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Archive for the ‘Strategies for Children’ Category

nicole-simonson-picture

Nicole Simonson

During this extremely unique and challenging year, I have had the privilege of interning with Strategies for Children through my graduate program in Gender, Leadership, and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I am also an elementary school social worker as well as a mother of two young boys, one of whom is in preschool. I came to this internship with a level of frustration and a gnawing need to examine the systemic barriers that block the children I work with from accessing timely and appropriate behavioral health services. Throughout my career as a social worker, I have worked my way backwards in a sense from helping the most severely mentally ill adolescents in a residential program to ultimately seeking work that focuses on a model of prevention for young children.

Enter Strategies for Children.

My internship project for the year has been to examine the landscape of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) programs in Massachusetts. For this project, I interviewed various stakeholders who encounter IECMH from a variety of angles. To those who were so generous with their time for this project, I thank you. 

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 
The Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee has released its FY ’22 budget.

It’s a $47.6 billion budget proposal, that’s slightly higher, the Gloucester Daily Times reports, than the $45.6 billion budget that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

“The House budget proposal calls for a 2.6% spending increase from fiscal 2021 and expects the state to collect $30.1 billion in tax revenue (the revenue drops to $24.3 billion after factoring in payments to the pension fund, MBTA and state reserves),” according to MassLive.com.

For early education and care, the House’s proposed budget specifics include:

• $358.9 million to fund child care for children served by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Transitional Assistance

• $298.7 million in child care funds to support income-eligible families

• $20 million for a salary reserve to increase rates for center-based early education

• $15 million for Head Start

• $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies

• $5 million for pre-school expansion efforts

• $5 million for professional development opportunities, and

• $2.5 million for the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Grant (more…)

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“I feel a great responsibility to remember and think of the educators, program directors, family childcare providers, school staff, CEOs, and community leaders who have shown up every day for children and families to start with this pandemic.

“We continue to be inspired by this resilient workforce, but we know that is not enough. We cannot return to the way things were. We cannot call child care essential for the economy and then continue to have 37% of early educators in Massachusetts eligible for public assistance. We cannot make decisions about the K-to-12 side of this system without considering the implications for babies, toddlers, before- and afterschool, summer and school vacations. We cannot give access to consistent testing to people in one part of the system and not continue to think about the children and families, and [about] the [early education] teachers who are there every day with children.”

“We know that families don’t live in funding streams, but many of our decisions have been based on those funding streams.”

[Amy starts speaking at the video’s 1:00 time mark.]

— Amy O’Leary, “Reimagining Early Care and Education: A New American Vision,” A New America webcast, March 30, 2021

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As the world staggers through the pandemic, people are wisely asking how to rebuild in ways that make society better than it was before COVID-19.

To explore this topic, Boston Indicators — the research center at The Boston Foundation – has launched a series of articles called, “Seizing the Moment: Proposals for a Just and Equitable Recovery.”

The articles cover a range of policy issues including transportation, housing, and work and the economy. The articles’ authors will speak at a culminating event on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. Click here to register.

A newly published article in the series, by Titus Dos Remedios and Marisa Fear of Strategies for Children, covers early education and care.

This article points to the need for new, more ambitious standards for progress: 

“Old progressive policy goals like universal, affordable child care that once seemed far out of reach are now part of what’s necessary for an equitable economic recovery for all. If lawmakers don’t seize the current opportunity, the next time the child-care sector is pushed to the brink it may be too late—children, families and providers simply cannot withstand another national emergency.”

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Screenshot: The Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project

Five months ago, in the middle of the pandemic, Elizabeth Charland-Tait and Sheila Gould launched a Zoomcast series.

They nicknamed it the Itsy Bitsy Zoomcast Project (IBZP), although the formal name is “The More We Get Together: Conversations that Build Bridges in Early Childhood.”

Gould is a Holyoke Community College (HCC) professor and the coordinator of the Early Childhood Programs. Charland-Tait is an early childhood lead coach for Massachusetts’ Western StrongStart Professional Development Centers.

Their goal is to have meaningful conversations that connect early childhood professionals in Western Massachusetts.

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We are delighted to launch our “First Years Tour.”

It’s an event that Strategies for Children does every two years, going to the State House and meeting with the new class of just elected, “first year” state legislators. We congratulate them on becoming state leaders, and we run an early education 101 crash course.

This year, as it is every year, our goal is to build positive relationships with our elected officials.

But, of course, this year, there’s the pandemic, so our tour is actually an ongoing series of Zoom meetings. Last month, to kick off the tour, Strategies’ staff and Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley)co-hosted a legislative briefing for all 17 newly elected House members.

We’ve also invited the legislators to our daily 9:30 calls. And we’re asking everyone in the field to do their own outreach to these new lawmakers.

On the tour, we’re sharing information on the pandemic: (more…)

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Screenshot: Early educator Camila Pontes 

 

Earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker overlooked the needs of young children and their families as well early childhood programs when he announced that rapid COVID-19 testing would be available to K-12 schools, but not early education and care and afterschool programs.

Since then, advocates — including Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations – have sent a letter to the governor asking him to reconsider this decision.

Last week, Strategies for Children and Neighborhood Villages also hosted a panel discussion on this pressing issue, “Prioritizing COVID-19 Testing in Early Education and Care.” A recording of this event is posted here.

“… equity demands that public health measures made available to K-12 [schools] also be applied to early education and afterschool as well,” Binal Patel says in her introduction to the panel discussion. Patel is Neighborhood Villages’ Chief Program Officer.

“We know that testing works. It catches positives [test results] before teachers enter classrooms. And it allows us to identify and address potential exposures early.” (more…)

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Photo: Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

 

Please ask Governor Charlie Baker for equity in COVID-19 testing. And check out a panel discussion on testing being held this afternoon. It’s organized by Neighborhood Villages and co-sponsored by Strategies for Children.

Last week, the governor announced that COVID-19 pooled testing would be made available to the state’s schools and school districts, building on earlier testing.

“This new pooled testing resource that we’re going to be providing going forward will give districts the ability to bring more students back into the classroom,” the governor said, according to WBUR.

Unfortunately, this announcement leaves out early education and out-of-school time providers, even though these organizations have been providing essential care for more than 100,000 children.

To address this inequity, Strategies for Children and 250 other organizations sent a letter to the governor, writing in part: (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

“We recommit ourselves to achieving racial equity in early childhood and school-age programs through advocacy, action, and policy change. Together we will stand up, speak out, and work to dismantle the historical systems of racism and inequity.”

These are the last two lines in our Collective Statement on Racial Justice that over thirty organizations signed on to in June 2020.

As we reflect on the horrific events this week – a violent assault on our democracy – we must redouble our efforts to work for the change we want to see in local communities, in Massachusetts, and across our country. 

NAEYC has resources on trauma, stress, and violence for early childhood educators working to support children in many different settings along with the guidance in NAEYC’s Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education position statement to support your conversations with them, as well as families and colleagues. If you need more resources or would like to sign your organization on to our Collective Statement, email us.

Despite the trauma of this week, democracy continues. (more…)

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House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

In my nearly 30 years in and around state government, and currently as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable, I’ve learned that three elements are necessary to move a policy agenda: unassailable data and research; a robust grassroots field operation; and a champion… someone who makes the issue their top priority. For years – since I worked for the Early Education for All Campaign and long before – Strategies for Children has produced great data and organized and energized the field. And for years, Speaker Bob DeLeo has been the champion.

As the Speaker ends an extraordinary career in public service, I’ve been reflecting on his determined and effective leadership in early education and care. It’s an issue that is a perennial priority for the Roundtable and one that has afforded me the opportunity to work closely with DeLeo. Early on, he understood the connection between high quality early education and economic growth. In a seminal speech before the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce in March of 2015, the Speaker noted the innate connection between economic growth and education, calling early childhood “game changing” and urging the business community to take a leadership role in advancing public policy in this area. (more…)

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