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

President Biden unveiled the first half of his "Build Back Better" plan this week, and infrastructure –– including facility renovations and safety updates for school and child care facilities –– is a central focus of the proposal. 

A new study has found that vaccines are safe and effective for pregnant and lactating women –– and may even provide immunity benefits for their newborns. 

This and more in today's Week In Review.

Politics and Current Events 

Build Back Better: President Biden unveiled the first half of his “Build Back Better” plan on Wednesday, with the first phase focusing mainly on infrastructure, as reported by Forbes. The proposal includes $100 billion for school and child care facilities and construction bonds, with another $45 billion towards reducing lead exposure in schools and early child care facilities, as reported by The 74 Million. In the coming weeks, Biden is slated to introduce the second part of the plan, which is expected to include funding for universal child care and lower child care costs for working families. Early childhood experts are urging Biden to look at examples of universal preschool in Multnomah County, Oregon, where early child care and education teachers are paid on par with kindergarten teachers, which experts say is a critical part of making a universal policy effective and should be included in the proposal, as reported by Fortune. According to the First Five Years Fund, there’s strong bipartisan support for early care and learning policies, including ones that support businesses that provide access to child care for employees. Despite this support, the child care industry has been historically undervalued and The Philadelphia Inquirer provides a look into the role of misogyny and racism plan into why a comprehensive child care system was never built in America. This proposal comes after the $39 billion in funding that was earmarked for child care providers in March through the American Rescue Act, but some worry that the funding won’t arrive in the hands of the providers fast enough to save the precarious industry, as reported by Vox. The New York Times shares stories of how child care providers are improvising to stay afloat while they await federal support. 

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Early Care and Education

School Reopenings: For the first time, the percentage of children attending virtual or hybrid classes has dropped, according to data from Burbio, a platform that monitors 1,200 school districts and as reported by The New york Times. Long Beach –– L.A. County’s second-largest school district –– joined the districts that have reopened earlier this week, as teachers welcomed back transitional kindergarten through 5th grade students with staggered schedules, as reported by Long Beach Press Telegram. LAist has been tracking school reopenings in L.A. County, and reports that Glendale Unified, Norwalk-La Miranda Unified, Rosemead Unified and Downey Unified are reopening with a mix of hybrid and staggered schedules for kids in tranisitional kindergarten through elementary school. Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is working to persuade parents that it is safe for kids to return to campuses in mid-April, but some parents still have concerns, ranging from safety fears, dissatisfaction with what the schools are offering and logistical issues, as reported by The Los Angeles Times. Part of the push to assuage concerns has been an effort to provide vaccine access to parents through a neighborhood school, as reported by The Los Angeles Daily News. Still, only 49% of families with elementary school children surveyed by LAUSD have responded saying they would allow their kids to return for in-person classes. 

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Health

Postpartum Racial Disparities: New mothers of color experience postpartum mood disorders at twice the rate of white mothers in the U.S., and up to half of them do not receive any support or treatment, according to an Allina Health study published in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health and as reported by Scientific American. Racial disparities are entrenched throughout the health care system and it's a well-established fact that women of color experience higher rates of maternal death due to racial bias in the medical system. The 2020 study was the first of its kind to examine racial disparities in depression and mental health screenings during the postpartum period, and serves as an important finding, as another study from The American Journal of Obstetrics found that 14 to 30 percent of maternal deaths are from suicide and drug overdoses. Some experts tout tech solutions such as telehealth as a solution to the mental health screening disparities, but say that the solutions must be designed with cultural and language nuances if they are to reach the mothers who need them the most. In the United Kingdom, Black mothers face the same health disparities as they do in the U.S., and a new documentary from Channel 4 called “The Black Maternity Scandal” gives life to these experiences by telling the stories of Black mothers who faced life-threatening circumstances when giving birth, as reported by Refinery29

Related articles: 

Vaccines and Pregnancy: The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people, according to a new study published in The American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and as reported by Axios. The study –– which has not yet been peer-reviewed –– is the largest of its kind, and found that antibody levels indicated the same strong immune response in pregnant and lactating people when compared with non-pregnant people. Additionally, they found that antibodies were passed to newborns through breastfeeding, which may be beneficial to newborn’s immunity, as reported by Forbes. The findings are significant, as prior to the study, there was a “complete lack of data” when it came to pregnant people and the vaccine, as reported by CNN. Business Insider interviews maternal health experts on questions related to pregnancy and the vaccine in a one-hour webinar, and the experts urged pregnant and lactating people to receive the vaccine. This news has sent more pregnant and lactating people –– who were once hesitant due to lack of data –– to seek out the vaccine, as reported by The Atlantic

Communities and Families

Vaccinated Parents, Unvaccinated Kids: While more adults are getting vaccinated in America, vaccinated parents find themselves having more freedom while their unvaccinated kids do not, as reported by The Washington Post. This has prompted a slew of questions from parents, and the article provides answers from experts who urge parents to continue “following the rules.” This has some families feeling left out, as talks of a post-pandemic travel rebound have already begun and parents with unvaccinated kids may have to watch from the sidelines until herd immunity is reached, as reported by The New York Times. Two medical experts argue in an op-ed for The New York Times that the pandemic won’t officially be over until kids are vaccinated, which means it could be some time. Dr. Fauci says that it’s conceivable that unvaccinated children could go to summer camp or playgrounds this summer, citing the possibility that community transmission rates may be so low that it wouldn’t pose a significant risk, as reported by CNN. Vaccines for young kids may not be too far off, as Pfizer-BioNTech announced last week that they will soon begin testing vaccines in children as young as six months old, as reported by Stat News. Even when vaccines become available for kids, some parents are expressing hesitancy around whether they’ll allow their kids to be vaccinated. According to a new survey of 64 mothers from diverse racial and economic groups, a quarter will not vaccinate their child, as reported by The Washington Post. The article profiles parents on why they won’t allow their kids to get the vaccine, with some saying they can control the risk of exposure but not the potential risk of the vaccine. The Los Angeles Times speaks with a medical expert on safety around vaccinating children to help assuage fears around receiving the vaccine. 

Increases in Child Abuse: Child abuse reports, investigations, substantiated allegations and interventions have dropped at a staggering rate during the COVID-19 pandemic, which indicates that the essential safety net services that typically report child abuse have been ripped away from many children, according to an analysis from
The Associated Press. According to the data, which analyzed more than a dozen indicators in 36 states, there has been a decrease in child abuse reports and investigations by 18% nationwide. School personnel are the top reporters of child abuse, and with schools closed, the AP found that there has been a 59% decrease in child abuse reports from schools. Of the reports that have been filed, there has been an increase in the severity of the report, meaning that child protective services are not being called in as a preventative approach but only after it is too late. The analysis found that further investigation and follow-up remained largely steady, which suggests that while the work of social workers has been consistent, there are kids who are invisible to the system without in-person school and other services. Some critics say that teachers overreport cases, often conflating abuse with poverty as heightened by racial bias. However, the analysis found that the rate of substantiated cases generally remained steady between 2018 and 2020, even with fewer teacher referrals. 

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