RIght from the Start is a legislative and budget campaign to advance state policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island. During the COVID-19 crisis, it has become even more clear that policies and programs that help families with young children are essential for a strong economy and public health. Investments now will help our state and Rhode Island’s young children and families weather this crisis and emerge stronger on the other side.
Despite their critical role in child learning and development, Rhode Island’s early educators are among the lowest paid workers in the state, making on average about $12 per hour. It’s time to ensure wages of frontline staff exposed to the virus are above poverty level, and educators that have early childhood credentials, degrees, and demonstrate effective practice are rewarded with increased wages.
Quality, affordable child care was out of reach for too many Rhode Island parents who needed it before the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more state and federal stimulus funding is desperately needed to ensure our child care providers can operate safely, our frontline essential worker early educators receive worthy wages, and our working families have access to quality, affordable child care options during the ongoing pandemic.
Check out our Rhode Island Child Care in the Time of COVID infographic and be sure to contact your legislators to let them know #ChildCareIsEssential!
Parenting is hard and families can use extra help nurturing their babies and setting them up for a healthy life. Rhode Island has a strong network of voluntary, evidence-based home visiting prevention programs that help guide parents during these critical early years when a child’s brain is rapidly developing and laying the foundation for future learning, health, and behavior. We need to invest $1.3 million in state and federal funding to sustain these programs that are proven to help build more strong, healthy families today and save costs over time.
Early educators are some of our children’s first teachers yet make only $12 per hour.
The RIght from the Start campaign today released a new video, “WorthyWages for Rhode Island’s Early Educators,” detailing low pay for Rhode Island’s 3,000 early educators (child care, home visitors, and early intervention specialists) and the need for state policy makers to implement strategies to improve wages for this critical workforce. The RIght from the Start campaign is also urging the General Assembly to pass two pieces of related legislation (H-7271, S-246) directing relevant state agencies to establish an early educators’ target wage scale and develop strategies to close wage gaps.
“Early educators in child care, home visiting and Early Intervention are our children’s first teachers and they provide essential support to families, yet in Rhode Island they earn very low wages,” said John Kelly, President and CEO of Meeting Street which operates all three programs. “Many early educators have associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, but inadequate state and federal funding means that we struggle to pay competitive wages and many move onto other better paying career paths. That’s not right. Working with children during their most important years of development is critically important and these professionals should be treated accordingly. We need more gifted, educated, and compassionate people choosing this important career path. It’s time for Rhode Island to implement strategies and policies to pay our early educators professionals the wages they deserve.”
“Rhode Island’s early educators are very much front-line responders during the COVID-19 pandemic, caring for our children, helping young families, and allowing working parents to get to their jobs,” said Representative Julie Casimiro (Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter). “These professionals deserve worthy wages and that’s why I am pushing hard for the passage of the Early Educator Investment Act to develop and implement strategies to improve the compensation for early educators. This legislation would have no immediate fiscal impact and would direct our state agencies to develop an early educators’ target wage scale. We owe it to our early educators, especially during these challenging times when they are stepping up, to pay them worthy wages.”
“The coronavirus pandemic has made us realize more than ever just how important Rhode Island’s early educators are to working families and our economy,” said Senator Sandra Cano (Dist. 8, Pawtucket). “They provide high quality educational and support services to our state’s children and families, many already have or are working to earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees, yet we pay them unacceptably low wages that lead to high turnover. We can and we must do better and that’s why I’m urging my Senate colleagues to pass legislation establishing an early educators target wage scale. This is just a first step, but an important one towards paying our early educators the worthy wages they deserve for the work they do.”
“Addressing low wages for Rhode Island’s early education workforce is both about addressing gender and racial equity as nearly 99% of early educators are women and the majority are of color,” said Kelly Nevins, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund. “Rhode Island’s working families depend on high quality child care and related services, and our early educator workforce deserves wages worthy of the critical role they plan. They are the essential workers upon which much of our economy depends. Women’s Fund of Rhode Island strongly supports legislation and policies to improve the wages of our state’s early educators.”
High-quality early childhood programs have effective educators who know how to work with children and families to support young children’s rapid brain development. However, many early educators earn wages that are at the bottom of the occupational ladder ($12/hour for child care teachers). Effective professionals are leaving the field for better paying jobs. It’s time for Rhode Island to implement strategies and policies to pay our early educators the worthy wages they deserve.
Take action today by contacting your state legislators to urge them to pass legislation to pay our early educators worthy wages.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter wants families to know that pediatricians’ offices are open, safe, and ready to see children for well-child visits, vaccinations, and other children’s health issues. Call your pediatrician with any questions you may have, and make an appointment if needed. We look forward to seeing you. #ThinkBabies
Child care programs have always operated on razor-thin margins to provide quality care while keeping tuition costs as affordable as possible for parents. For many child care providers in Rhode Island and across the nation, the past three months have dealt programs a substantial financial blow as they had to close to slow the spread of the virus and are now reopening and operating under strict health and safety requirements that add to the cost of care.
Now, more than ever, children are in need of consistent and nurturing caregiving and access to early childhood, afterschool, and summer learning opportunities. Parents are in desperate need of safe options so they can return to work. Rhode Island needs to maintain a stable supply of healthy, safe, and quality child care options.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Congressman Bobby Scott, and Senator Patty Murray recently introduced the Child Care is Essential Act (H.R.7027/S.3874) to create a $50 billion Child Care Stabilization Fund within the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), providing critical support to families, child care providers, and our state’s economy.
Safe, healthy, and high-quality child care options are essential for Rhode Island’s economic recovery and public health. That’s why it’s so critical that state leaders continue to invest in our child care programs and better wages for our early childhood educators.
Racial discrimination and implicit bias sadly result in the unequal treatment of black women in our medical system and drive health inequality. In Rhode Island, black women are 42% more likely to experience a severe complication at delivery than white women, and the infant mortality rate for black infants is three times that of white infants. These statistics are unacceptable and unnecessary.
Fortunately, Rhode Island is developing a strong network of community-based doulas, like Latisha Michel of Ready Set Latch Go in Newport, dedicated to helping expecting moms through their pregnancy, birth, and the first months with their newborn child’s life. Research has shown that these services help to improve health outcomes for new moms and their babies.
That’s why RIght from the Start is urging the legislature to make doula services eligible for reimbursement through Medicaid and private insurance and investing in building, supporting, and sustaining our doula workforce. These services and investments should be targeted toward communities most impacted by these disparities.
Here’s Latisha’s story of empowering and helping new mom’s through pregnancy, the birthing process, and postpartum care:
Empowering Expecting Moms, Addressing Health Equity Issues, and Improving Health Outcomes
“I’ve been a certified doula for 2 years now, helping dozens of moms through their pregnancy and birth, but I still cry tears of joy every time I’m in the delivery room experiencing the miracle of life with a new mom I’ve helped through their journey. It’s the most amazing feeling to truly empower moms, see them safely through their delivery, and the early months of taking care of their new babies. I love what I do.
I decided to become a certified doula because I didn’t feel informed, in control, or empowered during any of my own pregnancies. No new mom should feel that way navigating our health care system through what should be a safe, healthy, and joyful process.
That’s why I started Ready Set Latch Go. Ready: informing expecting moms about their options and how I can support them through their pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and early postpartum period. Set- creating a birth plan, connecting and coordinating with health care providers, providing labor and birth support, and helping expecting moms navigate and connect to needed services. Latch: breast/bottle feeding support and education. Go: postpartum care, emotional support, and helping new moms connect with educational, health, child care, and other services.
A recent mom I helped is a great example of the services doulas provide. I connected with Kayla during her second trimester of her first baby. She hadn’t heard of doulas before, so we had several conversations about how I could support her through her pregnancy, birthing process, and postpartum care. Once she felt comfortable, she asked me to be her doula. I educated Kayla on comforting measures to make her pregnancy and birth more comfortable, coached the father on comforting and support techniques, and empowered her to make her own choices about delivery and pain management options. I was with her in the hospital at the birth of her beautiful, healthy, baby boy.
After the delivery, Kayla told me ‘Thank you for supporting me through this. I would never have known all my options.’
That’s what it’s all about. Empowering mom’s through their pregnancy, birthing process, and postpartum period of child bonding.
I’m still in touch with Kayla and have helped her connect with job opportunities, health care services, and educational programs. She’s even become a powerful community advocate for expanding doula services so other expecting moms can be empowered through their journey.
I know the services we provide work and improve health outcomes for the moms and newborns we serve. The health care system is starting to recognize the powerful role we can play, and that’s why it’s time for Medicaid and private insurance to cover doula services as a smart investment in improving health equity for all expecting moms.”
Today, May 20th is Strolling Thunder Rhode Island and Child Care Day 2020! Although we can’t physically make it to the State House, that’s not stopping our army of parents and cute kids from “virtually strolling” to push for policies and legislation to ensure that ALL Rhode Island kids, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, or family income, get off to the right start in life.