ lives. Maybe I can connect them to a food program, or I can refer a child to an intervention program.

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Here at Strategies for Children, we are excited to announce the launch of our new Advocacy Network for Early Education and Care, a year-long advocacy experience for emerging leaders in the field.

To launch the first cohort, we’ve chosen nine new and established leaders from across Massachusetts, including four from Boston. They are all passionate about advocating for children, families, and educators in their communities, and they want to learn new advocacy skills and knowledge to improve programs, communities, and policies. This cohort approach is similar to the one we used to create our Speakers’ Bureau, a program that prepared early educators to use their voices and share their stories with the media or through event panels or at State House rallies.

“Since the pandemic began, the team at Strategies for Children has learned so much about how to engage the field in advocacy,” says Titus DosRemedios, Strategies’ deputy director. “Our daily 9:30 calls informed our approach to the Speakers’ Bureau, which in turn inspired and helped shape the Advocacy Network.”

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Photo: Micaela Bedell for Strategies for Children

“Within every challenge lies vast opportunity,” David Jordan, president of the Seven Hills Foundation & Affiliates, writes in a new CommonWealth magazine article.

The challenge Jordan is referring to is the shortage of early education and care staff members.

The opportunity to address this shortage, he says, is to set up an apprenticeship program.

Jordan explains, “The path to becoming a credentialed Child Development Associate, which enables one to become a preschool teacher and, with additional training, a lead teacher, is difficult and costly.”

And asking budding early educators to leave work and then go to school at the end of the day ignores the fact that many are parents who need to get home to their own children.

As Jordan explains, an apprenticeship program would address this problem:

“An on-the-job – we call it ‘learn while you earn’ – training program coupled with virtual classroom education form the core of an apprenticeship program that is a vital way to encourage retention and promotion in the child care workforce. Onsite mentoring provides the professional support for the apprentice’s adaptation of classroom learning to practice.”

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This is a guest blog post by Anne Douglass, professor of Early Care and Education at UMass Boston and the founding executive director of the Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation.

Anne Douglass

Anne Douglass

Early educators are smart, kind, engaging, and supportive and dedicated.

Here at UMass Boston, we also know that early educators are entrepreneurial leaders. That’s why our programs provide an education that boosts their leadership, creativity, and innovation – all to create a better early learning experience for children.

Examples of early educators’ entrepreneurship abound. Last month, the Cape Cod Times featured a front page story about Nature Preschool Explorers, a nature-based preschool at the Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable. The four-year-old school was touted as an example of the wave of educational programs focused on the outdoors that are popping up across the country.

The school was cofounded by Diana Stinson, an alum of UMass Boston’s Post-Master’s Leadership Certificate in Early Education Research, Policy, and Practice (PMC) offered by our Institute for Early Education Leadership and Innovation (Early Ed Leadership Institute). (more…)

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