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Archive for the ‘Strategies for Children’ Category

 

Thanksgiving

Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the holiday!

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Here at Strategies for Children, interns are an important part of the work we do. Interns help us with advocacy, research, and social media. And they ask important questions and contribute new ideas, enabling us to expand our reach.

Currently, we have three interns whom we’re happy to introduce: Teresia Kiragu, Nicole Simonson, and Abigail Usherwood. Here’s a little more about each of them.

 

Teresia Kiragu

I am currently a student at Bunker Hill Community College, enrolled in the Business Management program. I chose this course because I have a vision that one day, I will open a non-governmental organization to help children who are vulnerable and give them an opportunity to get a strong education. I’m originally from Kenya, where I worked for an organization that helps under-resourced communities. While working in this organization, I saw a lot of children who are desperately in need; nonetheless, they have the right to be raised well and become contributing members of the society.

During my time at Strategies, I have learned how the Massachusetts state budget distributes funds to schools. (more…)

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Right after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, early childhood education (ECE) advocates were dealing with the immediate crisis and, simultaneously, talking about what the global health crisis would mean for the future.

“We wanted to create a space for that conversation,” Albert Wat, a senior policy director at the Alliance for Early Success, said on a recent Strategies for Children Zoom call.

“We met almost weekly for four months,” Wat says of the 13 states and eight national organizations who joined the conversation. Strategies for Children, an Alliance grantee, represented Massachusetts. “We didn’t want to limit ourselves to current fiscal and policy constraints.”

Instead the group talked about a “North star,” an untethered vision of what the country could do to rebuild child care.

“We wanted to be bold, but we also wanted to be pragmatic,” Wat said.

The result is “Build Stronger: A Child Care Policy Roadmap for Transforming Our Nation’s Child Care System.” (more…)

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Stephen Zrike on Facebook Live

 

“Superintendents, principals, and city leaders have to think really differently about how we use our assets to serve kids in different ways.”

— Stephen Zrike, Superintendent of the Salem Public Schools

 

Last month, when the city of Salem, Mass., found out that it was in the “red” – meaning there had been more than 8 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 residents over two weeks – Salem announced that all the grades in all its schools would start the school year by openly virtually.

This action prioritized safety – and it created a crisis for working parents for whom school is also child care.

So Salem Public Schools (SPS) came up with a creative solution: work with local partner organizations to run “Hub Extensions in our school buildings for groups of 13 students. These Hub Extensions will be licensed by The Department of Early Education and Care and those enrolled would be eligible for vouchers,” SPS says on its website.

That way instead of going empty and unused, school buildings would provide child care space for families and students who have the greatest needs.

“These Hubs will support remote learning during school-day hours and provide after school enrichment activities during afterschool time. All SPS cleaning and safety protocols will be followed.”

The community partners include the Salem YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem, and Camp Fire North Shore, a local afterschool program. (more…)

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Dear Board Chair Lesaux, Secretary Peyser and members of the Board:

“We appreciate the opportunity to submit written testimony for this virtual EEC Board meeting. These are unusual times and we at Strategies for Children are grateful for all you have done to keep the field updated and include feedback in decision making. We also want to thank Commissioner Aigner-Treworgy for her exceptional, passionate, thoughtful leadership.

”We know that it will be impossible to fully reopen the economy without a robust child care system. This pandemic has highlighted the fragility and urgent need for innovation within our industry. This instability is a direct result of inconsistent funding models. It is not sustainable to fund based on attendance, per child/per day. We need to treat child care like the public good that it is and work towards cost-based financing. We would not be at-risk of losing 30% of our child care capacity if providers had access to stable funding streams. Approximately 70% of our pre-COVID system has applied to reopen. The remaining 30% has not submitted reopening plans to EEC and almost 200 programs have closed their doors permanently. We worry that this number will only increase in the months ahead without substantial investment.”

“Over the past month, we have heard heartbreaking stories from directors and family child care providers who are borrowing from their reserves in the hope of a child care bailout that may never come. Providers are considering staff reductions and salary cuts for a workforce that already makes poverty-level wages. Other potential solutions, increasing tuition rates and changing program hours, will place a heavy burden on working families.

“We must continue to respond to the immediate needs of our field, while also rebuilding a stronger early care and education system for the future.”

 

— Excerpts from Strategies for Children’s testimony, submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care, August 11, 2020

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This is a guest blog by Strategies for Children intern Ryan Telingator. Ryan is entering his senior year at Bowdoin College. 

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Ryan Telingator

 

These past 10 weeks with Strategies for Children have been among the most fulfilling of my professional career. As a Government & Legal Studies and Education Coordinate major at Bowdoin College, I have always been interested in working in education policy and advocacy – the field where my interests and my coursework in political science, policy, and education intersect.

Before this summer, however, my conceptualization of this intersection was purely theoretical because my main experiences had been teaching and curriculum development.

Strategies for Children has introduced me to policy, advocacy, and governance in an immediate and accelerated way. On my first day at work in late May, Massachusetts was in the midst of providing emergency child care, and the number of coronavirus cases had climbed past 90,000, so I quickly began to learn about the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) and the nuances within Massachusetts’ child care sector. I also learned about the differences between family child care providers and center-based programs, and about how the Massachusetts child care field operated both pre-COVID and during COVID.

Every morning at 9:30, there were daily advocate check-ins on Zoom that added to my education. I had the unique and valuable opportunity to hear from experts with decades of experience. I learned a lot – from the intricate strategizing required to staff child care classrooms based on licensing ratios and COVID-informed health and safety protocols to the latest trauma-informed practices being used by early childhood educators – and I have continued to learn throughout my internship through osmosis. (more…)

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What’s your child care/early education story?

The Common Start Coalition — a group of organizations, providers, and individuals in Massachusetts — is gathering stories to demonstrate the need for affordable, high-quality early education and child care, especially during the pandemic. The stories will be shared publicly on social media and with policymakers.

Click here to share your story.

You’ll be joining others who have already shared their stories, including:

 

Carl R.: “I have two children, a daughter and a son, and they both have children of their own. My wife and I actually retired from our jobs to help care for our grandchildren due to child care issues. My daughter had a child back in 2016 and needed child care for her infant. She found out it was going to be $2000 a month. So my wife decided to retire to help care for the child. I started to think what would happen if my wife got sick and couldn’t watch the baby but luckily I was able to retire.

“A large part of my children’s issue is not only finding childcare but also finding a provider whose program runs late enough. My daughter works in Boston and the child care ends at 5:30. My daughter doesn’t know when she will be able to get home. That’s why I pick up my granddaughter, who is now 3 turning 4, from preschool. In my son’s case both he and his wife are teachers. The issue is that their children do not attend the school that he and his wife work at. They run into issues when their children’s schools have half days and the school they teach at doesn’t so they need someone to pick up the kids and keep an eye on them until they get home.”

 

Gloria: “I struggled a lot when my children were smaller because I did not have child care and I had to go to work to support my family. First I had my two older sons babysit but when they couldn’t I had to pay a family member to babysit when she was available. I had no vehicle at that time so I had to taxi to the babysitter. I was really struggling to support my family as a big amount of my check went to babysitter and taxi. Later when I couldn’t keep paying a babysitter I had to quit my job. Now that my kids are older and no longer need a baby sitter I went back to work. But even now that they no longer need a baby sitter I can’t afford a summer program because I do not have a voucher and summer camps/programs are ridiculously expensive.”

 

Shanice C.: “My heart hurts for the little ones going through this because they do not understand it. This is probably the biggest struggle in this pandemic: making sure the little ones are okay and preparing them for the NEW normal.”

 

Strategies for Children is a member of the Common Start Coalition as is Edward Street Child Services, Greater Boston Legal Services, Local 509 SEIU, the Worcester Food Policy Council, the Women’s Fund, and a host of other nonprofit organizations.

Click here to learn more — and to read more of these and other stories.

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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: 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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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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