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Archive for the ‘Social-emotional development’ Category

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Photo: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

What happens when a foster parent learns about an early learning center that’s willing to try a new approach?

Progress.

That’s the story Kate Audette tells about a child placed in her care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state’s child welfare agency.

It was 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and after George Floyd was murdered, when Audette, who has been a licensed foster care provider since 2017, accepted the placement of an infant whom we’ll call Jordan to protect the child’s privacy. 

Audette was working from home at the time and planned to keep the baby home “until it felt safe for them to go to school.”

But she did take the baby to a neighborhood rally in support of George Floyd. The event was organized by Dorchester People for Peace. It was outside. Everyone wore masks. It felt safe.

It also turned out to be life changing.

(more…)

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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.

(more…)

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Center

Photo: Bruna Saito from Pexels

It’s time to tell a new story about early childhood development, but first a little bit about the old story.

For more than 20 years, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician, has been explaining brain science to policymakers. Specifically, Shonkoff and his colleagues at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child, have pointed to three crucial concepts:

• how children’s early experiences affect their “brain architecture”

• the importance of “serve and return” interactions between children and adults, and

• how “toxic stress” caused by poverty and other factors can impair health child development

“Over the past two decades, the ‘brain science story’ has made a powerful case for investing in the early childhood period,” the center explains on its website.

But it is current events – the pandemic and the renewed public focus on systemic racism – that have “intensified the demand for fresh thinking about the future of the early childhood field.”

So now, the center is rolling out a new way of thinking called Early Childhood Development 2.0. The goal is to spark “science-based innovation” that transforms early childhood policies and practices. Building on “the strong foundation” of brain architecture, serve and return, and toxic stress, the center is adding three new concepts: (more…)

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“ ‘I had a parent tell me to f*** off last week,’ Cori Berg said. She directs the Hope Day School, a church-affiliated early childhood program in Dallas.

“The unhappy mother took her two children out of Berg’s center after each of their classrooms were closed for quarantines, saying she’d hire a nanny. Wanting to return, she emailed, called and finally showed up in the middle of the day. Just as Berg had warned her, her spots were taken.

“The mother, according to Berg, threw a fit before coming back and apologizing. ‘She was like a toddler — she was jumping up and down.’

“The people who take care of and educate children under 5 years old — both parents and providers — are in a special kind of hell right now. These children are too young to be vaccinated, and it’s difficult for them to wear masks consistently. Many child care directors, like Berg, are still following 10- or 14-day quarantines, closing entire classrooms after a single positive test, which has caused nonstop disruptions given the current record numbers of COVID-19 cases. Recently, Berg’s infant room had ‘double-decker’ quarantines: closed for two weeks, back for one day, then closed for another two weeks.”

“Parents and caregivers of young children say they’ve hit pandemic rock bottom,” by Anya Kamenetz, NPR, January 20, 2022

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“Federally funded universal pre-K has the potential to greatly benefit families, children, and the economy at large. A substantial body of research finds that high-quality pre-K can have a meaningful impact on children’s short- and long-term development, providing them with valuable skills to succeed in school and beyond. And two years of pre-K for the child also means two years of reduced child care costs for the parents. A study in Washington, D.C., even found that access to universal pre-K improved mothers’ workforce participation. And yet, despite such clear evidence of the benefits, six states still don’t offer state-funded pre-K programs for four-year-olds, and within the states that do, quality and access vary significantly depending on where a child lives, and very few programs offer universal access. But Build Back Better could provide states with the funding to improve the quality of programs and vastly expand access.”

“The Universal Benefits of Universal Pre-K,” by Aaron Loewenberg, Abbie Lieberman, and Laura Bornfreund, New America, January 4, 2022

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“Despite the low pay, teachers who are in charge of classrooms still have to meet certain state education requirements. Nonetheless, child care is sometimes thought of as just baby sitting. But it’s much more than that, said Clare Higgins, executive director of Community Action Pioneer Valley, which runs Head Start and early learning programs.

“ ‘Children develop in a web of relationships, both the people that are in their family and the people who care for them right outside the family,’ Higgins said.

“Children learn and thrive when they feel safe with those adults and trust them to be there, she said.

“ ‘Because the pay is so low, grown ups are leaving and kids [are] having attachments broken over and over again,’ Higgins said. ‘And, quite frankly, so are those adults. You know, people are so sad when they have to leave the program, but they can’t afford to stay.’

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“Rebekah Dutkiewicz was a preschool teacher for about 10 years. She loved it.

“ ‘It was just something that felt very natural, professionally and very fulfilling professionally,’ Dutkiewicz said.

“But after about a decade, in May last year, she left. She had worked at a private preschool, Fort Hill in Northampton, where she earned a salary with benefits. But with no summers off and working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, she struggled being available to her own three children.

“ ‘Ultimately, it became really important for me to commit to a job that allowed me to have a bit more balance in my life and more money. I mean, to be frank, just more money,’ Dutkiewicz said.

“Last fall, she got a new job as a public school kindergarten teacher, with summers off — earning $10,000 more.”
 

“Hiring crisis in child care: ‘We’re stuck in a market that’s broken’ ” by Nancy Eve Cohen, New England Public Media, October 19, 2021

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“Compared with K through 12 students, preschoolers are suspended at nearly 3 times the frequency of older students,” Molly Kaplan, the host of the ACLU’s At Liberty podcast, explains in a recent episode called, “How To End the Preschool to Prison Pipeline.”

The episode focuses on the racial and social inequities that even very young children must face.

To explore the issue, Kaplan interviews Rosemarie Allen, a School of Education professor at the State University of Denver.

As Allen’s faculty webpage explains, “Her life’s work is centered on ensuring children have access to high quality early childhood programs that are developmentally and culturally appropriate… Her classes are focused on ensuring teachers are aware of how issues of equity, privilege, and power impact teaching practices.”

On the podcast, Allen describes the cascade of expulsions that young children can face.

“We’re finding that children as young as eight months old began to be suspended and expelled from their child care programs, usually for doing typical things that babies do, like crying or biting,” she says.

(more…)

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“The Baker-Polito Administration, along with CEDAC’s affiliate Children’s Investment Fund (CIF), has announced $7.5 million in Early Education and Out of School Time Capital Fund (EEOST) capital improvement grants. Lt. Governor Polito joined Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy at East Boston Social Centers to announce the thirty-six organizations that received grant awards to fund expenses for capital improvements related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

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“Our Administration is pleased to support childcare providers across the Commonwealth who have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to care for children and support families returning to work. Since the start of this grant program, we’ve invested more than $39.2 million in capital funding at childcare programs that impact the learning experiences of more than 9,000 children in communities across Massachusetts.”

— Governor Charlie Baker (more…)

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Screenshot for the video “Our New Normal: Reading and Discussion”

A newly released book helps young children cope with any anxiety they may feel as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The book — “Our New Normal: A Children’s Social Story for Post-Pandemic Lives” – is a social story that was written by Emilee Johnson, the educational coordinator at the Boston Children’s Hospital Child Care Center.

The book’s pictures are drawn by preschool children for preschool children. In a video, Johnson reads the book out loud, and Children’s Hospital staff discuss the mental health challenges children are coping with.

For example: “As the world begins to move back into a pre-pandemic state,” the book’s Amazon.com page explains, “children are beginning to show anxiety about the things us adults consider normal! Children are worried about being in large groups, taking off their masks, or seeing family or friends that they have not been around in-person over the past year!”

(more…)

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Kristina DiMaria

“My mother was the secretary of the K-to-4 principal at the Malden public schools, so I was always around education,” Kristina DiMaria says of her childhood. “It was amazing. My mother knew the children, their families, their grandparents on a first name basis. And she wouldn’t leave for the day until the last child left.” 

“But what really made me an early educator was when I was at Pope John for high school. I had to do community service my senior year, so I volunteered in the kindergarten classroom.” 

DiMaria fell in love with the volunteer job, but at age 18, she didn’t think she could make a career out of working with children. 

So DiMaria went to Bay State College and earned a two-year degree in fashion merchandising. But she also kept her connection to her mother’s school, volunteering and working in summer programs. And she continued her own education, earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she majored in English, minored in psychology, and took several early education classes.

Earning this degree was bittersweet, a personal achievement and something DiMaria did to honor her father who had passed away, but always emphasized the importance of going to college. 

Eventually, DiMaria took a job as a kindergarten teacher at a private school, Independence Route. The curriculum included STEM activities and “purposeful play.” 

“It became my passion, and I learned so much about teaching.”  (more…)

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