News from the Executive Office

MFN Names New Executive Director

Dear Readers,

As many of you know, I plan to retire by the end of the year, and I’m happy to report my plans are on track.  The Board of Directors offered the Executive Director position to Laura Weeldreyer, who has accepted.  We are working on transition plans now, and I anticipate she will take the helm on or by October 1, 2019.

Laura has lived and worked in Baltimore for 25 years, the mother of three teenage daughters.  Her professional work has been in education in the public and private sectors.  She is the Chief Program Officer for the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins’ School of Education.  Laura was the Regional Director of Expeditionary Learning in the mid-Atlantic region, and prior to that, the Deputy Chief of Staff in Baltimore City Public Schools from 2008 to 2011, under Andres Alonso.

Laura brings intelligence, skill, passion, and vision to Maryland Family Network, and we are very excited about our future under her leadership!

It’s a bittersweet time for me personally, preparing to leave the organization and people to whom I have devoted so much of myself, getting ready to pursue interests I long ago set aside and spend more time with the family I adore.  I find myself looking backward and looking forward a lot – typical of a Gemini!

Kirwan Commission Update

One of the most engaging and important experiences of my professional career is serving as a member of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, better known as the Kirwan Commission, in recognition of its chairman, Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan.  For me, one of only two of 25 members who do not work in or for schools or the school system or who are scholars of education, the learning curve was steep, the presentations spellbinding, the facts sobering, and Commission dialogue stimulating.  The result of the Commission’s deliberations is a comprehensive set of preliminary recommendations designed to transform public education in Maryland into a world-class education system that produces adults – everyone who enters the system — who are fully ready to enter the workforce and/or the university system. (more…)

Margaret Williams Announces Retirement

After over 27 years at Friends of the Family and Maryland Family Network, I am looking forward to retiring at the end of this year. The Board of Directors of Maryland Family Network is launching a national search for my replacement. That information and position description will be posted to our website in the coming days so that you can direct interested individuals our way. (more…)

State of the State

I’m pleased that Governor Hogan included early childhood in his State of the State address on January 30. We believe our outreach to Gov. Hogan and his staff—before, during, and since the 2018 gubernatorial campaign—has succeeded in raising the profile of early childhood issues within the Administration. And we are eager to capitalize on this heightened awareness during the Governor’s second term.

Excerpts from Governor Hogan’s State of the State Address (more…)

Time to Care

The time for paid family leave is now. Baby hand and grandmother hand. We all need time to care—for new babies, for aging parents, for loved ones with health needs or disabilities, or for helping ourselves. Yet many Marylanders can’t take time to care because they lack paid family leave. (more…)

Important Advice for Those Fighting for Freedom

I enjoyed reading my brother-in-law’s Facebook page recently. It contains some interesting, perhaps useful, advice. Here it is, apparently imparted by a high-level staffer for a US Senator (per the Facebook entry):

There are 2 things that folks who want to fight for freedom should be doing ALL THE TIME right now, and they’re by far the most important things. –> You should NOT be bothering with online petitions or emailing. (more…)

End of an Era

Marian Wright Edelman is a world-renowned leader in advocacy when it comes to children who need someone to speak out for them. For over 30 years she has been one of my role models. It was with bittersweet feelings that I read this Children’s Defense Fund press release.

Marian Wright Edelman Transitions from President of the Children’s Defense Fund
Wright Edelman will continue critical work to end child poverty and inequality 

2018 Legislative Session

Maryland Family Network had a General Assembly Session of success. The following was written by my colleague Clinton Macsherry, Director of Public Policy for MFN.

By any reckoning, we live in an extraordinary political moment. Turmoil within the White House and the halls of federal government has spilled out onto the nation’s streets, fueling levels of acrimony and activism not witnessed in more than a generation. Long-simmering tensions about issues of race, gender, and violence have again boiled over into cultural discourse. Disquiet is almost palpable.

How this zeitgeist affects Maryland politics in the coming months remains to be seen, but its impact on the 2018 Session of the General Assembly turned conventional wisdom on its head. Election years typically ratchet up partisanship and posturing during Session while suppressing substantive legislative activity. Ongoing upheaval at the national level, one might well have supposed, would only make matters worse. (more…)

In their Own Words – The Maryland Commission for Women roundtable conference

Chris Peusch, MSCCA, and Margaret Williams, MFN, were subject experts at a round table discussion about child care.

The Maryland Commission for Women held a roundtable conference recently, In their Own Words: Voices of Maryland Women. The purpose of the conference was to present the findings of a Listening Tour, launched in July 2016, a series of 19 public forums inviting women to talk about the challenges they face in their everyday lives. During this time, the Commission also conducted an on-line survey in four languages. More than 1,400 women participated in either a forum or the survey.  (more…)

Baby Don’ts

In family support, we like to state matters in a positive way. Though this piece from ExchangeEveryday is a list of “don’ts” it conveys an important message. Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., outlines five things adults should not do to babies:

1. Ignore them (don’t)…

Why is a companionship relationship particularly important for babies? The first three years of life is a time when tacit (non conscious) understanding of how the social world works is developed and it gets wired into how the brain works…With responsive care, the brain’s systems learn to work well and thereby keep the person healthy and socially engaged. What is learned during early life will be applied ever after to relationships (unless changed with therapy or other significant brain-changing experiences)…

T. Berry Brazelton

When I think back to the time when my children were very young, and I consider the sources of help I turned to often, T. Berry Brazelton comes to mind. Along with Drs. (Benjamin) Spock and Penelope Leach, he was one of my go-to authors. Dr. Brazelton died at age 99 this week. I never got to tell him how much he contributed to my children’s health and wellbeing and to my peace of mind. He was my 24/7 pediatrician. Reading his obituary in The Boston Globe instantly brought back memories of trying to use “anticipatory guidance” and testing whether my newborn responded to my voice in the same way she responded to my mother’s or husband’s or neighbor’s. (more…)

Good News About CCDBG

Finally, some hopeful news about quality child care, affordable and accessible to all. Please read the posts from two of our national advocacy organizations, below. Accolades go to many of my readers, too! THANK YOU.

From the National Women’s Law Center: (more…)

Child Care for Working Families Act

After you’ve called or written your congressmen about doubling the amount of money for the Child Care Development Block Grant (see my last blog), please turn to asking them to support the Child Care for Working Families Act (HR3773 and S1806).  We consider this the “north star,” for child care – for children, parents, and providers — the guiding light leading to a destination that early care and education advocates would love to reach:  a land with accessible, affordable high-quality child care for everyone who wants it. (more…)

Ask For What You Want

Infused with hope generated by the assembly of early care and education advocates from the national, state, and local levels convened recently by the National Women’s Law Center, I have two messages, both calls for action. I’ll give you the first one now and the second one in my next blog.

Tell your Congressmen (they’re all men in Maryland) to double the funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. My colleague Clinton Macsherry is fond of quoting Madonna: “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want. So please ask for what you want!” (more…)

Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

The National Women’s Law Center is one of our major sources for accurate and timely news about early care and education policy at the federal level. Here’s what they’ve written about the tax cut that was signed into law today.

“Yesterday [Wednesday, December 20], the House officially passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and sent it to the President’s desk for his signature. While there is an increase in the Child Tax Credit, millions of working families get little or nothing from the increase and about 1 million immigrant children would no longer be eligible for the credit. Overall this is a tough loss for anyone who cares about children and families. Before the ink is even dry, President Trump, Speaker Ryan, and other House Republicans are already admitting how they plan to pay for their ill-conceived tax cuts – by slashing health care, SNAP, and other supports that help families make ends meet . . . We will now have to gear up for a fight to protect programs like SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid in 2018. Cuts and changes to all of these programs most definitely impact young children’s ability to succeed in their early learning programs.”


While I’m strongly in favor of cleaning up the tax code — for one thing, middle-class families should not have to hire accountants to prepare their tax returns — I am also devoted to improving communities so that everyone has good health care coverage, high-performing schools, safe neighborhoods, and an opportunity for meaningful work that financially supports a family.


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:

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:


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: 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-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.

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.

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.

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


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!