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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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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

 

Massachusetts’ legislators are listening, so please share your experiences.

Last week, the state’s Joint Committee on Education held part one of a virtual hearing on early education and care during the COVID-19 emergency. A video of that hearing is posted here.

Tomorrow — Tuesday, July 7, 2020 — the committee will hold part two.

You can join in by emailing written testimony through tomorrow at 5 p.m. to both of the committee’s chairs. Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley) can be reached at Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov. And the email address for Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) is Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov.

It’s crucial to tell state legislators about the challenges that early educator and care providers will face as they reopen their programs. And, sadly, it’s also important to discuss that fact that some programs will not be financially able to reopen.

“Over the last two weeks, we have heard heartbreaking stories from directors and family child care of providers who are borrowing from their reserves in the hope of a child care bailout that may never come,” Amy O’Leary wrote in the testimony she shared at last week’s hearing. O’Leary is the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign. (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode

 

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

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Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

COVID-19 has not only created a health crisis and an economic crisis, but also a child care crisis.

A persistent and troubling concern is that child care programs that closed during the pandemic will shut down permanently, and parents in need of this care won’t be able to return to work, crippling the economy’s ability to stabilize.

There is, however, hope.

As the country rebuilds, it could invest wisely in child care programs, helping them to recover and emerge stronger.

Here are three takes on how this could occur.

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Families and businesses benefit from child care, JD Chesloff explains in a blog for ReadyNation, a part of Council for a Strong America, a national nonprofit that promotes children’s success. Chesloff is the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and a ReadyNation advisory board member.

“Child care allows parents to work, be more productive while on the job, and reach higher levels of professional achievement. Nurturing learning environments prepare young children for kindergarten and future achievement in school and, eventually, in the workplace.” (more…)

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Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

 

This week, there are two important events that will help boost early childhood advocacy efforts.

The first event: Strategies for Children is adding a new, one-hour webinar to its Advocacy 101 series.

These conversations about the basics of early education and care advocacy are grounded in the current context of reopening child care programs, and you can watch live on three dates (click on the date to register for that session):

 

Advocacy 101: Reopening Child Care 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at 4 p.m.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020, at 5 p.m.

Thursday, June 18, 2020, at 11 a.m.

 

Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies’ Early Education for All Campaign, will discuss reopening as well as ways to get involved in local, state, and federal advocacy. Amy will talk about who to call, what to say, and when to take action.

The second event: (more…)

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Photo: Gustavo Fring. Source: Pexels

 

As the country moves through the coronavirus crisis, states will be able to learn from each other about how to navigate the pandemic and reopen early education and care problems.

The starting line for all states is reviewing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But individual states are taking their own approach.

A number of national organizations are tracking state responses, including the Hunt Institute, a national nonprofit organization that has released a summary of state actions.

“States are devising a number of health and safety protocols to address the new situation we’re in, so that they can promote child development while complying with social distancing guidelines,” Ryan Telingator, Strategies for Children’s new intern, says. Telingator has been monitoring these varied approaches.

Massachusetts, for example, has largely steered its own course. Governor Baker chose to close child care programs when coronavirus first hit the country hard and only offer emergency child care. Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina and a handful of other states made the same choice, and so did New York City. (more…)

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