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Photo: Pavel Danilyuk from Pexels

What happens when a foster parent learns about an early learning center that’s willing to try a new approach?

Progress.

That’s the story Kate Audette tells about a child placed in her care by the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF), the state’s child welfare agency.

It was 2020, in the middle of the pandemic and after George Floyd was murdered, when Audette, who has been a licensed foster care provider since 2017, accepted the placement of an infant whom we’ll call Jordan to protect the child’s privacy. 

Audette was working from home at the time and planned to keep the baby home “until it felt safe for them to go to school.”

But she did take the baby to a neighborhood rally in support of George Floyd. The event was organized by Dorchester People for Peace. It was outside. Everyone wore masks. It felt safe.

It also turned out to be life changing.

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Screen Shot 2022-04-26 at 12.05.43 PM

Screenshot: National Women’s Law Center report

The pandemic is receding, but its effects have taken a dire economic toll on women, a new report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) explains.

The report — Resilient But Not Recovered: After Two Years of the COVID-19 Crisis, Women Are Still Struggling — draws on polling data and on “federal data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau… to reveal how women are really faring at work and in their lives after two years of a punishing pandemic,” NWLC says on its website

The results are grim. Women – especially women of color – have experienced more job loss than men, and they are earning lower wages than men.

The report’s specific findings include:

• “more than two-thirds of the net jobs lost since the pandemic began are women’s jobs”

• “while men have returned to their pre-pandemic labor force size, over 1.1 million fewer women are in the labor force today than in February of 2020”

• “Latinas’ unemployment rate was still 4.8 percent in February 2022, 1.6 times the rate for white men (3.0 percent)”

• “Black women’s unemployment was still 6.1 percent in February 2022, more than double the rate for white men (3.0 percent) and more than a full percentage point above Black women’s pre-pandemic unemployment rate in February 2020 (4.8 percent),” and

• “58 percent of women overall—including 75 percent of women who lost or quit a job during the pandemic, and 63 percent of women in low-paid jobs—said that the COVID-19 pandemic had a negative impact on their mental health”

The child care profession has also been hit hard, losing “one in nine jobs (11.7%)” since the start of the pandemic.

The report also includes women’s voices, among them:

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“With the signing of today’s agreement, we’re making $10‑a‑day child care a reality for families across the country. Today’s announcement will save Ontario families thousands of dollars each year – with fee reductions starting as of Friday this week – while creating jobs, growing the middle class, and giving our kids the best start in life.”

– Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada

“Since last summer, the Government of Canada reached similar agreements with the governments of British ColumbiaNova ScotiaYukonPrince Edward IslandNewfoundland and LabradorManitobaSaskatchewanAlbertaNew Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. The governments of Canada and Quebec also reached an asymmetric agreement to strengthen the early learning and child care system in the province.”

“In total, the Government of Canada is aiming to create approximately 250,000 new child care spaces through Canada-wide agreements with provinces and territories… These new spaces will be predominantly among licensed not-for-profit, public, and family-based child care providers.”

“$10-a-day child care for families in Ontario,” News Release from Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, March 28, 2022

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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April 6, 2022

Dear President Biden:

“We write to thank you for your commitment to cutting the cost and increasing the supply of high-quality child care for families across the country.”

“As you know, the high costs of child care and the difficulty of finding quality, affordable child care are challenges facing too many families across the country. The annual price of center-based child care for an infant exceeds the annual cost of in-state tuition at a public four-year university in every region of the country. In addition to overwhelming costs, approximately 460,000 families are without reliable child care because the child care sector has lost over 1 in 9 jobs since the start of the pandemic.”

“Now is the time to make additional comprehensive, long-term investments in affordable, high-quality child care to build on the critical but largely short-term investments made through the American Rescue Plan.”

“It is clear that child care and early learning investments are an integral part of our nation’s strategy for supporting a robust economy, lowering costs for families, and ensuring the long-term success of our children.”

Sincerely,
Katherine M. Clark, Member of Congress
Elizabeth Warren, United States Senator
Tina Smith, United States Senator
[And 150 other Members of the U.S. House and Senate]

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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“Connecticut’s Office of Early Childhood announced Thursday it has established a parent cabinet, a parent-led advisory group intended to infuse the voice of caregivers into policy and decision-making.

“State leaders say the cabinet will create a ‘feedback loop’ of communication between the office — which oversees child care, Care 4 Kids and other early childhood services — and parents, whose needs are not always heard.”

“Christina Augliera, of Torrington, is the mother of two sons, with the youngest on the autism spectrum. Augliera founded the nonprofit Torrington Area Families for Autism, and wants to use her seat on the parent cabinet to advocate for special programming in rural Connecticut.

“The cabinet framers made a concerted effort to reach out to fathers, whose role in communities and in early childhood is sometimes overlooked.

“Joshua Vaughn, a father of four from Naugatuck, said he wants to be a voice for fathers and all caregivers who make daily sacrifices for the well-being of their children.

“ ‘The importance of male figures within the community is dynamic,’ Vaughn said. ‘The goal is to equip, educate and coach men from all walks of life for the preparations of leadership. Committing to this cause will provoke change and awareness.’ ”

“State officials heralded the cabinet’s creation. Listening to parents ‘is not the afterthought anymore, it’s central,’ Commissioner Beth Bye said Thursday at a press conference in Hartford. ‘This is a great day, this is historic.’ ”

“Connecticut adds Parent Cabinet to center parent voices in child care decision-making,” by Seamus McAvoy, Hartford Courant, April 7, 2022

Please come to the Common Start Coalition’s rally – and support proposed legislation to build a stronger system of early education and care in Massachusetts!

The rally is being held this Saturday, April 9, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Parkman Bandstand on the Boston Command.

“Learn how you can get involved to help create a more equitable childcare and early education system,” the coalition says on its Facebook page.

As we’ve blogged, the coalition — a statewide group of advocates and organizations, including Strategies for Children — supports a bill known as The Common Start Legislation that would establish a universal system of affordable, high-quality early education and care in Massachusetts.

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future of work

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

There’s a new report in town produced by the Massachusetts Legislature’s Future of Work Commission that says “Massachusetts will need to adapt its workforce training, public transit and child care systems to better support workers in a post COVID-19 economy,” a State House News story reports, adding:

“The report also warned that regional and racial disparities in income will also widen without intervention as white collar professions shift more easily to hybrid and remote work models, while service and manufacturing jobs offer less flexibility.”

As the report itself explains, “The Commission was formed in the spring of 2021 to investigate and evaluate the impacts of technological change and automation on work by 2030.”

The report takes into account old factors and new factors, including the impact of the pandemic.

Among the challenges the report points to, “Demand for greater access and flexibility in childcare is far outpacing supply.”

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