RIght from the Start

December 2, 2019

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.

RIght from the Start Video Calls for “Worthy Wages” for Rhode Island’s Early Educators

July 22, 2020

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-7271S-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.”

RIght from the Start Video: Worthy Wages for Rhode Island’s Early Educators

July 22, 2020

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.

Rhode Island Pediatricians’ Offices are Open and Safe

July 16, 2020

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

Tell Congress To Support The Child Care Is Essential Act

June 30, 2020

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.

Contact your members of Congress today and encourage them to support the Child Care Is Essential Act!

RIght from the Start Video: Child Care is Essential

June 19, 2020

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.

RIght from the Start Profile: Certified Doula Latisha Michel – Empowering Expecting Moms, Addressing Health Equity Issues, and Improving Health Outcomes

June 15, 2020

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.

Certified Full Circle Doula Latisha Michel

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.”

Strolling Thunder RI 2020: Virtually Strolling to the State House to Advocate for Rhode Island’s Kids

May 20, 2020

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.

Avalynn from Providence.

Message from Avalynn’s mom Ashley Rhoades to Sen. Gayle Goldin and Representative Rebecca Kislak:

“I believe that all families, and children should receive the same quality care that others receive. Our teachers deserve better pay because They put in many hours outside of school.”
Luanda Mayor Plasencia and Helio da Cruz of Cumberland with son Haydn da Cruz.

Message for Sen. Ryan Pearson and Rep. James McLaughlin:

“El cuidado infantil y la gratitud a los profesores es una de las cosas más importantes en nuestra sociedad! Los niños son la esperanza del mundo y por ellos debemos velar !”
Mary Bedoya of Central Falls with daughter Samara.

Message for Sen. Elizabeth Crowley and Rep. Joshua Giraldo:

“Por que nos ayudan a la educación de los niños y al bienestar de la salud.”
Chris Picinich of Warwick with daughter Felicity.

Message for Sen. Erin Lynch Prata and Rep. David Bennett:

“Parenting is hard and families can use extra help nurturing their babies and setting them up for a healthy life. My daughter was born prematurely so we qualified for a nursing service that came to our house 3 times a week in the beginning. I cannot thank our nurse enough for all the support she gave my family. I want all families to have that option.
Calan from Woonsocket.

Message from Calan’s mom Jaelle Laplante to Sen. Roger Picard and Rep. Robert Phillips:

“The pandemic has shown the need for increased pay for child care work!”
Luke from Charlestown.

Message from Luke’s mom Sarah Gorman to Sen. Elaine Morgan Rep. Blake Filippi:

“I was never thrilled about my child having to go to daycare while I worked until I found Barbara Minteer and Munchkin Manor. She has single-handedly changed my entire perspective on daycare through offering one of the most amazing programs I ever could have dreamed of. My son would not be who he is today without her, the program she runs so well, or the peers he has grown to love like siblings. I am eternally grateful to her for making me feel so comfortable with him being there while I have to work and keeping me informed in a way that has always made me feel he is safe and loved.”
Yuri from Bristol.

Message from Yuri’s mom Katya Nanson to Sen. Cynthia Coyne and Rep. Susan Donovan:

“Early education is just important as school.”
Liam from North Kingstown.

Message from Liam’s mom Mariel Mastrostefano to Sen. James Sheehan and Rep. Julie Casimiro:

“I love my child and want all children to have the best future.”
Reyna from Central Falls.

Message from Reyna’s mom Carlene Fonseca to Sen. Elizabeth Crowley and Rep. Joshua Giraldo:

“All children, right from birth, deserve a fair chance in life regardless of their circumstances.”
Ben from Providence.

Message from Ben’s mom Fernanda Poyant to Sen. Dominic Ruggerio and Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell:

“My dream is for all childcare to be consider in terms of universal accessibility. I would like for future families to not have the same struggles my family has in affording high quality daycare.”

Providence Journal: Women & Infants Hospital makes room for doulas’ helping hands, hearts

May 14, 2020
Bria Haynes with her newborn baby whose birth at Women and Infants was accompanied by Bria’s doula Quatia Osorio.

The Providence Journal has a wonderful story on the work of Rhode Island’s doulas helping expecting mothers through the birth process, even during these difficult times.

For Susie Finnerty, a doula and co-president of the organization Doulas of Rhode Island, the policy at Women & Infants Hospital shows a recognition of the services doulas provide that is still an outlier among many hospitals in the region.

“They’re not just considering doulas visitors, they’re considering them as part of the medical team,” she said.

In Rhode Island, Black women are 42% more likely to experience a severe complication at delivery than White women. The infant mortality rate for Black infants in Rhode Island is three times that of White infants. A key strategy to address this issue is making doula services eligible for reimbursement through Medicaid and private insurance and investing in building, supporting, and sustaining the doula workforce and infrastructure in the state. These services and investments should be targeted toward communities most impacted by these disparities.

Register for Virtual Strolling Thunder Rhode Island 2020!

May 11, 2020

Haga clic aquí para leer invitacion en español.

Calling families with children ages 0 to 3 to participate in Strolling Thunder 2020! Even as we face an unprecedented health and economic crisis, all Rhode Island kids, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, or family income, deserve to get off the right start in life.

As news about COVID-19 has evolved, we have decided to change this year’s Strolling Thunder to a virtual event happening through social media on May 20, 2020! Please join us by sending a photo of your family with a baby in a stroller so we can share it on social media and connect you with your elected representatives in the General Assembly and Congress. 

We would also like to know a little bit about you and the reasons you support these policies. By sharing your personal experiences (we’ve included simple prompts in the registration form), you’ll educate your policymakers on how the priorities below would impact families across RI. 

  • More funding for child care so that programs can meet health, safety, and quality standards when they reopen, while being affordable for essential workers and the general public. Child care is essential and programs need extensive support to reopen and operate safely.
  • More funding for family home visiting programs to continue virtual support to parents and drop off of resources needed by families with new babies and young children at home. Programs like Healthy Families, Nurse-Family Partnership, and Parents as Teachers can be a lifeline for families.
  • Strategies to raise the wages of early educators in child care and home visiting programs. Professionals who work with our youngest children should not earn poverty-level wages.

Click here to learn more about the RIght from the Start Campaign’s policy priorities.

How can I participate?

A gift to say thank you!
We have eighty $25 Amazon e-gift cards to share with families who participate by sending a photo and completing the participation. We’re hoping to receive a photo from all 39 cities and towns in Rhode Island – from Burrillville to Little Compton and Westerly to Woonsocket. The first family to submit from each city/town will receive an e-gift card as a thank you for participating. We will offer remaining gift cards to families who submit their photo and participation form early. We hope this gift card helps your family during this difficult time.

Click here to see photos from last year’s event. We are disappointed that we are not able to gather in-person this year, and we look forward to seeing your photo submissions.

RIght from the Start

RIght From the Start Campaign
RIght from the Start is a campaign to advance policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island. RIght from the Start Steering Committee members include Beautiful Beginnings, Economic Progress Institute, Latino Policy Institute, Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health, Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, and Woonsocket Head Start Child Development Association..

Think Babies Rhode Island
Think Babies Rhode Island is part of a national movement to advance state policies benefiting infants and toddlers. We are working to improve access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers, paid family leave, evidence-based family home visiting, regular and routine developmental screenings with access to Early Intervention and other needed services, including infant, early childhood, and family mental health services. Strolling Thunder is made possible in partnership with Think Babies Rhode Island and Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.

Reopening Child Care in Rhode Island During the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 5, 2020

The Department of Human Services and the Office of Child Care have released a number of new policies and draft regulations related to the goal of reopening Rhode Island’s child care programs by June 1st. This page is meant as a resource for child care providers and early childhood educators by providing links to RIght from the Start recommendations, DHS information, CDC guidelines, and surveys to provide feedback, questions, and concerns about reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

RIght from the Start Recommendations for Reopening and Rebuilding Child Care & Early Education Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic

DHS Communications, Policies & Draft Regulations

May 4th DHS letter to providers regarding temporary rate enhancements to support operational costs associated with reopening.t

May 1st DHS letter to providers regarding reopening for child care providers under new regulations.

DHS Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) Provider Resources

CDC Guidance for Administrators of US K-12 Schools and Child Care Programs

American Academy of Pediatrics Guidance Related to Childcare During COVID-19

Reopening During the COVID-19 Pandemic DHS and BrightStars Provider Survey