News from the Executive Office

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…)

Building Core Adult Capabilities

Maryland’s Family Support Centers are two-generational programs that work with both parents and their very young children at the same time, in the same location.  A recent report by the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard describes the research and findings behind the lessons we’ve learned about how best to support adults as they work or study while caring for an infant or toddler. (more…)

IMG_2993What a Two Can Do

Refer to himself by his first name rather than “I,” as in “Albie up, Mommy,” “Albie wants to play.” “Manna help Albie” and sometimes, “Alan help you,” meaning Alan, please help Albie (me).”

Feed himself with a fork or spoon.

Ask for a specific fork (the strawberry fork).

Drink from a cup with two hands. Ask for the cup he wants (“No, not that one, the red one!”)

Scoop out half an avocado with a spoon.

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The Most Important Piece of Furniture

Margaret Williams was interviewed live this morning on Fox 45’s Good Day Baltimore. She talked about the most important piece of furniture in your home – the dining room table – and all of the fun and healthy bonding activities parents and kids can do around the table. On March 19th from 10 AM – 5PM, MFN will be sponsoring the Family Table Zone at the Fox 45 B’More Healthy Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center. This is a great opportunity to remind families how very important it is to spend time together and connect – especially during the first five years. Join us!

Facebook and EY Research

A colleague at MFN recently sent me a link to early data from an extensive study by Facebook of its users, Meet the Parents. It’s no surprise to find that parents of children under 18 years of age report that they have access to more information than their parents had when they were raising children. Other early findings from the global research is highlighted in this article.

EY, the international tax and business advisory firm, found in its recent study that “ . . . many parents report wanting paid time off, more flexible hours, and help paying for the astronomical cost of child care.”  Around the world, EY reports: “Managing work and family responsibilities for US Millennials is proving difficult.  Millennials (78%) are almost twice as likely to have a spouse/partner working at least full-time than Boomers (47%). Consequently, “Finding time for me” is the most prevalent challenge faced by millennial parents who are managers in the US (76%) followed by “getting enough sleep” and “managing personal and professional life” (67%).” Read more here.

If we want healthy, happy children, we have to find a way to support their parents. Working to improve the quality and affordability of child care and to provide paid parental leave are two of MFN’s major activities this year.

Changing the World

A fascinating article about the Ford Foundation in the January 4, 2016, edition of The New Yorker got me thinking about MFN’s foundation funders who support our mission — MFN ensures that young children and their families have the resources to succeed. The profile of Ford by Larissa MacFarquahar begins with a comprehensive litany of the challenges to conquering inequality, and in our case, that means giving all Maryland children a great start in life. (more…)

Voters Support Early Care and Education

As we get closer to the primaries, it’s important to know where your candidates stand on issues of importance. For Maryland Family Network supporters, that includes early childhood matters. Apparently, lots of other voters care about these issues. See the December 24 issue of Exchange Everyday for a quick synopsis of data related to early care and education professionals. It’s reprinted here for convenience. (more…)

Getting to Yes

How awful it is to be losing a US Senator like Barbara Mikulski who champions the interests of very young children and gets decision-makers with different points of view to agree and advocate those interests. We will have choices when we select Senator Mikulski’s replacement, and we should vote for the one who can get people together to get to yes.

Here’s an excerpt from a press release about her most recent victory.

mikulskiheader

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                        

December 18, 2015
CONTACT:
Matt Jorgenson
Alanna Wellspeak
202-228-1122   

MIKULSKI ANNOUNCES FY16 SPENDING BILL INVESTMENTS IN QUALITY EDUCATION FAMILIES CAN COUNT ON FROM EARLY CHILDHOOD THROUGH HIGHER EDUCATION

Senator puts down payments on recently refreshed and reformed Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Child Care Development Block Grant, and gifted and talented education

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today announced that the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 protects children and families with funding for critical child care and education programs including the recently refreshed and reformed Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and gifted and talented education.

The legislation has passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives and now heads to the White House to be signed into law by the President.

“Education is the opportunity ladder of this nation. Every child deserves their chance to get a foothold on that ladder,” Senator Mikulski said. “In order to out-innovate the rest of the world, we must first out-educate. This legislation will help ensure that America’s children, regardless of the zip code they live in, will have access to quality child care and education they can count on from early childhood to K-12 through higher education.”

Early Childhood Education and Care

Child Care and Development Block Grant

High-quality early childhood education and care has been proven to have positive, lasting effects for children and families, especially since the greatest period of brain development is from birth to age five. High-quality early childhood education and care also supports the nation’s long-term economic security by preparing the next generation of workers, entrepreneurs and business leaders for the jobs of tomorrow.

Senator Mikulski fought to increase CCDBG funding by $326 million over fiscal year (FY) 2015 levels, for a total of $2.761 billion in order to help working families access and afford child care. It builds on passage of her bipartisan legislation, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 which was signed into law last year. This legislation is improving overall program quality, addressing the nutritional and physical activity needs of children in child care settings, strengthening coordination and alignment to contribute to a more comprehensive early childhood education and care system, better meeting the needs of children with disabilities in the program, providing much-needed stability to families, and improving health and safety standards for providers.  This investment will ensure that the critical CCDBG program continues to help families access safe, affordable, quality child care that gets kids ready for school. CCDBG serves more than 1.5 million children each month, including 19,000 in Maryland, while their parents work or attend school.

Specifically, the CCDBG legislation requires stronger inspections of child care programs; requires comprehensive background checks for providers; strengthens health and safety standards by requiring child care workers be trained in CPR and first aid, prevention of SIDS and child abuse and responding to food allergies; promotes stability by ensuring families can stay in child care programs for an entire year so that if working parents get a small raise that puts them above the income threshold their children are not kicked out of the program; and improves program quality through training the childcare workforce in developmental, physical and nutritional needs of kids and gets kids ready for school.

“Working parents across Maryland and the nation rely on child care that is available, affordable, reliable, safe and exceptional. That’s what every parent wants for their children,” Senator Mikulski said. “With this bill, we accomplish four things – increase participation of low-income and other vulnerable children in high-quality child care, promote stable and continuous care, ensure program integrity and accountability so that parents have peace of mind, and improve overall quality and coordination of early childhood programs. Through these efforts, we are fighting for children to succeed in school and beyond.”

Head Start

The spending bill provides $9.2 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start programs, which is $570 million more than FY15 levels. This includes an increase of $141 million for a cost-of-living increase for Head Start grantees, a $135 million increase to expand Early Head Start, and an increase of $294 million to help Head Start programs expands to full-day, full-year services. The Head Start program was created in 1965 and provides comprehensive child development, educational, health and nutrition services to economically disadvantaged children and families with a special focus on pre-school reading and math skills.  Since its founding, research has shown the program has had an effective positive impact. Low-income children who attend the program make significant gains in vocabulary, writing and letter recognition and have access to health care. Traditionally the Head Start program is focused on children aged four to five. The Early Head Start program was incorporated into the Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act of 2007 to recognize the value and importance in investing in children aged zero to three.

“Head Start helps the children who are most in need keep up with their age group in school,” Senator Mikulski said. “It gets children to the doctor to get immunizations or hearing checks. It provides nutritious meals for children who might otherwise go hungry. Early in my career, I worked as a Head Start social worker providing these critical services to some of Baltimore’s most vulnerable children and families.”

Pre-School

This legislation also provides $250 million in funding for the Preschool Development Grants program.  Grants are given to states to help them develop, enhance or expand high-quality preschool programs for children aged four and up. In December 2014, the State of Maryland was awarded $15 million to provide high-quality preschool programs in 18 school districts in Maryland.

K-12 Education

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

ESEA is the primary source of federal aid to K-12 education. It was first enacted in 1965 and was last reauthorized in December 2015 through the Every Student Succeeds Act. The recently-signed law replaces the failed tenets of No Child Left Behind. (NCLB). It eliminates the one-size-fits-all approach to education generated out of Washington, and moves decision making to the states. Under this framework, there will be federal guidelines, but will be implemented with state-developed methods so Maryland can decide what’s best for Maryland students.

“I think this is a very good job in what has been done here. What we hope to be able to do is make sure that our children are ready for the 21st century. I believe this bill is a down-payment on our children’s future and on our nation’s future,” Senator Mikulski said, who served on a bipartisan, bicameral conference committee that wrote the final bill. “When we spend money on education, the benefit not only accrues to the child, but it accrues to our society. Every time a child can participate in the demands and knowledge of what the 21st century requires, we are going to be in a better place.”

During consideration of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Senator Mikulski fought to save Maryland schools $40 million in federal Title I funding by keeping out a disastrous provision that would have drastically changed the formula to distribute Title I funds nationwide.  The change would have punished states like Maryland for investing in their education system, creating winners and losers among low-income families in different regions and abandon some students while helping others.  Title I – the federal government’s only program devoted to closing achievement gaps between high-and-low poverty students – ensures that critical federal education dollars reach and support students with limited resources, as well as provide additional education supports. The spending bill includes an increase of $500 million, for a total of $14.9 billion.

People Who Know

Those who support families in great need – parents and children involved in the child welfare system, who are homeless, who are disenfranchised by incarceration or lack of documentation, who are poor and un- or under-educated – these are the people who know firsthand how mothers and fathers struggle to care for their children and how our systems, though large and expensive, aren’t sufficient to the task of breaking the cycles – poverty, adolescent parenting, failure in school, poor health outcomes, and so on.  Here’s a note that one of those supporters sent to Maryland Family Network.  The author, like me, realizes that public policy advocacy is every bit as important as the services we provide; if we don’t speak out for what’s needed, we’ll never get it. Maryland Family Network’s Public Policy Director, Clinton Macsherry, likes to quote Madonna:  “If you want to get what you want, you have to ask for what you want.” (more…)

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