In November, the Early Childhood Policy Council (ECPC), and its Parent Advisory Committee and Workforce Committee, each convened for their final meetings of the year.
Parent Advisory Committee
The Parent Advisory Committee, hosted on November 3rd, was kicked off by Committee Chair, Mary Ignatius, Statewide Organizer of Parent Voices. The meeting focused on presenting the findings of parent focus groups about the transition of child care programs to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) that were facilitated by Parent Voices. The focus groups focused predominantly on getting the perspective of Black and Indigenous families and their experience with the transition to CDSS. Presenters highlighted the results of these focus groups which indicated that many families had a lack of trust in the Department and system, are looking for more compassion from CDSS staff when navigating programs, and need more support from CDSS that is accessible in more languages in addition to English and Spanish. Several parents joined the Parent Advisory Committee to share their personal experiences navigating these programs and systems, which underscored the deep challenges in the system and the trauma that can be experienced by parents while navigating these systems.
The Parent Advisory Committee then discussed infant and toddler care and the experiences of parents accessing this care. Parents shared a variety of experiences in accessing care, including challenges receiving the infant and toddler care that supports children with special needs. Speakers also raised the need for more services and infrastructure, such as paid family leave and flexible leave policies and work environment to help support young families. The Committee also discussed infant and toddler care in the foster system and the need for high-quality trauma informed care to address the needs of young children.
On November 9th, the ECPC Workforce Committee convened and was facilitated by Chair Tonia McMillian of Kiddie Depot Family Childcare. The Committee agenda focused on highlighting national, state, and local perspectives on the early care and education workforce. This included several presentations on the impact that unionization has had on the child care workforce. Presentations provided a background on Family Child Care organizing at a national level and highlighted the conditions providers were facing that led them to unionize in their states, which include low wages, lack of benefits, and lack of affordable and accessible training. The presentations also highlighted that prior to unionization of the child care workforce, policies historically tend to over regulate the industry without providing the workforce necessary support and underscored how unions have created an environment where providers have a larger voice in state negotiations by creating avenues for input on regulations. A child care provider from Washington State, SEIU 925 spoke to many of the successes they’ve accomplished since unionizing in their state, including healthcare and underscored the opportunity California has to accomplish the same benefits with its new Child Care Providers Union (CCPU). Staff and member representatives from CCPU then spoke about the successes achieved in the first collective bargaining agreement with the state, which include, but are not limited to, pay increases, waiving of family fees for a year, 16 additional paid non-operational days due to COVID-19, and processes to address grievances.
The California Family Child Care Network then presented on addressing the provider shortage for infant and toddler care. They highlighted the challenges facing providers that serve this population, such as new and changing regulations, COVID-19, and lack of pay and respect for the field. Infants and toddlers require more one on one attention than other age groups and are generally more expensive to provide care for, yet this is not addressed in the system, which makes it difficult to recruit and retain providers to care for this population.
On November 16th, the larger ECPC met for its final time in 2021. Kim Johnson, Director of the California Department of Social Services, launched the meeting by reflecting upon the conversation on equity that was had during the Council’s last meeting in August. At that meeting Khydeeja Alam, Senior Director of Policy and Advocacy for Advancement Project California, proposed having racial and economic equity as a standing ECPC agenda item starting in 2022. To do this, the Council is looking to have two volunteers who would oversee these efforts for each meeting. Throughout 2022, they would also work on developing an equity screening tool to help ECPC evaluate policy proposals and influence policy making. Members of the Council that are interested in volunteering for this position were asked to reach out to Kris Perry, Deputy Secretary and Senior Advisor to the Governor at the California Health and Human Services Agency, and Aressa Coley, Director of Early Childhood Integrated Systems and Policies at WestEd.
The Council then heard from voices in the field, which included Yenni Rivera and Zoila Carolina Toma. Both spoke about the need for investing in the child care field and how critical it is to set up children for future success. Toma additionally spoke about the need for providers to have access to benefits and shared how a child care provider recently passed away after having a heart attack in front of the children she cared for. She underscored how this provider would likely still be alive if she had access to healthcare.
Dr. Lupe Jaime Mileham, Deputy Director Child Care and Development at CDSS, then provided an update on the child care program transition. Dr. Jaime Mileham discussed recent surveys the Department has conducted on staff sentiments about the transfer, which found that 60 percent felt neutral about it. The next quarterly transition report will be due to the Legislature on December 31, 2021 and the next update to this Council will be in January 2022. Lastly, Dr. Jaime Mileham discussed the “Vaccinate All 58” efforts and shared ways for the Council to promote and support vaccine outreach and awareness.
The Council then heard from two different speakers who shared their research on child development and supporting cultural and linguistic identity and development. The first speaker, Dr. Gigliana Melzi, presented her research on Latine children development and the importance of taking an assets-based approach to working with Latine children and families. She discussed some of the cultural values and norms of Latine families and how to build upon that and foster it in Early Learning settings to properly support more than one language and give access to the cognitive, social, and cultural advantages of bilingualism.
The second presenter, Dr. Alison Gopnik, spoke about the life history and evolution of childhood. Dr. Gopnik discussed how children best learn when they have the opportunity to explore. She also raised the correlation between child intelligence and number of caregivers, explaining that children who have more caregivers in their life, such as parents, grandparents, and other nurturing adults have an impact on a child’s intelligence. Her research underscored the importance of nurturing, caring environments for children, rather than a highly academic environment.
Council member comments in reaction to these presentations focused on highlighting the importance of investing in a strong mixed-delivery system and raised the need to make sure that preschool and Transitional Kindergarten (TK) do not become overly academic.
The next ECPC meeting will be hosted January 25, 2022. More information can be found here.