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 Start Campaign Kickoff & 2022 Legislative and Budget Priorities

February 2, 2022

Join us Wednesday, February 2nd from 2:30-3:30 PM as we gather together virtually with Governor McKee, Speaker Shekarchi, Senate President Ruggerio, Senate Majority Leader McCaffrey, other elected champions, advocates, and parents to kickoff RIght from the Start’s 2022 legislative and budget priorities campaign.

Please register here and we look forward to seeing you on February 2nd!

RIght Start Agenda: 2022 Legislative & Budget Priorities

February 1, 2022

We’re excited to share our 2022 RIght Start Agenda (En Español) a package of legislation and budget priorities to advance state policies for babies, young children, and families in Rhode Island. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many Rhode Island families with young children were struggling. State policy change is needed to make young children’s potential our priority and to lay the foundation needed for children’s success and a strong state economy.

Legislative & Budget Priorities:

  • State Budget Investments in Child Care, Early Education, Early Intervention, and Child & Maternal Health (Fact Sheet, H-7123)
  • RI Child Care is Essential Act (Fact Sheet, CCAP Rate Sheet – H-7177 / S-2681, H-7123 Article 13): Help more families access high-quality, reliable, affordable child care through the Child Care Assistance Program. Increase rates and expand eligibility for the Child Care Assistance Program. Safe, healthy, and high-quality child care options are essential for parents to work and for children to thrive.
  • RI Early Educator Investment Act (Fact Sheet, H-7283 / S-2235, H-7123, Article 1): Develop goals and strategies to improve early educator compensation in child care, RI Pre-K, family home visiting, and Early Intervention programs. Stagnant and uncompetitive wages are causing staffing challenges and reducing access to high-quality child care, Early Intervention and family home visiting services.
  • RI Pre-K & Head Start: Prepare to expand high-quality preschool in diverse delivery settings (child care, Head Start, and public schools) so all 3- and 4-year-olds will be able to participate.
  • Early Intervention & First Connections (H-7628 / S-2546): Update Medicaid rates that have been frozen for 20 years so programs can retain and recruit skilled staff, eliminate waiting lists, and serve infants and toddlers with developmental challenges.
  • Paid Family Leave program (Temporary Caregivers Insurance, Fact Sheet, H-7444, H-7551/S-2245, H-7794, H-7717/S-2243): Add weeks and improve wage replacement  rates to help new parents. All new parents need adequate time and income to care for newborns, adoptive, and foster children at home for at least 12 weeks.
  • Cover All Kids (Fact Sheet, (H-7484 / S-2187, H-7123, Article 12): Ensure all children in Rhode Island have health insurance, regardless of immigration status.
  • Maternal Health Care (Fact Sheet, H-7290 / S-2202, H-7123, Article 12): Extend Medicaid through 12-months postpartum, regardless of immigration status, so new moms can have consistent health care.
  • Infant/Early Childhood Mental Wellness (Fact Sheet, H-7801 / S-2614): Develop Medicaid strategies to improve screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of infant/early childhood mental health challenges (birth through age 5).
  • Revenue for Rhode Island (H-7440 / S-2264): Increase state general revenue to fund programs that young families and children need.
  • Let RI Vote (H-7100 / S-2007 & H-7225 / S-2216): Let’s make it easier for Rhode Island’s busy parents to vote by mail or early in-person.

Campaign Steering Committee:

Beautiful Beginnings
Economic Progress Institute
Latino Policy Institute
Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE)
Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children
Rhode Island Head Start Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT

Child Care FORWARD Task Force Agreements & Goals

January 27, 2022

In 2021 RIght from the Start convened a task force of providers, advocates, and elected leaders to develop a 10-year vision and policy priorities that would improve access to high-quality child care, preschool, and paid family leave. After extensive collaboration, the task force reached the following final agreements and goals:

The following organizations participated on the task force and contributed to the development of the overarching agreements, policy priorities, and 10-year vision.

Beautiful Beginnings
Business Owners in Childcare Association (BOCA)
Center for Early Learning Professionals
Center for Southeast Asians
East Providence Public Schools
Economic Progress Institute
Latino Policy Institute
Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Rhode Island
Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE)
Providence Public Schools
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children
Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Rhode Island Child Care Directors Association
Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
Rhode Island Department of Education
Rhode Island Department of Human Services
Rhode Island Department of Labor & Training
Rhode Island Foundation
RI Governor’s Community Affairs & Outreach Office
Rhode Island Head Start Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
Rhode Island National Organization of Women (RI NOW)
Rhode Island Parent Information Network
Rhode Island Working Families Party
Service Employees International Union 1199
Washington County Coalition for Children
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island

Members of the RI General Assembly:
Senator Sandra Cano
Representative Julie Casimiro
Representative Grace Diaz
Senator Alana DiMario
Representative Deborah Ruggiero
Representative Mary Ann Shallcross Smith

2022 RIght from the Start Campaign Champions

January 19, 2022

The RIght from the Start campaign is proud to have the support of so many organizations working to support families and their children from prenatal to Pre-K!

2022 Campaign Champions
American Academy of Pediatrics, Rhode Island Chapter
Beautiful Beginnings
Books Are Wings
The Children’s Workshop
Comprehensive Community Action Program (CCAP)
Dr. Day Care
Economic Policy Institute
Genesis Center
Family Service of Rhode Island
Federal Hill House
J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center
Latino Policy Institute
Nowell Leadership Academy
Over the Rainbow Learning Center
Parent Support Network of Rhode Island
Peace of Mind Nannies
Perspective Corporation
Parents Leading For Educational Equity
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
Prevent Child Abuse America
Prevent Child Abuse Rhode Island
Reach Out And Read Rhode Island
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children
Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families
Rhode Island Head Start Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
RI NOW (Rhode Island – National Organization for Women)
SEIU Rhode Island
Turning The Corner
West Bay Community Action
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
YMCA of Pawtucket

Rhode Island PBS Weekly: The Child Care Dilemma

December 2, 2021

From parents struggling to find reliable, affordable, quality child care, to programs struggling to remain open due to staffing challenges and increased operating costs, to low wages for child care educators and historic underinvestment in the sector, Rhode Island PBS Weekly takes a deep dive into the child care crisis in Rhode Island. “The Child Care Dilemma” is a must watch.

The Building Blocks Needed to Address Rhode Island’s Child Care Crisis & Ensure Affordable, Quality Child Care for Our Working Parents

November 16, 2021

Rhode Island’s child care system is in crisis due to a combination of historic underfunding, the unprecedented impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and low pay for child care educators that has created a staffing emergency.

Read our one pager on the building blocks needed to address this crisis by investing in affordable, quality child care in Rhode Island.

RI Child Care Staffing Crisis: Khadija Lewis-Khan’s Story

October 14, 2021

High-Quality, Affordable Child Care Essential for Working Parents and a Strong State Economy

Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center offers high-quality child care and early childhood education for children from infancy through preschool, centered on the belief that working families need high-quality options and that all children can achieve at a high level when given what they need.  

Khadija Lewis Khan, M.Ed., Director of Beautiful Beginnings, says that educators with strong early childhood knowledge and skills are not willing to work for the $12.11 hourly wage that is typical for child care educators in Rhode Island. Even though the center pays more than that, it is incredibly difficult to attract and retain qualified, skilled educators to work for low wages, a problem that all child care programs have struggled with in recent years. The pandemic has only amplified this problem.

“We’ve been able to increase compensation at all levels using DHS stabilization funds to ensure we have the high quality educators we need to stay open,” said Khadija. “In January, some of that funding will end, and our only other option would be to eventually raise tuition when families are facing their own financial stresses. These supplemental funds have allowed us to remain operational, but we need them as a permanent fix not just a band-aid during the pandemic.”

Despite their best efforts to be creative and resourceful in how they fund their high-quality environment, Beautiful Beginnings—along with the entire child care industry—faces a major staffing crisis. The center continues to lose qualified teachers due to inadequate resources to offer competitive wages and benefits. 

With a total waitlist of 180 children waiting on classroom spots, and despite having a long waitlist of families who need infant care, Beautiful Beginnings was forced to close an infant classroom for over a year due to not having adequate infant educators. Fortunately, the infant classroom was finally staffed and reopened in October of 2021. 

“The role of early educators is so important, and most people don’t realize the vast skills that go into the profession. It requires a grasp of child development, curriculum development, assessment, family engagement, classroom setup, safety protocols, documentation, literacy, and communications skills,” said Khadija. “Our educators deserve to be compensated fairly for their expertise with a competitive and family-sustaining wage. If we don’t invest in the field, we’re all going to feel the repercussions, as high quality early childhood educators will no longer be available to prepare our children for success.”

Khadija has been a leader on state task forces to develop recommendations to improve compensation levels of child care educators. She recommends the state allocate resources immediately to supplement hourly wages for all child care staff to reach at least $15 per hour, and to provide additional wage supplements to help programs retain the more qualified and skilled child care educators so they don’t leave for higher paying jobs. At least 15 states currently provide wage supplements to help child care programs retain qualified and skilled educators.

“Having consistent, stable, nurturing relationships with caregivers is so important for young children. When educators are forced to explore higher-paying employment options in other fields so they can support their families, it’s our kids who suffer. We must change the ways early childhood education is funded so qualified educators are able to remain in the field,” said Khadija. 

RI Child Care Staffing Crisis: Erin Thibeault’s Story

October 6, 2021

Highly-Skilled Educators Are Key for High-Quality Child Care 

East Providence resident Erin Thibeault is a certified special education teacher who currently teaches first grade in the East Providence Public Schools. Her four-year-old son attends child care at Meeting Street Early Learning Center in Providence while she and her husband are at work. Erin raves about the high quality learning environment at Meeting Street, which she sought out after a negative experience at a child care program her son previously attended. 

After Erin became concerned about her son’s development as an infant, the family began receiving services from Early Intervention that are designed to help infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities. Her son started in a child care program at 18 months, and EI specialists would regularly observe him in his child care classroom, providing recommendations to make the classroom experience more productive and enjoyable for him. Ultimately, the child care staff at this program was not able to successfully implement the Early Intervention recommendations, and Erin was forced to leave the program because they could not meet his needs.

“I saw the teachers at his old program visibly frustrated with his behavior. They didn’t have the administrative support or specialized training to meet his needs, and they declined to implement simple recommendations from our EI specialists, such as not putting him at a table with more than three other children. They saw him as a kid who was acting out, and didn’t know how to help him,” said Erin. “I was scared that we’d be asked to leave, and thought I was going to have to quit my job to stay home with him. I know of two other families who had a similar experience, so it’s not uncommon.” 

Erin says that after switching to Meeting Street, a completely different side of her son emerged. “On the first day they met him, they understood him—they realized he was a sensory seeker, who would benefit from boundaries and routines. They recognize when he’s getting dysregulated and help him regulate. They have an awesome inclusion program and have helped him with peer relationships. It has made a world of difference,” said Erin. “He’s recently been diagnosed with ADHD, and without Meeting Street, I’m terrified to think what his trajectory could be.” 

Even with her degree in elementary education and her special education certification, Erin says it still took independent research, multiple conversations with their pediatrician, advice from a social worker, and months of meetings with various EI specialists to steer her in the right direction with her son’s early learning. Erin recognizes that she had the knowledge to access resources and was not afraid to advocate for her son, and she wonders—what’s happening to the children of families without the same advantages?

Erin believes that all teachers, including early childhood educators working in child care settings, must have the skills, knowledge and resources to address the needs of all children so that every child has the opportunity to thrive in the classroom. Erin stresses that it’s crucial that legislators and statewide leaders ensure child care programs receive the funding needed to attract and retain qualified and effective early childhood educators. Rhode Island child care licensing regulations currently require only a high school diploma to be a classroom teacher or family child care provider. Although the state has helped with scholarships for early childhood educators through several initiatives, it is difficult to keep skilled early educators in the child care field once they’ve completed their degree because compensation is so low ($12.11 per hour on average in 2020). 

Due to staffing challenges, Meeting Street has only been able to consistently stay open until 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. even though families request later pickup times due to their work schedules. They may need to decrease their hours further if the staffing crisis continues, and they currently have 15 children waiting for classroom spots to open up. Without child care staff to accommodate families that need care, more working parents will struggle to find care during the hours they work to support their families. 

Erin says that paying for child care has also been a struggle, and that tuition has consistently been equal to or higher than her housing costs. She’s not sure she could afford to cover the costs of child care for a second child, even with her public school teacher salary combined with her husband’s salary as a firefighter and ability to earn more by working overtime. 

“I want our legislators and statewide leaders to know that every family needs and deserves access to high quality child care that meets the needs of their family. It’s crucial to a functioning society,” said Erin. “The child care payment model is flawed, and the full cost burden of child care cannot fall solely on hardworking parents who can’t afford it. We cannot afford to pay more than we already are for child care and we desperately need child care educators to be adequately compensated for the critical work they do.”

RI Child Care Staffing Crisis : Kayla Arruda’s Story

October 5, 2021

Child Care Centers Struggle to Keep Qualified, Dedicated Staff

Kayla Arruda earned her associates degree in 2014, and began working in a child care program. She quickly progressed through the early childhood education ranks from teacher’s aid to program leader. While her classroom experience, level of responsibility, and time commitment dramatically increased, her pay unfortunately did not increase enough for her to financially support herself while working in the childcare field. She was forced to leave the field in 2019 for a human relations role at retail chain BJs Wholesale Club, which came with a slightly higher salary, shorter hours, and significantly less job-related stress.

“It broke my heart to leave my kids, families and teachers in child care. But I needed to earn more, and I knew I couldn’t earn my bachelor’s degree or a better salary while working the long, demanding hours as an early childhood educator in child care,” said Kayla.

Kayla spent two years earning her degree while working in retail, and this summer was able to return to her chosen field as a North Providence child care program administrator. While she’s grateful to be back in a career she finds immensely fulfilling, Kayla is concerned about the common struggles she sees her colleagues facing, who on average earn just above minimum wage.

“I’ve seen early childhood educators forced to choose between paying their phone bill and being able to afford health care bills. I know of classroom teachers working two jobs to make ends meet, despite working long hours in a high-stress job. It’s not sustainable,” said Kayla. “Despite many of us trying our best to stay in the field because we love nurturing and educating children during these critical developmental years, we can’t stay if the time and money we invest in the job is far greater than the compensation and career paths available. Wages must go up so child care programs can retain enough qualified, passionate staff in the field to serve all working families who need care.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for a child care educator in Rhode Island was $12.11/hour in May 2020. While child care is expensive for most families, the tuition covered by families is not enough for programs to pay competitive wages to educators. Tuition generally covers the basic costs to staff a child care program that is open 10-12 hours per day, meet required staff to child ratios, and cover basic supplies and operating costs. Less than 50 percent of Rhode Island child care centers are able to offer health insurance to their employees based on what they collect in tuition.

“Increasing wages for child care educators will have the added benefit of improving gender and racial equity, since 99 percent of child care educators in Rhode Island are women, and many are women of color,” said Kayla. “There’s tremendous value in the work they do, but they’re not being compensated for the value they bring to our communities. They’re helping raise and educate our children, giving them the tools to succeed for the rest of their life, and we can’t afford to keep short-changing them.”

Kayla stresses that lawmakers and statewide leaders must increase funding and resources for the industry so that child care programs can pay their staff adequately without putting the burden of increasing costs on families. She knows how much families rely on high-quality care options, and that they can’t bear the burden of increasing child care costs. She encourages legislators to ensure that child care and preschool teachers who have earned early childhood credentials and demonstrated their effectiveness are rewarded with increased wages, comparable to similarly qualified k-12 educators. Kayla wants statewide leaders to recognize that the current funding model is not sustainable, both statewide in Rhode Island, and across the rest of our country.

Child Care Providers & Advocates Call On State To Immediately Invest ARPA Funds To Help Families

October 4, 2021

PROVIDENCE, R.I. –  A broad coalition of 40 child care providers, advocates, and community organizations have co-signed a letter urging Governor Dan McKee and the General Assembly to immediately utilize American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to help working families access reliable, affordable, quality child care.

“Rhode Island’s child care system is in crisis mode due to the combination of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and a severe worker shortage that is forcing many providers to reduce hours, close classrooms, and shutter programs” said Lisa Hildebrand, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children (RIAEYC). “When providers have to reduce hours or close programs, it creates chaos for working families who have to scramble to find alternative child care options, increases waitlists, and reduces the overall number of child care seats available across Rhode Island. That is why RIAEYC, along with a broad coalition of child care providers, advocates, and community organizations are calling on Governor McKee and the General Assembly to immediately utilize ARPA funds so more families can get help to pay for child care and to help our child care sector attract and retain staff. A reliable, quality, child care system is essential for parents to work, for businesses to employ parents, and for our state’s economic rebound.”

Specific investments and policy changes called for in the letter include:

  • Help more families pay for care by increasing the family income limit for a child care subsidy.
  • Help child care programs compete for staff without increasing family fees.
  • Stop the brain drain of qualified child care educators.
  • Provide support to maintain and increase access to infant/toddler care for families with a subsidy.
  • Pass the Early Educator Investment Act.

The following child care providers, advocates, and community organizations co-signed the letter to Governor McKee and the General Assembly. The letter is available here.

Beautiful Beginnings Child Care Center
Center for Early Learning Professionals   
Center for Southeast Asians
Child & Family
Children’s Friend
Community Provider Network of Rhode Island
Comprehensive Community Action Inc.
Connecting for Children and Families
Dr. Daycare/Kids Klub
Economic Progress Institute
Family Service of Rhode Island
Federal Hill House
Genesis Center
Hamlet Learning Center
Latino Policy Institute
LISC Rhode Island
Meeting Street
Newport County YMCA
Ocean Community YMCA
Over the Rainbow Learning Center
Parents Leading for Educational Equity
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England
Reach Out and Read Rhode Island
Rhode Island Association for Infant Mental Health
Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children
Rhode Island Child Care Directors Association
Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Rhode Island Head Start Association
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
Rhode Island NOW
Rhode Island Parent Information Network
Rhode Island Working Families Party
SEIU 1199
SEIU Education and Support Fund
Smithfield YMCA
United Way of Rhode Island
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
YMCA of Pawtucket
YMCA of Greater Providence
YWCA Rhode Island