Child Care

Mass. Child Care Guidance Won't Create ‘Hugging Police,' Commissioner Says

Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy spoke at a roundtable on reopening child care hosted by Rep. Katherine Clark

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A Massachusetts congresswoman hosted a roundtable discussion Thursday to discuss a major issue for parents as the state reopens: reopening child care.

“The status quo doesn’t work for families, it doesn’t work for providers, and it is not working as supporting our economy,” said Rep. Katherine Clark, whose district includes Cambridge, Framingham and many of Boston's northern and western suburbs.

Her Facebook Live discussion included Early Education and Care Commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, a Boston Children’s Hospital doctor and two moms.

Parents were given the opportunity to express their concerns with the minimum requirements for reopening child care, including masks and social distancing for preschoolers.

“My son’s 2 years old. I don’t know how he would stay with a mask for at least five to six hours, the whole entire day, not being able to go next to his friends,” Chelsea mom Linette Nieves said.

Commissioner Aigner-Treworgy replied, “We’re not going to be the hugging police, I can promise you that. We are going to make sure we are trying to support providers.”

Bright Horizons CEO Stephen Kramer talks about new safety protocols in place in the child care industry. His company has been providing care for children of medical workers and first responders.

The commissioner tried to reassure parents and providers that the rules are meant to be guidance and the requirements are there so providers have Board of Early Education and Care-approved plans in place to address new issues that may arise due to the pandemic.

The board even added some flexibility to the rules this week.

“We are not requiring masks for children, we are not going to be there with measuring tapes to make sure 6 feet apart,” Aigner-Treworgy said.

She said the hope is they will learn what is working and what isn’t, while also monitoring health metrics, to provide a more sustainable model for the fall.

A petition calling for revisions to Massachusetts' new health and safety protocols for child care facilities is gaining support.

“We know that the funding model for most of our providers right now is a per-child model and if you don’t have enough children, that becomes a very challenging business proposition,” Aigner-Treworgy said.

Clark said there is another $50 billion dollars in federal stabilization funding being proposed as part of the Childcare Is Essential Act that she and her colleagues in Congress are working to pass to help providers implement the new safety and health guidelines.

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