Over the past year the Maine Children’s Alliance (MCA), along with many others, has been exploring the social emotional development and learning of Maine’s young children. Due to an increase in the reporting of children exhibiting challenging behaviors in child care and preschool settings – not just in Maine but the entire country – MCA, the Maine Children’s Growth Council and many other child care professionals and advocates are seeking to better understand the situation in Maine. The goal is to get a better grasp of what is going on and explore the ways we can better support our young children and the teachers, providers, parents and guardians who care for them.
Claire Berkowitz, Executive Director of MCA, wrote about the importance of social emotional development and learning in young children and our project in Communities & Banking, a New England quarterly publication from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Check out the excerpt below or read the article in full here.
An excerpt from “Addressing Early Childhood Expulsions in Maine:”
In early 2015, in response to stories of increased expulsions, MCA invited stakeholders together to explore issues surrounding social and emotional development in children. The goal of both the initial meeting and subsequent meetings was to generate ideas for policies that could address and support the social and emotional development of young children, especially those who are already at a high risk of failure in social and academic environments. We know children’s executive-function skills are affected by their relationships and early environment.
Science also tells us that severe or repeated exposure to hardship or traumatic events—such as poverty, violence, abuse, or neglect—can cause toxic stress responses in children who lack supportive adults in their lives, with lifelong effects on health, learning, and behavior. But we also know that timely and appropriate interventions can ameliorate these effects and change the course of children’s development.
As a result of those important conversations and related advocacy efforts, the Maine Legislature’s Education Committee established a study commission on the following charge:
This resolve creates the Study Commission on the Social Emotional Learning and Development of Maine’s Young Children to promote the social emotional learning and development of young children and reduce expulsions in early child care and education settings in the State by making an inventory of policies, rules, funding and services regarding early child care and education in the State and making recommendations, including suggested legislation, to strengthen the support for young children’s social emotional learning and development and to address young children’s behavioral needs.
The Committee has asked the Maine Children’s Growth Council and Maine’s Department of Education to gather additional data on the social and emotional development of children and to develop appropriate policy recommendations. MCA is working with the Growth Council and the Department of Education on this effort, which is also supported by three national early- childhood research organizations: the Ounce of Prevention Fund, the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University, and Zero to Three.
This exploration includes gathering information through a survey of Maine’s licensed childcare providers, Head Start, and preschool teachers regarding the social and emotional needs of young children in early care settings. In addition to asking questions about the child care setting (center-based or family care, rural or urban, staffing ratios, etc.), the survey asks about the prevalence of challenging behaviors that interfere with a child’s ability to play, learn, and get along with others and the practices used to address the behaviors.
The results of this survey will provide Maine-specific information about exclusionary practices, staff perceptions of the prevalence of child behavior problems, and available supports to promote young children’s social and emotional health and address behavioral problems.
Be sure to check out Claire’s article in full here!