Helping Children, Helping Families

MECA director Susan Dolan on early care and education.

The Milton Early Childhood Alliance was formed in 1995 to assist Milton’s young children and their families. Director Susan Dolan talked with columnist Julie Fay about MECA’s purpose and its efforts to expand services in the face of persistent budget cuts.

What does MECA do?
We support families. We work to help families with accessible, affordable, high-quality early childhood care and education, particularly for children from low- to moderate-income families. We are the local point of entry for families seeking financial assistance with child care through the Department of Early Education and Care’s centralized waitlist.

We also provide information services for families, including a Milton Parent Resource Manual. We donated a collection of more than 500 books, periodicals and other media for the parent resource center at the . We hold workshops for parents and sponsor professional development opportunities for early childhood educators. We also maintain a child development resource center, a collection of instructional materials available to local early education providers on loan.

Where does MECA get its funding?
We are funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care. We also have been fortunate to receive funding from , the Milton Junior Women’s Club, Celebrate Milton and the Blue Hills Community Health Alliance.

Funding from the state has been cut and cut over the years. Over the past three or four years, our funding for paying for preschool for families was removed, so we now take families who qualify due to severely low income and put them on a state-centralized waitlist for a child care voucher. The waitlist is huge and the funding is frozen, so families have a long wait.

. acts as our lead agent with the state. We also are grateful to , which provides us with our office space. We couldn’t exist without either of them.

How is MECA governed?
We have an advisory council, a group made up of a broad mix of people in the town – preschool directors, family childcare providers, the Milton Youth Officer, a senior citizen representative and other volunteers. They meet three times a year, and tell us what the needs are in the community, and we then move in that direction. This year, for example, we’re going to try to see what we can do about servicing more fathers, because there are more stay-at-home dads then there ever used to be.

Some recent initiatives have been to organize an indoor play space for parents to gather and children to play during the cold winter months, and offering facilitator-led playgroups with a focus on early literacy for new moms as well as toddler and preschool aged children and parents. We also distribute “welcome baby” baskets to new parents in town, and hold the annual Early Education and Care Parent Information Night, coming up on Tuesday, October 25 from 7:00 – 8:30 p.m. at . It’s a chance for parents to find information about preschool and child care programs in the Milton area, all under one roof.

How does MECA help make the world a better place?
We are here to help families in need, and it doesn’t matter what the need is. We’re there for them, to steer them in the right direction and give them information and resources they need.

Why do you serve as the MECA director?
I love, love, love this job. It makes me happy. There’s a lot of stress, and it’s lots of work for almost no money, but I go home at night and think, I’m so lucky. I deal with tough situations with families and I would love to think I’m helping them in some way. It makes me work harder to help even more, if I can.

I’d like parents to know that we’re here to help them, so if there’s something we can do, give us a call.

For more information or to donate to MECA, contact Susan at 617-696-2262 or at cpcmecasld@verizon.net.

gericormier October 17, 2011 at 11:40 AM
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