Good afternoon! Welcome to First 5 LA's Week In Review covering the top news and views in early childhood development for the week.

Without structural changes like federal paid family leave and access to affordable child care, parents are reaching a new "breaking point" in the pandemic. This toll is being seen in a number of ways, including a mass exodus of women from the workforce to care for children and higher rates of alcohol consumption among parents. 

In the latest research into COVID-19 antibodies in children, researchers found that kids have lower rates of antibodies –– but that could be a good thing. 

This and more in today's Week In Review.

Early Care and Education

More Child Care, Less Poverty: In states where there is more access to public child care programs such as Head Start, poverty rates are lower, underscoring the need for child care as essential for economic recovery, according to new research and as reported by LAist. But while child care can help families financially survive the pandemic, it’s still largely unavailable to many in L.A. County, especially as early education class sizes shrink or remain closed due to COVID-19. Without the public investments in early education needed to create more access, many parents are left to care for their children and oversee their virtual learning during the pandemic –– a trend that has impacted women the most, causing more than 2 million mothers to leave the workforce, as reported by The Washington Post. In an op-ed for Motherly, one mother shares how America has the veneer of being a progressive place for females without any of the structural supports –– such as accessible child care and paid maternity leave –– that might actually support this reality. 

Parents' Pandemic Breaking Point: Eighty-two percent of Americans support paid family leave for women and 69% support it for dads, according to a new survey from Bipartisan Policy Institute and as reported by
Business Insider. But the federal government has taken no firm steps towards implementing such policies, causing many parents to reach their “breaking point.” One of the ways the stress of pandemic parenting has shown up is in increased rates of alcohol consumption during the pandemic, as reported by The Washington Post. Some parents who have recognized this problem are turning to online support groups that can help mitigate the feelings of stress and isolation they are feeling during the time. Relatedly,The New York Times published a story capturing the personal experiences of what parents have gone through this year. 

Innovative Virtual Learning: Early educators are taking innovative approaches to ensure that virtual classrooms are developmentally appropriate, joyful and engaged even “from a distance,” as reported by New America. While virtual classrooms are not ideal when it comes to traditional early education practice, teachers are building communities with tactics such as having a rotating classroom pet that stays with families for a period of time where students learn how to care for it and take pictures to share with their classmates. Other teachers are dropping off craft supplies at homes, and engaging children in STEAM projects such as designing their own miniature craft playground. They are also utilizing technology such as YouTube to broadcast reading series that parents can watch with their kids and at their own convenience. Similarly, teachers are using puppets to engage students, going as far to help kids create puppets of their own to use over Zoom. Such virtual practices are especially important as many child care centers remain closed due to increased operating costs and with the appropriate funding to implement the safety precautions necessary for reopening, as reported by the Center for American Progress. Overall, this has led to a drop in enrollment of roughly 51% nationwide since March. 

Benefits of Dual-Language: Hundreds of schools in California have dual-language immersion programs that help children fluent in English learn a second language while helping other language speakers retain their native language while learning English –– but how have these programs been fairing during remote learning? According to EdSource, California teachers are still making such programs work online with virtual tools like breakout Zoom rooms where students alternate between languages and by having designated time for students to share about themselves in their native language while other children ask questions. Some teachers are helping students learn with hands-on projects that have students follow directions in a different language. However, new research shows that during the pandemic, despite the efforts of teachers, 81% of these programs are no longer receiving the care they had before March, as reported by CALMatters. This is an issue because prioritizing bilingualism has been shown to have many benefits for young children, with research showing that it aids with problem-solving abilities and greater executive function. In addition to these benefits, supporting dual-language programs in pre-K and kindergarten also has long-term benefits for California, such as decreasing the achievement gap, better analytical skills and better long-term job opportunities for kids who undergo these programs. To support these programs, policy changes that address the digital divide and provide more support to teachers are needed. 


COVID-19 & ACEs: Adverse childhood experiences –– ACES –– are traumatic events that occur to kids before the age of eighteen that can have lasting impacts into adulthood on health and well-being, and Habor-UCLA Medical Center pediatric intern Christina Santiago analyzes how the COVID-19 pandemic may be contributing to ACEs in an op-ed for California Health Report. As kids struggle with the loss of going to school, socialization and free school lunches, they may also be struggling with abuse at home that goes unreported due to lack of outside oversight. Earlier in the pandemic, reports of child abuse were down by 50%, including 40,000 fewer children receiving services related to abuse than the year before. Anecdotally, however, emergency room doctors have reported seeing more severe cases of abuse, leading her to wonder if many cases are going unreported by educators and social workers who would otherwise be screening and reporting less severe cases of trauma in kids. Additionally, The Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network reported a 22% increase in hotline calls at the start of the pandemic, with 1 out of 5 of the callers living with their abuser. Working in a hospital herself, Santiago shares that the majority of the cases she sees each day are related to distress –– whether that be from abuse or simply the trauma that the stressful nature of the pandemic is causing in kids.  

Global Warming Impact on Pregnancies: Researchers are warning that global warming could increase rates of serious pregnancy problems such as pre-term births, low-weight births or stillbirths, as reported by U.S. News & World Report. After analyzing 70 studies from 27 countries, researchers found an association between high temperatures and negative birth outcomes. Of the 47 studies that assessed preterm births, the average rate was 5.6%, much lower than the global average of about 10%. Forty of the studies found that preterm births were more common at higher than lower temperatures. The risk of preterm birth rose, on average, by 5% per 1.8° F increase in temperature and by 16% during heat waves versus on non-heat wave days. However, outcomes did appear to fluctuate between certain socioeconomic class, with low- and middle-income pregnancy being more vulnerable to heat exposure during the nine months of pregnancy, as reported by Science Alert. The research underscores the need to take pregnant women into account as a vulnerable group when considering policy around climate change. 

COVID-19 Antibodies in Kids: While children generally clear the COVID-19 virus faster than adults, they also appear to produce weaker antibodies, according to new research and as reported by The New York Times. Some studies suggest that a stronger immune-response may be to blame for people who become severely ill from the virus, so paradoxically, a weaker immune response in kids means they experience less severe symptoms and may also explain why they appear to spread the virus less easily than adults. In another article, The New York Times also breaks down how antibodies work in kids, explaining that fewer antibodies mean the virus was in their system for a shorter period of time. Some experts urge caution when interpreting the results, however, since the study was small and collected data from only a short period of time. Some children do become severely ill with an inflammatory response after contracting COVID-19, however, and another group of researchers is examining why by looking into the gene structure of kids with severe COVID-19, as reported by Medical Xpress. The research could shed light on how the immune system works and why some kids (and adults) experience more severe symptoms.

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It, More Great Reads

Helping Children With Anxiety in the Pandemic
The New York Times

School Wasn’t So Great Before COVID, Either
The Atlantic

In State and Local Elections, Voters Chose Children and Families
New America

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