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“COVID-19 revealed to the entire country what the early education and care field has known for years: Childcare is the backbone of our economy,” a new report says.

Unfortunately, that backbone is badly broken.

The report – “Boston’s Child-Care Supply Crisis: What a Pandemic Reveals” – was released by The Boston Opportunity Agenda and the Boston Birth to Eight Collaborative. The report’s findings were shared this week in a webinar that included Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. A recording of the webinar is posted here.

The report highlights Boston’s shrinking supply of child care, a decrease that began long before the pandemic. Between 2017 and March 2020, the city “experienced a net loss of 3 percent of its licensed child-care seats for children 0–5 years old,” the report says. This loss worse in individual neighborhoods, including a 14 percent loss in Dorchester and a 15 percent loss in East Boston.

Add the pandemic in, and this loss is staggering. “Between December 2017 and September 2020, the loss at the city level was estimated at 16 percent.” At the neighborhood level, “East Boston, Dorchester, Hyde Park and Roxbury lost, respectively, 33.5 percent, 24 percent, 18 percent, and 17 percent in that period.” (more…)

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Source: Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women

 

COVID-19 is taking a huge economic toll on women.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women (MCSW) explains how in a new report, “Child Care and Education During COVID-19: A Report on the Economic and Social Impact on Women in Massachusetts.”

“We are hearing about – and many of us are experiencing – intense stress related to the impossible task of simultaneously working and providing care,” commission chairwoman Denella Clark says in a press release. “It is time that we as a Commonwealth understand that early education, care, and school are essential components to families’ economic stability and the state’s economy.” Clark explains more in this Legislative briefing video.

To write the report, the commission drew on testimony delivered during a virtual hearing as well as on a survey that collected 4,000 responses from residents across Massachusetts.

“The last five months have been insane,” a Somerville resident said on the survey. “So many women in my community are at the end of their rope; they’ve had to quit jobs they love or that their families need to survive because it’s been too tough to find childcare.” (more…)

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Photo: Anna Shvets from Pexels

 

To learn more about COVID-19, Yale University researchers have asked a key question: How has the virus spread through early childhood programs?

The answer is featured in a report – “COVID-19 Transmission in US Child Care Programs” – published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

“Central to the debate over school and child care reopening is whether children are efficient COVID-19 transmitters and likely to increase community spread when programs reopen,” the report says.

Led by Yale University professor Walter Gilliam, the research team surveyed 57,000 child care providers across the country about their experiences earlier this year. The researchers compared child care programs that had closed to programs that had remained open.

The report’s encouraging finding:

“Within the context of considerable infection mitigation efforts in U.S. child care programs, exposure to child care during the early months of the U.S. pandemic was not associated with elevated risk for COVID-19 transmission to providers,” the report says.

“Until now, decision makers had no way to assess whether opening child care centers would put staff at greater risk of contracting COVID-19,” Gilliam says in a Yale University article. “This study tells us that as long as there are strong on-site measures to prevent infection, providing care for young children doesn’t seem to add to the provider’s risk of getting sick.” (more…)

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“The message is essentially to read the right books at the right time. So when you are reading to infants when they are younger, and you name characters in a book with a proper level name like Betty, they tend to pay more attention to those characters, and they learn more about those characters. It seems they are a little bit more engaged when the characters have names.”

— Lisa Scott, psychology professor at the University of Florida, “Read The Right Books At The Right Time: A Learning Sciences Exchange Fellows’ Project,” New America, August 26, 2020

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

What do families want?

That’s the question that the Massachusetts Partnership for Infants and Toddlers (MPIT) asked last year in a statewide survey of 1,260 families with young children.

Facilitated by Strategies for Children, MPIT is a “unique collaboration between early childhood professionals inside and outside of government, at the state and local level, spanning early education and health,” a summary of the survey findings explains.

The survey’s goal was to “learn about families’ experiences with early childhood programs and services. What works, what doesn’t, what are the barriers to participation, and what would families like to see more of in their communities.” Respondents were asked about a wide range of programs, including Early Intervention, WIC, home visiting, play groups, and child care. In addition to the survey, there were five in-person family focus groups.

The results provide useful insights. Parents said they wanted a greater variety of more affordable early childhood programs – such as swimming, dance, music, and yoga – where they could interact with other parents. They want programs with flexible schedules and more opportunities to talk with local experts about child development and family wellbeing. (more…)

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Report screenshot

 

Even before they are born children face systemic inequalities.

A new report digs into this national problem.

“More than half of the 74 million children in the United States are children of color, and they are served by learning systems that are gravely inequitable. The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the health, economic wellbeing, and education of young children, only exacerbate existing inequalities,” according to the report, “Start with Equity: From the Early Years to the Early Grades.”

Released by The Children’s Equity Project, at Arizona State University, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, the report is, according to its website, “an actionable policy roadmap for states and the federal government—as well as for candidates at all levels of government vying for office—to take meaningful steps to remedy these inequities in early learning and education systems.”

These themes are also explored in a related webinar series. Links to recordings of the first two webinars, which took place earlier this month, are available on the report website. The next two webinars will be on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, and Thursday, August 6, 2020.

The report and webinars draw on two meetings of “more than 70 experts from universities, think tanks and organizations.” These experts focused on three policy areas where inequities persist: (more…)

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How are babies doing?

The new “State of Babies Yearbook: 2020,” released by the national nonprofit Zero to Three, has answers.

“The Yearbook is the story of the 12 million infants and toddlers in the U.S. and their families,” the yearbook’s executive summary explains.

“But it is also the story of our nation’s future. The babies behind the numbers are our society’s next generation of parents, workers, and leaders. We can’t afford to squander the potential of a single child if our nation is to thrive—nor should it be acceptable that so many have barriers in their way.”

The yearbook’s goal is to bridge “the gap between science and policy with national and state-by-state data on the well-being of America’s babies.”

Grounded “in the science of early development,” the yearbook looks at how babies are doing in three developmental domains: good health, strong families, and positive learning experiences. Within each of these domains are a number of indicators including: (more…)

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“Access to high-quality child care, particularly for families with low incomes, has always been a challenge. The coronavirus pandemic has made it even more challenging.”

“…policymakers must recognize how the difficulties of navigating this new child care landscape will be compounded for families with low incomes. These difficulties will be even more challenging for families harmed by systemic barriers related to race, ethnicity, language, and ability. BlackLatinx, and Native American families have been especially hard hit by the coronavirus, with disproportionate rates of death, unemployment, hunger, and housing insecurity.”

“States can equitably gather the full range of family child care needs by:

Expanding data collection methods to include surveys, focus groups, and community mapping

• Using multiple languages, technologies, accessibility supports, and engagement strategies

• Developing partnerships between government agencies, trusted community groups, and parent-led organizations to assist with collecting data, elevating parent voices, and informing families of available options

Oversampling underserved communities to gather insights that would ordinarily be seen as too small to report

Disaggregating data by race and ethnicity, ability, employment sector, age, and income to understand the multiple factors that shape family child care needs, also known as intersectionality”

 

“Child Care Coronavirus Recovery Conversations: Equitable Approaches to Elevating Parent Voices,” by Alycia Hardy, CLASP Blog Post, June 3, 2020

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

When COVID-19 hit, researchers at the University of Oregon wanted to know how the pandemic was affecting families, so they formed RAPID-EC.

The initiative – its full name is Rapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development (RAPID) – Early Childhood – is an ongoing survey of “early childhood family well-being” that’s “designed to gather essential information in a continuous manner regarding the needs, health promoting behaviors, and well-being of children and their families during the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.”

Weekly surveys draw on a “nationally representative sample of parents.”

The survey results aren’t surprising. The pandemic is taking a huge toll on families. But RAPID-EC explains how this is happening, offering insights to policymakers as they figure out how to reopen and rebuild society.

RAPID-EC is sharing its findings in a series of articles posted on Medium.

A RAPID-EC article posted last month points to economic differences, noting: (more…)

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Source: NIEER

 

This year, in its annual Yearbook, NIEER is taking on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the midst of this devastating crisis, NIEER (the National Institute for Early Education Research) is wisely calling on the country to act by drawing on some of the valuable lessons learned from the Great Recession.

As its executive summary explains, the Yearbook offers government policymakers “valuable information for planning short- and long-term responses to the crisis” that includes “information on where children are served, operating schedules, and other program features relevant to planning the education of children in a post-COVID-19 world.”

Since NIEER launched its Yearbook in 2002, states have made consistent but slow progress on investing in early childhood programs.

When the Great Recession took its toll, states cut early childhood spending.

Now: “Despite a brief upturn, pre-K’s long-term growth rate remains lower than before the Great Recession.” And some states “had not fully reversed their quality standards reductions by 2018-2019.” (more…)

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