Supporting RI Families with Children Ages Zero to Three
Pawtucket resident Wilmaris Soto-Ramos and her partner Stephen welcomed their rainbow baby in October of 2020, after experiencing the heartbreak of two consecutive second-trimester losses and the stress and isolation of pregnancy during a pandemic. Wilmaris’s challenging journey to motherhood, as well as the research she’s done as a new mom, inspired her to become a parent advocate.
“It’s crucial that we improve policies that protect and support new parents, who desperately need time to heal and bond with their child,” said Wilmaris. “When you become a new parent, you face a series of challenges, from becoming aware of your birthing and paid leave options, to thinking about child care and returning to the workforce.”
When they began to look for child care for their daughter, Wilmaris and Stephen quickly realized that affordability would be a deciding factor in their choice. “Even with two household incomes, high-quality child care is just not affordable for most working families in Rhode Island,” said Wilmaris. “We’ve had to rely on family support because child care is simply too expensive for us at this time.”
Wilmaris and her family were selected to represent Rhode Island as part of the 2021 National Strolling Thunder campaign and were able to meet virtually with their elected congressional representatives in Washington DC (Senator Jack Reed, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, and Congressman David Cicilline) to introduce one of their youngest constituents, baby Amarie. Wilmaris shared their personal experiences as a family with a child under the age of three and advocated for federal funding and policies to help families with young children, including support for the American Family Plan.
Wilmaris believes that Rhode Island’s child care system must be updated to meet the needs of young families. “We need to ensure that child care and early learning programs have the funding they need to provide high-quality services and to recruit and retain excellent early educators,” said Wilmaris. “This will allow more families to access the benefits of child care so they can continue to work while their children are cared for in high-quality settings.”
Wilmaris strongly urges General Assembly leaders to support the Rhode Island Child Care is Essential Act, and to use federal and state funding to make permanent increases to the child care reimbursement rates. This legislation is necessary so more families can access affordable, high-quality child care, allowing parents to work while their children grow, learn, and thrive.