For Immediate Release - November 28, 2012

Patrick-Murray Administration Provides Supports for Education Professionals That Serve Diverse Families

BOSTON –In keeping with the Patrick-Murray Administration’s commitment to provide high-quality learning opportunities to our youngest citizens, the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) recently hosted “The New Normal: Engaging Diverse Families” conference to equip educators and education professionals to better understand the challenges and unique needs of children and families related to adoption, gender identity and English language acquisition.  The conference, held on November 19th at UMass Amherst and November 26th at Bridgewater State University, provided strategies and best practices for strengthening programs, curricula and teaching to best serve a diverse set of families across the Commonwealth. 

This conference followed several events that EEC participated in earlier this year focusing on supports for families with diverse needs.  This summer, EEC co-hosted the first Massachusetts Post Adoption Summit with Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, and the Department of Children and Families (DCF).  The Summit identified opportunities for strengthening post-adoption supports and services, and strategies to strengthen information, referral, supports and services to adoptive families.  Earlier this year EEC Commissioner Sherri Killins also participated in the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth public hearing, where individuals and organizations testified on the unique needs related to GLBT youth and families.

“Parents are their child’s first teacher and are key to children’s educational success; as well, helping educators to understand the diversity of the Commonwealths’ families and the unique needs they have will advance the state’s efforts to strengthen and engage families,” said Department of Early Education and Care Commissioner Sherri Killins.  “When we support all the touchpoints for promoting children’s learning and healthy development, we build a stronger citizenry and help ensure a prosperous future for Massachusetts.”

There were over 200 attendees total at the Engaging Diverse Families conferences; approximately 70 and 150 at UMass Amherst and Bridgewater State University, respectively.  Speakers included Commissioner Killins; Joelle Auguste, Executive Director of the Multilingual Action Council; Joyce Maguire Pavao, CEO of Center for Family Connections; and Kim Westheimer, Director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Family Project’s Welcoming Schools.  The conference sessions included presentations on attachment and the family of adoption; understanding and educating English Language Learners; and welcoming families with children who don’t conform to gender norms and children who have same-sex parents, which will consist of a panel of parents and youth, and a presentation of the film “What Do You Know? 6 to 12 year olds talk about gays and lesbians.”

EEC prioritizes a strengths-based approach to family engagement as a strategy for supporting healthy child development and positive long-term outcomes.  The Engaging Diverse Families conference recognized the value of family diversity and enhancing the role of early education and care and out-of-school time field to support children, youth, and parents with unique needs in critical areas related to educational success and healthy development. 

More information about the conference presenters and sessions is available online at: http://www.eec.state.ma.us/diverse-families.aspx

 

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About the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care
The Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) provides services for children and youth in Massachusetts through a mixed delivery system, which includes, but is not limited to public, private, non-profit and for-profit preschools, child care centers, nursery schools, preschools operating within public and private schools, Head Start programs and independent and system affiliated family child care homes.  EEC is responsible for licensing early education and care and out-of-school time programs and adoption and placement agencies throughout Massachusetts and for administering child care financial assistance to low-income families with children birth to 13 years of age.  In addition, EEC provides support for information and referral services, inclusive programming for children with special needs, parenting and family support, and professional development opportunities for educators in the early education and out of school time fields.  EEC is committed to building an improvement process that addresses both the performance of programs and the developmental outcomes of young children.  Research shows that high quality early education promotes positive child development and that enriching out of school time learning experiences can level the playing field for low-income and at-risk children.  To raise awareness of the critical importance of fostering the cognitive, social and emotional development of young children by emphasizing its future impact on economic development and prosperity for everyone in Massachusetts, EEC launched the Brain Building in Progress campaign.  For more information about EEC’s programs and services, visit www.mass.gov/eec.  For more information on the science of brain building and the importance of healthy child development, visit www.brainbuildinginprogress.org