PROVIDENCE, RI -- The State House Library on Feb. 28th had a full house of advocates, child care providers, parents and state Department of Human Servicers leadership to campaign for high quality child care and bring awareness to supporting bills from Representative Grace Diaz, D-Providence, and Senator Elizabeth Crowley, D-Central Falls, Pawtucket.
Their bills improve reimbursement rates to child care providers by linking the rates to the quality of care given.
"The Rhode Island Child Care Assistance Program helps low-income working families pay for child care," said Representative Diaz. "But the current child care assistance rates in Rhode Island are just too low to ensure equal access to high-quality child care. And we know that early learning is the most critical time in brain development. The quality of the education they receive at that age is something that will stay with them through life."
The legislation (H 7148, S 2120) would increase CCAP rates and establish a tiered reimbursement rate structure for all age groups; infants through age 12. All child care providers would receive an increase with larger increases for higher quality programs. The tiered approach is based on providers' BrightStars ratings.
"This legislation ensures that providers meeting high-quality standards will be paid at or above the federally recommended benchmark, which will help programs to attract and retain more qualified and effective educators," said Senator Crowley.
DHS Director Courtney Hawkins talked about the State's commitment while highlighting Article 15 of Gov. Gina Raimondo's proposed FY19 budget that invests $1.5 million for tiered rates for those who care for our CCAP infants and toddlers. Another $200,000 is included in the Governor's budget to help adult learners with child care.
"Time and time again, many of you in this room have told me that the cost of doing business has continued to rise but our rates have not kept pace," Director Hawkins said. "We know that the primary driver of your increases relate to the cost of hiring qualified staff and we also know this is the biggest impact on child outcomes."
She continued, "Khadija Lewis-Khan, executive director of Beautiful Beginnings, and someone who I deeply admire, recently shared that the DHS rate of reimbursement for infants and toddlers was $160 in the year 2000 - 18 years later it has only increased by $35. We know that your expenses have increased by much more than that and as a result many of my families struggle to find quality care. That is simply not acceptable. We must do better for our families."
Mom Osmary Rodriquez Barker, whose daughters go to Beautiful Beginnings, spoke about why quality child care is important to her family, and that the help she receives from DHS is critical for she and her husband to work. Through tears, she also said children don't get a say in their incomes and neighborhoods, and those factors should not limit their possibilities and opportunities.
The Campaign for Quality Child Care is jointly coordinated by RI KIDS Count, the Economic Progress Institute and the RI Association for the Education of Young Children. Their advocacy event Wednesday continued with several speaking directly to House and Senate members on the chamber floors.