Rhode Island’s Early Childhood System and the COVID-19 Crisis

Rhode Island’s early childhood system provides essential supports for families with young children during normal times and many parts of the system are continuing during the COVID-19 crisis. Here’s a summary of the information we have as of April 1, 2020:

  • Rhode Island’s Family Home Visiting System has transitioned to virtual home visits with pregnant women, new parents, and families with young children. Visits provide guidance and support, including strategies to promote healthy development at home and connection to community resources. For more information or to schedule a visit, call 222-5960, text baby to 444999, or visit health.ri.gov/familyvisiting/. Also check out the Family Visiting RI Facebook page.

  • Rhode Island’s Early Head Start and Head Start programs have closed all of their center-based classrooms and have transitioned to distance learning and virtual home visits to provide comprehensive services for children from birth through kindergarten entry. Programs are delivering formula, diapers, and food to families along with books and learning materials to use at home. Teaching teams are hosting virtual classrooms with children and working with their LEAs Special Education Teachers to continue to provide individual education plans as needed. Visit www.kids.ri.gov for a list of Early Head Start and Head Start programs in Rhode Island.

  • Rhode Island’s Early Intervention system is open for business. Programs are accepting referrals and have transitioned to virtual home visits, providing strategies and support for families to help infants and toddlers who have developmental delays or disabilities. Visit www.kids.ri.gov for a list of Early Intervention providers.

  • School districts are providing remote preschool special education services to children who have developmental delays and disabilities. Visit www.kids.ri.gov for information about early childhood special education and a list of district early childhood special education coordinators.

  • Rhode Island’s Pre-K programs have shut down their physical classrooms but are providing remote learning for all enrolled children and are making weekly check-in calls to families to provide support. The state has extended the deadline to apply for RI Pre-K expansion classrooms to 4:00 p.m. on April 10. Visit www.ride.ri.gov for more information.

  • Rhode Island’s Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Temporary Caregivers Insurance (TCI) Programs are providing essential partial wage replacement to individuals who are staying home from work due to COVID 19. See this fact sheet and visit www.dlt.ri.gov for more information about filing a claim for TDI/TCI or Unemployment Insurance.

  • Rhode Island’s community-based child care and early learning system is currently closed and is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The child care and early learning field needs continued support so that short-term closures do not turn into permanent closures. Many of Rhode Island’s 3,000 early childhood and afterschool educators are out of work. Funding and logistical problems are making it difficult for community-based child care programs to support families safely and remotely.

The RIght from the Start Steering Committee:

Supports Governor Raimondo’s Current Plan for Child Care During the Crisis
To help limit community spread of the coronavirus, on March 29th Governor Raimondo ordered the closure of Rhode Island’s child care programs for a one-week period, March 30th – April 4th. This policy aligns with guidance from the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Center for the Child Care Workforce. The Governor has announced a partnership with www.care.com to help families find qualified and screened individuals to come into their homes to provide child care, elder care, and other help. Visit www.care.com/rineed to find child care and www.care.com/rigive to provide child care.

Advocates for Strong Funding & Support for Child Care Programs During the Crisis
We urge a robust package of state and federal support for the child care programs that are closed and strong oversight, funding, and support for any programs that provide care to essential workers during the pandemic. Recent passage of the federal CARES Act will bring approximately $8 million in funding to Rhode Island for child care. Rhode Island Early Head Start and Head Start programs will also receive some additional federal funding from CARES Act.

Specifically, we ask that Rhode Island continue to use a combination of state and federal resources to maintain existing Child Care Assistance Program payments to child care programs throughout the crisis, with coverage of parent co-pays. We urge Rhode Island to disseminate clear information and provide support to all child care programs so educators can receive Unemployment Insurance. Specific information is needed for non-profits and self-employed child care providers who have not contributed to UI. Individuals that provide child care for essential workers should earn wages at “hazard pay” levels and not have to rely on public benefits to feed their own families.

Urges Passage of a Strong State Budget to Strengthen Our Early Childhood System
The RIght from the Start state legislative and budget agenda is designed to ensure that ALL Rhode Island kids, regardless of zip code, race, ethnicity, or family income, get off to the right start in life. Programs and services for families with young children are essential to the recovery of our state and nation.

Steering Committee: Beautiful Beginnings, Economic Progress Institute, Latino Policy Institute, RI Association for the Education of Young Children, RI Association for Infant Mental Health, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.