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The Obama Administration announced in a press release today $500 million in funding for a Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge for states to establish and expand high quality early learning programs. Joining U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the announcement were business, law enforcement and military leaders who have advocated for increased investments in early learning to reduce crime, strengthen national security and boost U.S. competitiveness.
"For kids, high quality early learning programs mean they will enter school better prepared with a greater chance of finishing high school and college," said Vice President Joe Biden, Chairman of the Administration's Middle Class Task Force. "Expanding access to such early education and child care programs will also make it easier for working parents to hold down a job - giving them peace of mind that their children are in a high quality learning environment while they are at work."
The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge will reward states that create comprehensive plans to transform early learning systems with better coordination, clearer learning standards, and meaningful workforce development. States applying for the competitive challenge grants will be encouraged to increase access to quality early learning programs for low income and underserved families and children, increase training and support for the early learning workforce, evaluate how strategies are working toward success, and help parents make informed decisions about care for their children.
"We are excited to see this type of commitment and vision from President Obama and Congress toward quality early education and learning," said Stephanie Berglund, CEO of thread, Alaska's statewide child care resource and referral network. "We know that with investments like these in quality child care and early learning initiatives, children are more likely to be healthy, graduate from high school and be successful later in life."
The press release from the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services states that research shows high-quality early learning programs lead to long-lasting positive outcomes for children, including increased rates of high school graduation, college attendance and college completion. Yet, for the first time in a decade, states are reducing some of their key investments in early learning, a recent National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) indicates.
Alaskans support public investment in early care and learning. An Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Services in Alaska report by the McDowell Group showed urban and rural residents alike think public funding for early care and learning in Alaska is important with 87 percent of households thinking it is important or very important for state government to provide financial support for these services.
The Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants will encourage states to make the best possible use of current federal and state funding in child care and early learning. Starting today, the public may provide input and find out more information online about the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge grants. Grants will be awarded to states no later than December 31, 2011.
May 3, 2011 was National Children's Mental Health Awareness Day and thread joined North Star Behavioral Health and Anchorage Community Mental Health Services, Inc. (ACMHS) for a presentation highlighting the mental health and well-being of Alaska's children.
"Young children's mental health is something people don't like to talk about," said Josh Arvidson, the Director of Alaska’s Child Trauma Center at ACHMS, during his co-presentation with Alicia Deaver, thread's Director of Consultation. Arvidson and Deaver presented at a luncheon at North Star Behavioral Health which drew about 100 professionals from Anchorage and around the state. "It's a tough issue, but there are clear indicators of ways we can help improve these kids’ lives."
According to Arvidson and Deaver, one of the strongest factors influencing children's mental health and well-being is the number of negative experiences children are exposed to at an early age, such as adult substance abuse, moving frequently and domestic violence.
While Arvidson and Deaver acknowledge these are challenging issues to address, there are ways to help improve children's mental health early on. For example, children who are in and remain with a consistent care-giver build strong attachment that leads to positive well-being.
Both Deaver and Arvidson advocate when appropriate, for engaging both parents and care-givers in creating a positive relationship with a child that has experienced trauma.
This positive attachment with an early educator, even at the youngest ages, is fostered through things like a building a sense of confidence, ability to make friends and getting along with others and focusing on tasks or assignments. Children who have received consistent and positive learning experiences through their child care provider show dramatic improvements in behavior.
“The research tells us that it is important for early educators to have training and learn the skills that will help them positively support children in their care,” Deaver says. “Healthy child development can be used as an intervention tool for children.”
For more information about children’s mental health issues, please visit: www.acmhs.com/. For consultation services provided by thread, please visit: www.threadalaska.org.
On May 6th, 2011 families celebrated Provider Appreciation Day in recognition of child care providers, teachers and other early educators of young children everywhere. Started in 1996 by a group of volunteers in New Jersey, Provider Appreciation Day is celebrated each year on the Friday before Mother's Day.
The early care and learning workforce, including child care providers, is a growing field nationally as well as right here at home. In Alaska, the early care and learning workforce currently numbers 7,300 compared to 6,500 estimated in 2005.
This includes individuals working at child care centers, family child care, Head Start, private and public preschool and pre-kindergarten, infant learning programs and other early childhood settings.
While the numbers of people working with Alaska's youngest residents is increasing - children from birth to ages five and above - their wages are equal to some of the lowest paying jobs in the economy. At the same time, Alaska has no structure to reward early educators for increased credentials or experience. For example, an average salary of a child care worker is less than half the average salary of a kindergarten teacher in a public school system. And yet, we know the relationships between early educators, children and their families can impact a child's life far into the future. Children who have positive early learning experiences often have higher paying jobs, stay out of jail and are healthier!
thread celebrated the important work of Alaska's early educators by:
Gathering child care provider stories! Stay tuned for prize announcements, including a gift package to the Anchorage Museum, complete with guest passes for a provider, 1 adult guest and up to 10 children! Other prizes include free Boogie Wipes National Provider Day Appreciation kits.
Celebrating with AEYC in Juneau, along with Best Beginnings and the United Way, a Child Care Provider Appreciation Day on May 5th at the Juneau Empire Building. The evening's event included refreshments from Abby's Kitchen, a hand spa, chair massages, craft kits, prizes, gifts and recognition for child care providers.
Celebrating with FAEYC in Fairbanks on May 7th with a Provider Appreciation Barbecue at Pioneer Park. Provider Appreciation Awards were given out.
Holding a drawing for a 6-seater baby buggy, which will go to one of thread's registered Let's Get Moving! training participants.
Visiting thread's website for information and on-going support for early educators through trainings, the SEED Registry and financial and program improvement incentives.
The State of Alaska celebrates Provider Appreciation Day with a State Proclamation by Governor Parnell. View the Executive Proclamation for Child Care Provider Appreciation Day, along with other activities and events celebrating child care providers at www.providerappreciationday.org.
"Alaska's early care and learning field is employing a growing number of people, with some of the lowest paying wages in the economy and providing child care services that allow over 32,000 Alaska residents to join the workforce," Stephanie Berglund, thread CEO said. Berglund is referring to data from thread's *2011 update to an Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Services in Alaska report.
Alaska’s early care and learning workforce currently numbers 7,300 compared to 6,500 estimated in 2005. This includes individuals working at child care centers, family child care, Head Start, private and public preschool and pre-kindergarten, infant learning programs and other early childhood settings, reports the McDowell Group. The McDowell Group, who prepared the updated report for thread and the System for Early Education Development (SEED), places the number of early care and learning jobs in between seafood processing jobs at 9,500 and air transportation jobs at 6,400.
While many early educators are caring for Alaska children from birth to ages five and above, their wages are equal to some of the lowest paying jobs in the economy, with the average monthly wage of an individual in this field being $1,494 (data from the Department of Labor and Economic Development, 2009). This compares to $3,886 which is the overall average monthly wage in Alaska.
For many Alaska families, child care services and early learning programs help them stay employed. However, finding quality and affordable child care in Alaska is often challenging or even impossible.
"In some communities in Alaska there isn't a lot of choice in quality and affordable child care and in other places there might not be any licensed child care services available at all," Berglund commented. The McDowell group includes in the report a cost of care comparison for child care in Alaska versus tuition fees at a state university (see below).
Cost of Care in Alaska
Average annual cost for infant 2009
Average annual cost for 4-year-old in 2009
Average tuition and fees at state university
Public Investment in Early Care and Learning in Alaska
Alaska, like many other states, has basic programs available supporting families and early educators. However, nationally, there is huge gap in the well-being of children between states that have made additional investments in quality child care initiatives and those that have not. Research shows that when states have made significant investments in early care and education programs, children are more likely to be healthy, graduate from high school, and be successful later in life.
The report also captures opinions from Alaskans about public investment in early care and learning. Urban and rural residents alike think public funding for early care and learning in Alaska is important with 87 percent of households thinking it is important or very important for state government to provide financial support for these services.
View the entire report at: 2011 Update: Economic Impact of Early Care and Learning Services in Alaska
* The report is an update of the 2006 McDowell Group, "Economic Impact of Early Education and Child Care Services in Alaska." Funding for this report was provided by:
Early Intervention/Infant Learning Program, Department of Health and Social Services
thread, Alaska's Child Care Resource and Referral Network
University of Alaska
Chris Murray, a resident of Juneau, was chosen to represent area parents at the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies’ (NACCRRA) National Policy Symposium in Washington, D.C. this week. At the Symposium, Murray, along with a team from thread, met with Alaska’s Senators, Representatives and congressional staff members to share child care concerns and advocate for more affordable, quality child care for Alaska parents.
“We are extremely pleased to have parents like Murray attend NACCRRA’s Policy Symposium,” said Linda K. Smith, Executive Director of NACCRRA. “By attending the Symposium and voicing his child care concerns to policymakers, he is primed to effect change and improve the quality of care that children receive.”
When Murray and his wife began to think about starting a family, they considered the child care options available to them in Juneau. After researching local centers, the couple realized that they could not afford any of the centers that provided the quality care they wanted. When their son, Anderson, was born, the Murrays changed their work schedules so that one parent could always take care of their son. Although they know that Anderson is safe under their watch, the couple sees each other infrequently; only as they pass their son off to the other parent. The Murrays would like to work regular hours and spend more time together as a family, but the child care that is available in their price range makes them concerned for their child’s safety.
Today, more than 11 million children under age 5 are in some type of child care arrangement every week while their parents work. On average, children of working mothers spend 35 hours every week in child care. Studies repeatedly have shown that quality child care - care that provides a loving, safe, stable and age-appropriate environment - helps children enter school ready to learn. Yet, less than 10 percent of the nation’s child care is of quality care.
In Alaska in 2010, just over 35,800 children under the age of 6 were in need of some sort of child care setting as their parents worked. During this same year, the number of licensed child care spaces totaled 18,350.
“As families are increasingly seeking employment across the country and in Alaska, affordable child care becomes a significant factor in finding and keeping a job,” says Stephanie Berglund, thread’s CEO. “Chris’s own story is a prime example of the need for quality child care in our communities.”
NACCRRA’s National Policy Symposium seeks to raise the visibility of child care issues, such as the lack of quality, and advocate for improved conditions. It features numerous sessions on the latest policy, research and practice developments in child care and CCR&R. The Symposium also offers a forum for policy analysis and discussion, examination of latest research, quality training, peer networking, visits to legislators and resources dissemination for about 600 attendees from across the country.
The Parents @ Symposium program is designed to ensure that policymakers hear directly from parents. The program includes a series of highly interactive sessions designed specifically to prepare parents to meet with their representatives in Congress and the media. State Networks and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies (CCR&Rs) across the nation were invited to select parents to participate in this initiative. Agencies were invited to select parents who encountered difficulties finding and paying for child care and were willing to share their experience with others.
NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, is our nation's leading voice for child care. We work with more than 600 state and local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies to ensure that families in every local community have access to high quality, affordable childcare. To achieve our mission, we lead projects that increase the quality and availability of child care professionals, undertake research, and advocate child care policies that positively impact the lives of children and families. To learn more about NACCRRA and how you can join us in ensuring access to quality child care for all families, visit us at www.naccrra.org.
thread is one of 47 statewide Child Care Resource & Referral Networks across the nation. For more information about thread, visit us at threadalaska.org.
thread, Alaska’s child care resource and referral organization is traveling to Washington, D.C. this March, for the National Policy Symposium hosted by NACCRRA, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies.
With support from NACCRRA, Chris Murray, a parent from Juneau, AK is joining thread to share his child care story. Chris was selected among several parents who applied for the opportunity to travel with thread to the Symposium and meet with Alaska's Congressional Delegation, among other policy representatives.
Chris and his wife’s very personal discussion about having children was influenced by the lack of quality child care in his community in Southeast Alaska.
“Even before we decided to get pregnant, we took into consideration the issue of child care, and unfortunately the cost for quality care became a checkmark in the con column,” said Murray. Today, Chris and his wife share in taking care of his son at home.
The policy event brings together more than 600 child care resource and referral professionals, early care and education experts, researchers, and other early childhood education representatives from around the country to Washington, D.C. on an annual basis. The Symposium offers a forum for policy discussion, information about the latest research, high-quality training, peer networking, and visits with legislators.
thread would like to bring your Alaska child care story to Washington, D.C. to share with legislators. If you are interested in sharing your story, please email email@example.com and type “My Story” in the subject line.
Read more about the 2011 National Policy Symposium in Washington D.C.
thread, as part of a coalition of early childhood experts and leading organizations from across the state, is urging elected officials to embrace these public policy priorities for 2011.
The priorities, focused on improving the systems and funding directed toward early care and education opportunities, are designed to help children succeed in school and continue to move toward a healthy workforce and economy in Alaska.
The priorities lead toward a more comprehensive approach in our state's early care and education system. Read them here and find out other ways you can get involved and share your story!
thread invites you to our silver anniversary winter wonderland party, celebrating growing through generations and twenty-five years promoting quality early education and child development in Alaska.
With a lead sponsorship from BP, thread is excited to offer many free and fun family activities at the event on Saturday, January 15th from 12:00pm-2:00pm at the Hotel Captain Cook in Anchorage. thread is proud to host Native artist Jack Dalton, Raven Feathers and The Wind at our celebration. The event will also include family activities like:
Children's music by Fiddle De Dee
Party snacks and anniversary cake
A coloring contest
Red mitten party favors
Horse-drawn carriage rides!
The Winter Wonderland Party is hosted by thread with generous support from BP.
For more information, event details or to RSVP, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
You haven't missed your chance to support and give back to quality early care and education in Alaska. Your year-end support helps thread continue to advocate for safe, accessible and quality care for children throughout Alaska.
It's as easy as clicking here and making an online and tax-deductible gift! thread can only achieve what we do because of the support we receive from our friends and partners like you who have helped, through your donations, expand the scope and reach of thread services to include things like:
With the end of 2010 fast approaching, we hope you will consider making a gift online today.
Also be on the lookout in January, 2011 for Pick.Click.Give through you online PFD Application!
Thanks for all you do to invest in quality early care and education in Alaska. Happy holidays from thread.
thread, Alaska’s Child Care Resource and Referral Network, is celebrating twenty-five years providing quality early care and education service and programs. As part of thread’s 25th Anniversary, we are sponsoring a photo and a recipe contest highlighting our anniversary theme: Growing through Generations. Applicants are encouraged to submit photos or recipes that capture or highlight their interpretation of this theme and what Growing through Generations means to you. Entires will be judged on how well they represent the theme, their connection to thread’s mission and overall creativity.
thread will be awarding prizes to contest winners at our final silver anniversary event: a free winter wonderland party on Saturday, January 15th at the Hotel Captain Cook from 12:00pm-2:00pm.
"The Winter Wonderland party is our culmination event," says Stephanie Berglund, thread's CEO. "After twenty-five events celebrating our anniversary theme of Growing through Generations, we are honored to share the wonderful stories and information we've gathered from people that have been touched by the issues surrounding quality child care and to recognize our founders and historical roots at the event."
"We'll also be excited to see all the great photo and recipe ideas and award prizes to the winners at the party!"
thread, through a generous lead sponsorship by BP Exploration ( Alaska) Inc. is hosting the free community event including children's musical group Fiddle De Dee, family portraits, arts and craft activities, party food and much more! Check back often for more event details. For questions, please contact email@example.com.