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Archive for the ‘Strategies for Children’ Category

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Screenshot: Strategies for Children website

As the pandemic recedes, all of us at Strategies for Children are looking forward to building on the country’s deeper understanding of how important early education and care is for children, parents, and the economy. As we do this work, we’re happy to be joined by new colleagues.

As Amy O’Leary, Strategies executive director says, “We are excited to grow our team and build our capacity to achieve our mission.”

Here’s more information about our newest staff members.

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Diagneris “Nery” García is the new director of communications for Strategies for Children. She is leading the charge on internal and external communications to promote our mission, values, and priorities. Her goal is to raise awareness and amplify the diverse voices that support policy and advocacy for accessible, high-quality early education and care programs that enroll children from birth to age 5 across Massachusetts. In her work, Nery will leverage existing tools for sharing information and engaging the field and the public, collaborate with our team and with our partners, and create new intentional and inclusive strategies.

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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.

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state house

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Today the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee released its $49.6 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

For early education and care, this budget includes several key provisions:

• $60 million in a salary rate reserve for providers who accept child care subsidies (line item 3000-1042). This line item also includes an additional $10 million for grants to early education and care providers for costs associated with personal childcare, a new initiative.

• $5 million for navigation support and outreach to families, including language continuing EEC’s recent policy of paying subsidies based on child enrollment instead of attendance (part of line item 3000-1000). 

• Increases for: Access Management (3000-2000, for resource and referral agencies); Head Start (3000-5000); and Workforce Development (3000-7066)

• Level funding for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative (3000-6025) and early childhood mental health (3000-6075).

In total, the House budget proposal provides $91 million more for early education and care than the FY23 budget proposal that Governor Charlie Baker released in January.

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Cheyanne Nichter

Cheyanne Nichter and her son

This Spring, I will be graduating from Bunker Hill Community College with honors and an associate degree in Early Childhood Development. Over the course of the semester I have been working as an intern for Strategies For Children, exploring issues and opportunities in our field as well as my own abilities and passions. I have also reevaluated my goals and future pathways in both my academic and professional pursuits. As a result of the pandemic, and the fact that I live in a child care desert, I took on these challenges with my young son on my hip. 

During my time at Strategies, I saw first-hand how early childhood programs, families, diversity, sociology, research/data collection, and the pursuit of societal justice all intersect in the world of advocacy and engagement. This led me to do an independent research project that draws on my analysis of how the use of digital platforms and trends corresponds to social shifts, and how advocacy organizations can capitalize on digital resources to reach more deeply into the community. My presentation, “Modern Engagement: Making Advocacy Accessible”, covers how organizations can use interactive social platforms for effective communication and engagement. This approach uses modern communication tools and strategies that meet communities where they are, allowing them to access and participate in the dialogue and to use the advocacy resources within their personal bandwidth.

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Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has created a promising new Office of Early Childhood, and this office has a new leader, Kristin McSwain.

The office will “advance the administration’s commitment to universal, affordable, high-quality early education and care for all children under five,” by:

• expanding access to early education and childcare programs

• investing in Boston’s early education and care workforce

• accelerating “the creation of a universal pre-K system that stretches across Boston Public Schools (BPS), community-based organizations, and family-based childcare programs”

• expanding high-quality, affordable options for infants and toddlers, and

• serving as “a central point-of-entry for residents looking for information on early education and childcare programming and wraparound services for young children and their families”

Mayor Wu, the mother of two young boys, sums up the vital importance of this work, saying, “Every bit of investment in our children and families to close gaps in early education and care is an investment in our collective future.”

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Last night, Amy O’Leary, executive director of Strategies for Children, spoke at the graduation ceremony for the City of Boston Childcare Entrepreneur Fund.

“The Fund offers support to current and aspiring owners of family childcare businesses in Boston. Fund recipients attend business training and receive grant funding for their business.”

Here’s part of what O’Leary said:

“We continue to be inspired by this dedicated and resilient workforce and their commitment to the problem solving, building partnerships and providing high-quality learning experiences under incredible circumstances.

“And YOU – tonight we celebrate you, the graduates of the City of Boston Childcare Entrepreneur Fund.

“You can change the world. All of the skills, gifts and talents you use to support young children can be used where you are sitting right now to lead. 

“The most important piece is that YOU have to BELIEVE.

“WE are the ones we have been waiting for.

“YOU ARE SMART, POWERFUL LEADERS FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES!

“We need to believe in ourselves and be willing to think differently about the future.

“It is critical that we find new, innovative, and meaningful ways to support educators and expand access to childcare for Boston families.”

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Happy second anniversary to The 9:30 Call

After the pandemic hit, Strategies for Children set up the 9:30 Call on Zoom as a fast, easy way for the early education field to share, well, everything, from government updates to coping strategies to fears.

Over time, the list of 9:30 Call attendees grew. Guest speakers logged on, including former Commissioner of Early Education and Care Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, State Representative Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley), and State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester).

Even better, members of the early education and care field from across Massachusetts could talk to each other every morning.

Last week, participants on the 9:30 Call talked about – drumroll — the 9:30 Call, producing a word cloud that sums up the amazing power of connecting through conversations.

Now even as the pandemic wanes (hopefully), the 9:30 call will continue. Sign up here to join us, Monday through Thursday every week at, yes, 9:30 a.m.

As we’ve discovered there’s so much that meaningful conversations can accomplish.

So, here’s to another year of calls and to making daily connections with the inspiring and resilient early education and care community here in Massachusetts.

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Screenshot: Website of the 192nd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Looking for excitement?

You might not think you’d find it in a fiscal year 2023 budget meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

But here’s the exciting part: Massachusetts is on the edge of greatness. This state could make wise, strategic investments in early education and care that could lead to powerful change. Residents of every city and town could have access to affordable, world class preschool programs that help young children thrive and grow into successful adults.

“This will take time,” Amy O’Leary, Strategies for Children’s executive director, said in her testimony to the joint committee.

It will also take visionary action.

Fortunately, Massachusetts has a blueprint for action, the final report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which explains that “Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families.” 

There is a huge need for progress. As O’Leary explains in her testimony: 

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Photo: Yan Krukov from Pexels

A long awaited and welcome report from the Massachusetts Legislature has been released this week, and it charts a policy course for early education and care.

“Building a sustainable and well-functioning system for early education and care is critical and urgent, especially for Massachusetts’s most vulnerable families,” the report from the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission says.

The commission was chaired by Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester), and was composed of “a variety of stakeholders… including legislators, providers, professional organizations, business leaders and employers, advocates, and state agency leaders.”

As Chair Peisch says in a press release, “Long a leader in K-12 public education, Massachusetts now has an opportunity to build on that success in the early education and child care sectors by acting on the recommendations contained in this report.” 

“This work is critical to our goals of advancing racial justice and an equitable economy that works for all,” Chair Lewis adds.

Maria Gonzalez Moeller, CEO of The Community Group in Lawrence, Mass., adds: 

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Amy Kershaw

We’re excited to welcome Amy Kershaw as the new acting commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC).

Or, more precisely, we’re excited to welcome her back.

As EEC Board Chair Nonie Lesaux says in an EEC press release, “Commissioner Kershaw’s professional roots in early education policy and her very strong track record of public service and leadership in Massachusetts will greatly benefit EEC, especially at this pivotal time.”

Kershaw is currently the commissioner of the Department of Transitional Assistance. But long before this, she worked in early childhood, first as the director of Research and Policy here at Strategies for Children, and then as a deputy commissioner and later as acting commissioner of EEC. 

She is scheduled to become acting commissioner on March 28. Until then, Education Secretary James Peyser will serve in the position.

As acting commissioner, Kershaw will be able to steer the field through what appears to be the dwindling of the pandemic and on to what could become a period of great progress.

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