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Photo: Alessandra Hartkopf for Strategies for Children

Check out this new feature from WBUR radio that is aptly titled: “We asked 8 child care workers about their joys and frustrations. Here’s what they said.”

It’s part of a week-long series on early education and care.

This particular article and audio clip features:

Bernadette Davidson

Kiya Savannah

Vanessa Pashkoff (whom we’ve blogged about)

Kimberly Artez

Llanet Montoya

Anna Rogers

Kitt Cox, and

Stacia Buckmann

WBUR asks these early educators to discuss “the joys and challenges of working in this industry, and why some are leaving the profession,” as the field grapples with challenges.

“The child care workforce in Massachusetts is about 12% smaller today than it was before the start of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis from the University of California, Berkeley,” WBUR explains.

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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.


Gloria Valentin head shot

Gloria Valentin

Send Gloria Valentin an email that mentions a family challenge you have to deal with, as I did, and the email you receive back will be a small, electronic packet of sunshine and reassurance.

“I have an optimistic personality,” Valentin says. “I want to bring joy in times when everything is so daunting. I have days, trust me, when I’m like, I’m not feeling it today. But I have that energy and that outlook of just being positive and not allowing things I can’t control to take over my life.”

Valentin has been a family child care provider for 22 years, but she talks about her work as if she just started last month, and she’s got a dozen new things she wants to do.

She began her career as an early educator at a center-based program, then opened up her own business. Today, she’s also involved in advocacy, and she has participated in Strategies for Children’s Speakers Bureau and our Advocacy Network

“The time that we spent together each week, was a time for us to find our voices, to practice public speaking, and to move forward as advocates,” Valentin says of her experience in the Advocacy Network, where she drew inspiration from other advocates who spoke about forming relationships with elected officials and following up with them.

“That really stood out for me, making those connections and being proud of the work I do and sharing it. Family child care is a hidden gem. 

“But the work can be isolating, so I want to make connections and let people in government know that we’re here and that our work is so important. We should be included in conversations about quality child care programs and financial accessibility.”

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A Caregiver’s Promise

by Ronald Ferguson

With my heart I will love you
And shield you from stress.
With my mouth I will speak what I feel.

With soft words and sweet songs every time I behold you

I’ll show you that my love is real.
With my fingers I’ll point at the objects I name
And I’ll count them in groups to compare.
With my feet I will take you outdoors to explore
While we play and enjoy the fresh air.
With my eyes I will read as I show you the world
Through bright pictures and stories in books.
These are ways to make sure that your brain is prepared

For successes wherever you look.
This my promise I make from the day of your birth
That these basics I’ll faithfully do.
For my job is to help you grow happy and smart
Starting now when your life is brand new.
You will learn that your life is an artwork.
And that you are the artist in charge.
But before you decide what to do with your life

Listen now
To the beat
Of my heart.

From the Boston Basics Campaign

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Amy O’Leary

Amy O’Leary, the executive director of Strategies for Children, was on Boston Public Radio yesterday talking about the high cost of child care.

Here are some excerpts of what she said:

“One of the things we have learned in the pandemic is we really saw what parent choice looks like. What has typically been a very personal decision, feeling that you’re on your own trying to navigate the bureaucracies really came to light [because] parents were more willing to talk to their employers about what was happening in reality in their homes.”

“We also saw flexibility from the government. So many of our policies are very rigid and have a lot of hoops to jump through for families,” O’Lear says, explaining how the pandemic has changed things. “Suddenly, we’re relaxed because the connection between early education and care programs, and our economy was so clear, even though we’ve had research and data and reports for decades… that tell us how critical early childhood is to brain development and supporting children in the earliest years.”

“We saw policy change pretty dramatically. And I think that has set the stage for what we think about for the future.”

However, O’Leary says, funding will be essential.

“I don’t know many young families who can afford $21,000 for their baby to go to child care.”

“We can’t one-time fund our way out of this decades-long crisis. We really have to think about sustainable, strategic funding and policies.”

To hear more, tune in!

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Next month, please join us for a movie night. 

On Tuesday, June 7, 2022, Strategies for Children is co-hosting the virtual screening of “Starting at Zero: Reimagining Education in America,” an exciting exploration of the value and potential of early education and care programs.

After the screening, there will be a panel discussion featuring Massachusetts community members who are actively involved in early childhood – and viewers will get to see the premiere of a Massachusetts companion video.

Register here to see the event live at noon.

Or register here to see a recording of the event – with Spanish translation — that will be streamed at 6 p.m.

As its website explains, “Starting at Zero” explores “the power of investing in high-quality early childhood education so that all children and families have the opportunity to attain the American Dream.”

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The Massachusetts Legislature is poised to take an exciting step forward. 

The Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education has just released a bill, An Act to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care.

It’s an investment in young children and the early education workforce that promises to make the state stronger as these children grow.

The bill draws heavily on the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, which released a report in March. The bill also includes many of the policies advocated for by the Common Start Coalition in a bill it worked to file in 2021.

When it’s fully implemented, this legislation “will be transformative in expanding access to high quality, sustainable, and affordable early education and care for young children and families in Massachusetts,” according to a statement released by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education Representative Alice H. Peisch (D-Wellesley) and Senator Jason M. Lewis (D-Winchester).

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State House

Photo: Alyssa Haywoode for Strategies for Children

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee released its $49.68 billion state budget proposal for fiscal year 2023.

This budget includes several key provisions for early education and care, which are outlined in Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues’ executive summary.

Highlights include:

• $250 million in Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, a previously, federally-funded program that has helped stabilize the early education and care field during the pandemic

• $25 million for a new Early Education and Care Infrastructure and Policy Reform Reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape

• $25 million in a rate increase for early educators, and

• $15 million for preschool expansion through the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative.

The Boston Globe covers the budget story here. And MassLive covers it here.

Visit our website to see comparisons of budget line items over time, including the FY23 House budget.

While the Senate budget would allocate more early education and care funding overall than the House budget, most notably through C3 grants, the Senate’s proposal differs from the House’s in a few ways. The Senate budget calls for a smaller sized rate increase and does not fund the workforce development initiative (which is allotted $10 million in the House budget).

Senators have until 1 p.m. on Friday, May 13, 2022, to file budget amendments, and they will begin debating these amendments on May 24.

Join the 9:30 Call tomorrow, Thursday, May 12, 2022, (at, yes, 9:30 a.m.) to hear a budget update from Ashley White, senior policy researcher at the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.

Click here to get more information and Zoom link.

If you have questions or need additional information, contact Titus DosRemedios at tdosremedios@strategiesforchildren.org.

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Screenshot: Facebook page, New Mexico Early Childhood Education and Care Department

“Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced Thursday that New Mexico will cover the costs of child care for most residents through June 2023. The benefit, which covers families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, makes New Mexico the first state to offer no-cost care over such a broad range of incomes, officials said.

“ ‘It’s free, no more co-pays, no more waiting,’ Lujan Grisham said to a crowd of preschoolers at East Gate Kids Learning Center in Albuquerque. ‘This is the road to a universal child-care system.’ ”

“The state recently expanded a federal child-care subsidy to middle-class families. On Thursday, Lujan Grisham said it would eliminate co-pays for them, too. Officials estimate both changes will make child care free for a total of 30,000 families.”

“New Mexico to offer a year of free child care to most residents,” by Casey Parks, The Washington Post, April 28, 2022.

 

Also check out: ”New Mexico leads the nation as Governor Lujan Grisham makes childcare free for most families,” Office of Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, April 28, 2022

 

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Screenshot: Community Change Action website

On Monday, May 9, 2022, “child care providers, parents, and families across the country are hosting A Day Without Child Care: A National Day of Action.”

It’s a one-day initiative to support:

• living wages for child care providers

• an equitable child care system built on racial justice, and

• affordable child care for all families

As the initiative’s website explains, “For generations, we have been fighting for equitable access to affordable child care and better pay and working conditions for providers but our needs are still not being met.”

The pandemic has also boosted public awareness about the importance of child care, but the country has not yet invested in building a better early education and care system.

To highlight these unmet needs, some providers are choosing to participate in this day of action by closing for the day or by opening late. Other providers will stay open and raise awareness. Massachusetts providers can share their plans by filling out this form.

As the National Day of Action website says: 

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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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