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A new policy roadmap charts a course for how states can help children thrive in their first three years of life.

The Prenatal-to-3 State Policy Roadmap 2020 was just released by the Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

The roadmap is “a guide state leaders can use to develop and implement the most effective policies to strengthen their state’s prenatal-to-3 (PN-3) system of care,” the roadmap’s executive summary explains.

“The science of the developing child is clear: Infants and toddlers need loving, stimulating, stable, and secure care environments with limited exposure to adversity. However, to date states have lacked clear guidance on how to effectively promote the environments in which children thrive.”

The roadmap calls on states to:

• prioritize science-based policy goals to promote infants’ and toddlers’ optimal health and development

• adopt and implement effective policies and strategies to improve prenatal-to-3 goals and outcomes

• monitor the progress being made toward adoption & implementation of effective solutions, and

track outcomes to measure impact on optimal health and development of infants and toddlers

The roadmap says states should have 11 effective policies and strategies in place.

The policies are: Continue Reading »

 

The results of a new poll from the First Five Years Fund are in:

“The Coronavirus pandemic has opened voters’ eyes to the importance of child care for families—and the economy. Now voters are ready for sweeping federal action,” the Fund explains on its poll fact sheet.

Among the poll’s findings:

• 84% of American voters say high-quality, affordable child care for families with young children is an essential service — just like healthcare and education

• 79% of voters say that the pandemic has made it clear to them how essential a strong child care system is for families who need it, and

• 77% of voters say that public funding for children’s education and care should start before kindergarten

“No longer can lawmakers and candidates for office view child care as a “nice-to-have” service, when voters now clearly see it as something that is essential for children, families, and America’s economy.”

Child care also has bipartisan appeal: Continue Reading »

 

This Thursday, the Massachusetts Head Start Association (MHSA) will launch its virtual fall conference, “Adapting to Change: Head Start in 2020 and Beyond.”

“2020 is a time for change and adaptation for early educators,” Michelle Haimowitz, MHSA’s executive director, says. “Our conference offers short professional development opportunities throughout October to help address our changing environment.”

The conference features eight virtual workshops that will take place from October 1, 2020, to Tuesday, October 20, 2020, and touch on the challenging issues of the day.

Kristin Tenney-Blackwell, a psychologist will kick things off with a workshop called, “Wellness: Taking Care of Yourself.” This workshop will “focus on understanding the importance of health and wellness of adults in a child’s life. Educators and program leaders will explore strategies and approaches to enhancing adult resilience,” the conference website explains.

Another workshop, “Supporting Children to Embrace Race: How we can & why we must,” led by Melissa Giraud and Andrew Grant-Thomas, two parents who co-founded the organization Embrace Race, will feature a “presentation and Q & A that considers some of the evidence for racial bias and steps we can take to push back against it – in our children and ourselves.” Continue Reading »

Earlier this week, child care champions posted tweets to encourage Congress to #SaveChildCare.

 

 

Continue Reading »

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.” Continue Reading »

 

 

How hard has COVID-19 hit child care providers?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation decided to ask them.

The chamber interviewed 18 providers – “from large, for-profit centers to local nonprofit organizations to home-based providers” — about the impact of the pandemic and about the future.

Providers’ answers are in a new report, “Childcare: An Essential Industry for Economic Recovery,” which is part of the chamber’s ongoing analysis of early education and child care and their impact on the economy.

The report points to three common challenges:

• meeting needs while balancing costs

Providers “are dedicated to providing childcare services. However, decreased enrollment and increased costs have left most providers, both for-profit and nonprofit, in an unsustainable financial situation.”

• managing health risks

“The top priority for providers is understanding how to safely care for young children, understanding that a COVID-19 diagnosis is seemingly inevitable in several geographies, even with the utmost precautions.”

• addressing the interconnected nature of child care

“Childcare is closely tied to — and affected by — how parents return to work and how students return to school. However, many childcare providers are not being included in key discussions with their local school districts or business communities.” Continue Reading »

Photo: Kate Samp for Strategies for Children

 

How are families doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Earlier this year, we created a survey to ask them. Many parents said they were struggling to juggle work, child care, and children who were attending school from home.

Last month, Strategies for Children followed up with another survey that found many parents were struggling to make child care arrangements for the fall. This survey was conducted by Beacon Research, a Boston-based polling firm, and funded by the Commonwealth Children’s Fund and Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.

Hearing from parents is an essential step.

“Parent voices are critical to reopening and sustaining the child care industry,” Amy O’Leary, the director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign, says. “This survey shows that parents have legitimate concerns over health and safety. Many parents cannot return to child care because their programs have closed permanently, are not yet reopened, or are at full enrollment.”

A press release and a slide deck summarize the survey’s results. This document lists the survey’s questions and tallies parents’ answers. And a memo focuses on the child care challenges for families with school-age children.

Among the survey’s key findings, parents’ fears have risen. Before the pandemic, 76 percent expected to use child care programs this fall. Since the pandemic, only 62 percent do. Continue Reading »

Jillian Phillips and her family. Photo courtesy of Jillian Phillips

 

Jillian Phillips is a working Massachusetts parent trying to navigate a pandemic. It’s a 24-hour-a-day job full of highs, lows, and a need for public policy innovations.

Phillips, a single parent by choice, has an 8-year-old daughter and twin sons who are 19 months old. Another daughter, who would be five years old, died in infancy.

Phillips had relied on her mother, a retired nurse, who lived with the family, to provide child care.

“If I hadn’t had my mom at the time, I certainly would not have gone on to have more children because I wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” Phillips says. “The cost of child care, especially in our state, is out of reach.”

Earlier this year, however, two tragedies struck. Phillips’ mother passed away unexpectedly, and the global pandemic exploded in the United States.

So Phillips had to manage her grief, take care of her children, and work full time. A social worker herself, she supervises social workers who provide early intervention services for families.

“I’ve found a rhythm, but I’m slowly drowning,” she says of her work, family, and personal responsibilities. “Thank goodness, my job is flexible. I can fit things in during the kids’ naps, after they go to bed, or before they wake up — which means I’m working all the time because there’s no other way to do it.” Continue Reading »

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. Continue Reading »

“ ‘Women are impacted no matter where you look,’ Catherine White, Director of Child Care and Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center, told NBC. ‘You have families who have lost their jobs or lost their income, and they’re thinking about going back to work without money to pay for child care. And then on the other side you have child care providers who are facing rising costs, they’re serving fewer kids and having less revenue coming in. So they have to charge more, and parents can’t pay and providers can’t charge less.’

A study by the National Women’s Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy found that it would take nearly $10 billion per month to keep the child care system afloat during the pandemic. Congress has already appropriated $3.5 billion for child care in the first CARES Act, but advocates are calling for more.

“ ‘$50 billion sounds big, but not in terms of when you’re thinking about the size of the workforce and the impacts. Child care providers employ millions of caregivers across the U.S. and supports tens of millions of families to go to work,’ said White.”

 

“Child care providers struggle as need for services remain for many,” by Molly Roecker and Ali Vitali, NBC News, August 31, 2020

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