News from the Executive Office

The Biology of Stress & The Science of Hope

Resilience - the biology of stress & the science of hopeWe’ve had a tremendous response to the documentary Resilience every time we’ve shown it. It highlights the impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences, known as ACEs, and the ability of protective factors to buffer those impacts. Now comes the September-October issue of the Academic Pediatric Association’s journal, devoted entirely to ACEs, with commentaries from researchers, practitioners, and parents. Even our long-time friend from the early days of family support (1980s), Charlie Bruner, has an interesting article here. You can read it all and download it for free at this site: http://www.academicpedsjnl.net/issue/S1876-2859(17)X0002-8.

10 Traits of Infant & Toddler Caregivers

Working with infants and toddlers can be fun but challenging work. The Infant Toddler Specialist at your local Child Care Resource Center (CCRC) can help with professional development, training, and technical assistance support services. Contact your Child Care Resource Center today to find out more about these free services. Download the info-graphic here.

10 Traits of Infant and Toddler Caregivers

Workers’ Pace Dents Growth

Thursday’s Wall Street Journal article, “Workers’ Pace Dents Growth” bemoans the slow rise in US productivity. Encouragingly, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer was quoted as saying, “government policy works best when it can address a need that the private sector neglects, including investment in basic research, infrastructure, early childhood education, schooling and public health.”

When’s the last time the early care and education community got a shout-out in a front page, above-the-fold article in the WSJ?! I’ve been feeling optimistic!

Expanding Publicly Funded Programs for 4-Year-Olds

Smiling girl on playground

Here’s the question. How would you implement an expansion of publicly funded Prekindergarten in Maryland?

First, some background. When school began in the fall of 2015, there were approximately 75,000 4-year-olds in Maryland. And 36% of them, or 27,000, were enrolled in publicly funded Prekindergarten (pre-K) programs in Maryland, about 1/3 in full-day (6 hours) and 2/3 in half-day (2-1/2 hours). This was made possible by the 2002 Bridge to Excellence Act that required local school systems to provide voluntary pre-K access to 4-year-olds who lived in families with incomes at or below 185% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG). (more…)

Ecological Theory of Development

When I began work 26 years ago at Friends of the Family (which became Maryland Family Network), the ecological systems theory of Urie Bronfenbrenner was part of the philosophical underpinning of the family support approach.  His diagram of the system looked like this:

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Stresses Families Face Today

I recently heard a presentation by an expert on learning technologies at New America called Strengthening Ties: The Case for Building a Social Policy Centered on Families. Among the PowerPoint slides that accompanied the talk was one that I find helpful in thinking about strengthening families. (more…)

From the 2017 Family Engagement Conference

On Thursday the state held its Family Engagement Summit. I have written about family engagement for this blog in the past. I’m not fond of the term because families don’t see themselves in it. (more…)

Sandra Skolnik Lecture 2017

If Americans Love Moms, Why Do We Let Them Die?

This article about America’s high death rates in pregnancy and childbirth is almost unbelievable. Read it here: If Americans Love Moms, Why Do We Let Them Die? It’s by Nicholas Kristof, Maryland Family Network’s 8th Sandra J. Skolnik lecturer. Then be sure to spread the word about the lecture by sharing this link with your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues: http://marylandfamilynetwork.nonprofitsoapbox.com/skolnik-lecture-2017. And register to join us!

Eco-Healthy Child Care

Last fall, the University of Maryland’s School of Nursing (SON) began a special project to train nurses to work in community settings. Called The Community and Public Health Environmental Initiative, it is a three-year effort supported by a $750,000 private gift to SON. Lucky for us, our Early Head Start (EHS) programs in Baltimore City have been the focus of the initiative. (more…)

Strengthening Families Maryland Parent Cafés

I love Strengthening Families as an approach to preventing child maltreatment and building strong families. It’s easy and it works! We spread the word about Strengthening Families through Parent Cafés. Since we began offering Parent Cafés, Maryland Family Network, the state’s Strengthening Families lead agency, trained many Parent Café facilitators who, in turn, offered cafés to hundreds of families. Hats off to our director of family support training, Gail Guillard, who is in charge at MFN of all-things Strengthening Families. She’s a great trainer herself, and she has given hundreds of others the skills to spread the word and make a difference for children and their families.   (more…)

The Peace of Wild Things

The Peace of Wild Things

I recently visited a long-time friend in Maine who recited to me the poem The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry.  It strongly resonated with me because I find long walks in the woods and by the seashore restorative.  For me, this message is helpful to remember.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
Waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Self-Talk

self-talkI find myself coaching myself more often (and speaking to myself aloud) as I age, so perhaps that’s why I found this piece, an article in Psychology Today, encouraging.  I can’t stand the negative thoughts that run through my mind, especially at 3 am.  I know they’re not comprehensive and have a high opportunity cost, depriving me of sleep and the pleasure of entertaining enjoyable thoughts.  Here’s a way to deal to them and banish them once and for all.  “The practice of positive self-talk is often the process that allows you to discover the obscured optimism, hope, and joy in any given situation.”

The Danger of a Single Story

A colleague shared this link to a video of a TED talk called “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. (more…)

BCCCRC 2017 Emotional Wellness Conference

Baltimore City’s Child Care Resource Center held its annual Emotional Wellness Conference recently.  The keynote speaker was Lesley Koplow, a teacher at Bank Street College and expert in emotionally responsive practice.   The conference was sold-out and attended by over 250 providers.  Both the keynote and the four break-out sessions covered timely topics of keen interest to caregivers of children from birth to five.

I came away with pages of notes that I wanted to share with my daughter, a graduate of Bank Street, who is raising children who are now 14 months and 3-1/3.  One of the hand-outs I most appreciated was the “Core Concepts of Emotionally Responsive Practice:  Developmental Milestones 0-5,” developed by Koplow.  She carefully explained how mastery of each skill, knowledge, or behavior was essential before the next milestone could be attained.  For instance, a baby has to understand object permanence before he can cope with separation issues, and he has to grasp separation issues before we can deal with toileting and other body integrity issues. (more…)

Trump’s Skinny Budget

President Trump made his budget public this week.  Like many people entering negotiations, he opened with an extreme position, adding $54 billion to the defense budget, for instance, and balancing increases with large cuts in many areas, including education, housing, and social services.

The “skinny budget” indicates that early care and education are not a high priority for the Administration; the budget for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the department that’s home to the main funding we use in Maryland for child care subsidy, child care quality and regulations, and for Early Head Start and Head Start (among many other programs), is designated for a cut of $15.1 billion (18%).  Line item changes in the HHS budget that directly address the needs of very young children and their families – including the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention Grants – are not specified. (more…)

Teaching Children about Racism and Justice

Several times we’ve attempted to write a script about teaching young children about racism and justice for our weekly 90-second spot, The First Years Last Forever, on the local public radio station.  None of our drafts seemed helpful, addressing how parents or caregivers of different races might talk to very young of different races.  Perhaps this is not a topic that can be thoughtfully introduced in a minute and a half.  In the process of exploring how others have handled this, two resources came to light. (more…)

Grand Re-Opening of Our House Early Head Start

On Tuesday, Maryland Family Network officially re-opened Our House in Cherry Hill, this time as an Early Head Start program. This addition to our Early Head Start programs in Baltimore City comes after years of fundraising and navigating government red tape.  The bright faces of the children who are served by this program and whose futures are therefore more promising are the payoff for the hard work of so many who were involved. Our House serves pregnant women and families with children up to age three who live in nearby public housing and from the greater community. We were joined at the grand re-opening by representatives of the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) including Acting Commissioner of Housing and Community Development Michael Braverman and dedicated members of the HABC Resident Advisory Board.  HABC takes responsibility for day-to-day operations of Our House. Also on hand were the wonderful Our House staff and families. (more…)

Protecting Your Home from Fire

I was shocked to learn from the Baltimore City Health Department that ten children died in three house fires in the city between approximately December 12, 2016 and January 22, 2017 (about six weeks). Seven of them were infants and toddlers. They are the most vulnerable in house fires, having no way to exit on their own. These fires were preventable: children playing with matches, a pot left on a stove, and a space heater placed too close to the couch leading it to catch fire. The space heater issue is especially critical; almost every year, young children die in fires that start this way. (more…)

Dan White – MFN’s Hero

Dan White has served on Maryland Family Network’s Board since 1997.  He was our Board President from 2006 to 2009, during the time of the merger of Friends of the Family and the Maryland Committee for Children.  He retired from Whiting-Turner in December 2016, and a room at the construction company’s office was dedicated to Dan.  Here is what’s written on the plaque in the room. (more…)

More From aLICE

Earlier this month, the United Way of Central Maryland published a remarkable report, ALICE Maryland.  ALICE stands for Assets Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  Maryland Family Network was part of the Advisory Committee for our state. (more…)

Remembering Clare Siegel

Maryland Family Network mourns the passing of Clare Siegel, our colleague and friend over many years. We knew of her work with children in Baltimore City, and we hired her to run our nascent Early Head Start program which began in 1995. (more…)

My Babies are Gone

At Maryland Family Network, we think a lot of parents and parenting.  A colleague just sent me this piece by Anna Quindlen. For me it captures a sense of the challenge of raising children and the joy of knowing them as adults. This season I will be spending time with my grown-up children, and Quindlen’s reminiscence reminds me to stay fully present, even amid the chaos and stress of holiday chores and gatherings of family and friends, so I can remember and enjoy each precious moment.

Another Letter to President-Elect Trump

Here’s another letter to the President-elect from scholars at Brookings urging his support of early care and education.
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A Letter to President-Elect Trump

The following was sent this week. It was signed by dozens of national organizations and at least several from each state. The Maryland signatories are shown at the end of the letter.
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Children of Immigrants

This advice from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is so helpful, I am copying it here in its entirety.
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Paul Wellstone

A very dear friend sent me a quote recently. It’s an excerpt from a speech given by Paul Wellstone in 1985 to the Minnesota Nurses Association.  Paul Wellstone was a college professor and community organizer who died in 2002 with his wife and daughter in a plane crash while campaigning for a third term as a US Senator from Minnesota.  Here’s the quote, and here’s a website where you can find more Wellstonian words, many related to politics and civic life. (more…)

implicit biases

As we prepare for the Sandra J. Skolnik Lecture today, I am reminded of Dr. Walter Gilliam, who was one of our presenters last year. Recently he released a new set of research findings that have compelled us to focus on our biases, especially as they impact the youngest children. (more…)

Motivation to Move Forward

I’ve been looking for words to motivate all of us at Maryland Family Network to continue to give our all for very young children and their families.  Many of our national partners have offered words of wisdom, and I’ve provided or linked to them here. (more…)

Guns and Babies

gunsThe only negative responses we’ve ever received to MFN’s weekly 90-second broadcasts of “The First Five Years” on WYPR in its nearly three year run, was from listeners who claimed we were anti-Second Amendment rights. That’s after we aired a piece about how many little ones are accidentally killed by guns each year. Now comes along this very sobering report that blows a hole in any argument that guns are safe for children as things stand now.

Racial Bias

Many of us are concerned by the high expulsion rate of children in early care and education settings.  This phenomenon was painfully highlighted recently in a New York Times editorial, and, I sadly fear, many of us are as guilty as the pre-K teachers who probably couldn’t control what their eyes were watching.  It’s so ingrained, so subconscious, this bias.  And it is frightening, that we’re looking for problems where none exists. (more…)

Talking Toys

I loved this article from ExchangeEveryday, the online daily e-newsletter.  This is from the September 27, 2016, edition.   (more…)

My Hero: Jane Addams

I have always admired the accomplishments of Jane Addams.  One Halloween when we were expecting a visit from program monitors from the Department of Human Resources, I dressed up as Addams because I thought they’d appreciate the social work link.  I think of a Family Support Center, the kind established by Maryland Family Network, as a version of a settlement house like Hull House.  What I didn’t know was that Jane Addams studied early childhood development and established settlement houses to care for poor children while their parents worked.  Here’s the transcript from Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac on September 6, about my hero. (more…)

Child Care:  Today’s Issue

MarylandStateHouseFatherhood, child abuse and neglect, children with disabilities, lead poisoning, welfare-to-work – numerous issues that touch our lives have had their moment in the spotlight and shuffle offstage, under addressed, unforgotten, and not untended by many of us! (more…)

There’s Nothing Like Connecting with Peers

I had lunch recently with a retired colleague, Stan Levi, former CEO of Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland.  Spending time with him reminded me how wonderful it is to commune with a fellow Executive Director.  There’s nothing quite like a peer for understanding and support! (more…)

Best Places in America to Have a Baby

WalletHub ranked the best places in America to have a baby based on delivery costs, health-care accessibility, and “baby friendliness.” They then took into consideration 17 key metrics, including number of pediatricians per capita, annual average infant-care costs, infant mortality rates, cost of living, average health insurance premiums, and more. Maryland ranks exactly in the middle.

Abuse in Early Childhood Education Settings in Prince George’s County

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The original version of this blog was posted on August 19, 2016.  Very shortly thereafter, I received an email from the State’s expert on licensing who clarified that the Head Start program in Prince George’s County was not regulated by MSDE; because it is administered through the local school system, it is not subject to State requirements.  On August 20, 2016, I rewrote the blog to make that clear.  I apologize to readers for misleading them on this point, and I thank all the hardworking Maryland licensing staff who not only work with providers to make sure child care is safe and healthy for children but also read my blog!

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Beyond Survival

Here’s a wonderful quote from the introduction to the National Academy of Science’s report Beyond Survival: The Case for Investing in Young Children Globally, recently reprinted in the online e-newsletter, ExchangeEveryDay, on July 1, 2016. (more…)

Child Care Before Pre-K

In earlier blogs I’ve expounded upon the lack of focus on the first three years of the birth-to-five continuum.  While a lot of public attention has been focused on pre-K expansion for four year olds, strong foundations begin at birth . . . and before.  Some would say that a healthy lifestyle and a positive outlook on life are essential to carrying a healthy fetus.  And most people who work with little ones know that the first three years cast a long shadow over the next two and beyond.  Good parenting – or “good enough” parenting, as I like to say – is the most important ingredient in raising a healthy, happy child. So while reading an article like this, I am saying, “yes, yes, yes” throughout. (more…)

The Cost of Caring for Your Own

At Maryland Family Network, we hear every day from parents who can’t afford child care and need help to cover the cost of quality options.  And we know many of these parents choose unlicensed care (often unsafe) or drop out of the workforce in order to care for their children.  Either way, the solution is more support for quality child care.  This report from PBS highlights the cost to families and communities when parents stay home to care for their young ones. (more…)

Marti Worshtil

What will we do without Marti?

Marti Worshtil became an unforgettable part of our lives in 1991, when the Maryland Committee for Children, one of Maryland Family Network’s two legacy organizations, selected the Prince George’s County Child Care Resource Center (CCRC) as one of the first CCRCs in Maryland.  Entrepreneurial, visionary, and determined from the start, Marti built the CCRC into a force for quality child care in Prince George’s County.  With her political savvy and forceful speech, Marti pushed the child care agenda statewide as part of a growing network of CCRCs, working both inside to improve the work of CCRCs and outside to improve the regulatory and administrative climate for child care providers. (more…)

HELP Hearing with Mikluski 06 14 16Testifying in Congress

On June 15, 2016, I gave testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  The subject was the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014.  Senator Mikulski, who co-chaired the hearing with Senator Burr from North Carolina, wrote a press release after the event that covers it. See below.  (more…)

Rosalie Street, 30th Anniversary of the Network

Rosalie Street is the founding Executive Director of Friends of the Family, which merged with the Maryland Committee for Children in 2009 to become Maryland Family Network.  On the occasion of Friends of the Family’s 30th anniversary, also the 30th anniversary of Maryland’s network of Family Support Centers, she wrote the following piece, a good history of the early years.

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30th Anniversary

Margaret and Angie BarnettIt’s hard to believe that Maryland’s Family Support Center network turned 30 this year!  Here’s what I wrote for the program brochure distributed at the Spring Training event in Ocean City, where the entire network, about 350 of us, celebrated the landmark. (more…)

Ellen’s Farewell

My friend and role model, the Honorable Ellen M. Heller, recently retired from the Board of Trustees of The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, which she chaired for many years.  To the members of Better Together, a group of early care and education practitioners, advocates, and funders that she organized several years ago, she recently wrote the following, which I think is well worth remembering: (more…)

Informal Providers

Several MFNers are part of a group that has been organized to have an impact on school readiness.  Through excellent facilitation and a wide-ranging conversation, the group identified the issue of quality of early care and education as a priority.  The rationale:  if we had better trained early childhood educators, we’d have more children prepared to enter school “fully ready” as determined by the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment (KRA). (more…)

Employee Engagement

Recently I attended a one-hour overview of employee engagement issues presented by Chris Taylor of Actionable Books.  He said that Gallup’s most recent Q12’s results showed that only three out of ten employed people come to work focused on doing their jobs well or better than ever; 18% are actively disengaged in their work.  He cited other studies and statistics that show that the much of the American workforce is not fully engaged in its work, though the USA does far better than most other countries on every measure. (more…)

The Brain and the Eyes

I was struck by a section of a recent New Yorker article about schizophrenia and its genetic characteristics by Siddhartha Mukherjee, titled, “Runs in the Family.”   For me this excerpt represents the value of having a skilled journalist take on complicated scientific issues.  And, of course, this is about what’s happening to babies, Maryland Family Network’s sweet spot! (more…)

Staying with Albie and Sollie and their Parents

I recently spent a full month with my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons, ages 1 month and 25 months.  And I mean WITH them, in their small apartment.  I slept on a futon in the dining room.  With my son-in-law working 12-hour days, 6 days a week as a resident, and the family planning to move to larger quarters, I felt my daughter needed the help.  And it turned out that I got the most help. (more…)

Greater Baltimore Committee Leadership Class of 1995

I participated in the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Leadership program, class of 1995.  Recently we got together to celebrate a classmate’s new book, Hamm Rules.  Lenny Hamm was a district commander the Baltimore City Police Department in 1995, and subsequently became the Chief of Baltimore City Police.  He’s not the only published author in the class.  Since we graduated, I know of at least four other classmates who’ve written books – Jackie Gaines, Robert Gordon (not yet published), Nancy Olah, and Dana Stein.  Last night we talked about the books within us, not yet written.  Mary Lynn Devlin, approaching retirement as Vice President of Union Hospital in Cecil County, talked about attending a writer’s workshop and receiving a button to wear, “Ask me about my book.”  It’s a way to get you thinking and talking about what you want to write. (more…)

ALICE

The United Way is undertaking an ALICE project in Maryland – Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  It’s part of a nationwide study of those struggling in America and, in our case, an effort to identify what’s unique about Maryland.  I’m on the Research Advisory Committee for the project here because of Maryland Family Network’s command of the data about child care, both the supply and demand. (more…)

Moonshots in Education

Recently I was invited to hear Esther Wojcicki address a group of graduate students and faculty at the Johns Hopkins School of Education.  She called her presentation, Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom.  A practical, down-to-earth person who likes to figure out how to make things work and then do it, she was stymied when she began teaching in public schools.  Eventually she said “to _ _ _ _   with the rules,” and did things her way, eschewing required curricula and hoping for the best when her students took conventional exams.  Her pupils were wildly successful, her classrooms burgeoned, and her approach has become a rallying cry among progressive educators.  It’s summed up in this aphorism:  Instead of a sage on the stage, become a guide on the side.  Though she teaches English and journalism to high school students in Palo Alto, her message is one that the gurus of early childhood education also espouse.  See the works of Stanley Greenspan or Magda Gerber, for instance.  Follow the children’s lead!  Trust the babies!

New Principal

Not long ago I shadowed a relatively new principal who runs a K-8 school.  It was a long day for the boss – 8 am to almost 6 pm – with plenty of challenges along the way.   Three big difficulties were readily apparent.  First, the school’s design is cold, rambling, open, and therefore impossible to navigate efficiently or to use comfortably for play during inclement weather, classes, and meals.  The fixed operating costs related to the physical plant leave minimal discretionary funds for equipment and supplies, let alone extra staffing, which would really help in the management of transition times, to say nothing of student academic needs, after-school activities, field trips, and so on. (more…)

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