by Kitt Cox

I am an Early Care and Education professional currently serving as the Program Coordinator at the Ipswich Birth To Three Family Center, one of the 42 sites of the Massachusetts Family Network (MFN). I am also a former Schott Foundation Fellow (2006).

The CCDF Plan for 2008-2009 is a rich document that makes clear the fine work and great vision of those working with EEC. EEC is truly attempting to fulfill it’s mission to “lead the way in helping Massachusetts children and families reach their full potential”. The plan speaks to the many efforts being made to “build on the strengths of the current system, minimize weakness and maximize resources” in the quest of “providing parenting support for all families”. As a worker for the MFN for the last four years, it has been my privilege to be a part of this effort. From this perspective, I would like to ask two questions about the CCDF Plan for 2008-2009.

My first inquiry concerns the MFN specifically. Given the MFN’s historic role in education reform as a vehicle for supporting and educating children’s first teacher – their parents, and considering EEC responsibility of providing universal parenting support, I’d like to know if the phrase to “build upon our current system” means that there are plans to expand MFN services to every community in the Commonwealth.

If the “first step in the process” in providing greater support to informal caregivers is “requiring MFN programs to include informal caregivers in their outreach efforts and provide them with information about MFN services and resources available through MFN”, then are we to understand that the Network will be expanded?

Is the MFN included in the Massachusetts Early Childhood Comprehensive Systems Project (MECCS) strategic plan to develop “a statewide health and screening and developmental screening for young children ….(and)… a “roadmap” for a system of family support and parent education across state agencies”?

How can those of us who are part of MFN strengthen our contribution to helping EEC coordinate services and improve the quality, affordability and accessibility of early childhood education and care?

My second question about the CCDF plan is in regards to workforce development, grants & loans to providers and diversity.

The EEC’c Quality and Workforce Development policy is to be informed by one of EEC’s guiding principles for quality initiatives, “embrace diversity”.

In Chapter 205 0f the Acts of 2004, “AN ACT ESTABLISHING A DEPARTMENT OF EARLY EDUCATION AND CARE”, the Act calls for the “recruitment and retention of individuals into the early education workforce who reflect the ethnic, racial, linguistic and cultural diversity of Massachusetts families based on the current census data.”

I believe that even a quick glance at current family census data will reveal that about half of Massachusetts family members are male. That kind of diversity is strikingly absent in our current workforce and our plans to develop it. At the time I was hired in 2003, I was the first male to serve as an MFN Program Coordinator. That number later doubled when Matt LiPluma was hired at the Boston Family Network. Even with that gain, men represent less than one percent of the Network’s Coordinators. I believe you’ll find similar numbers across the EEC professions.

Do we have figures telling us how many men benefited from programs such as the Child Development Associates Scholarship Fund or the Early Childhood Educators Scholarship Program?

As EEC staff conducts trainings in vocational high schools throughout Massachusetts, are young men becoming informed about the “credentials necessary to become early education and care providers and how they can access ongoing educational opportunities such as DOE’s recently adopted Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in Early Childhood Education”?

If, as stated in EEC’s guiding principles, it’s mission is to “maximize resources”, then does it not behoove us to include the recruitment and retention of men, potentially doubling the high quality workforce pool to draw from, when we plan for the future development of children and their families?

If a woman can drive a tank in Baghdad, why can’t a man change a diaper in Boston?

Thank you for your consideration of my questions,

Kitt Cox