Policy Resource

Rhode Island Releases Issue Brief and Policy Priorities for Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families

Feb 9, 2016

In June 2015, Rhode Island took a bold step for infants and toddlers by releasing both an issue brief and set of policy priorities timed to influence the legislative session.

The release took place at a policy roundtable attended by the Governors staff, state agency directors, legislators, members of the Early Learning Council, advocates, and others.

The issue brief presents Rhode Island and national data related to key indicators of child wellbeing – birth rates, racial and ethnic diversity, parent education and employment, family economic security, child care for infants and toddlers, developmental screening and early intervention, infants and toddlers in the child welfare system, and other indicators. Of particular concern is that infants and toddlers in Rhode Island represent the age group most likely to live in poverty and most likely to be victims of abuse or neglect. Further, more than 40% of births in Rhode Island are unplanned, and the average cost of childrearing expenses for infants and toddlers is the highest in the country.

The policy priorities document “ Next Steps for Rhode Island Infants, Toddlers, and Their Families “ highlights policy areas that require increased attention and resources, as well as current policies that the state should maintain and improve over time. For example:

Economic Security

  • Expand job opportunities and work supports for parents
  • Prevent and improve responses available for homeless families
  • Expand the availability of affordable housing
  • Expand access to the Child Care Assistance Program
  • Maintain current policy focus on: affordable health/dental insurance and paid family leave

Mental Health and Well-Being

  • Implement routine depression and psychosocial screening for pregnant women and parents of infants and young children
  • Ensure access to infant/toddler and family mental health treatment and support
  • Support cross-sector professionals to develop infant/toddler mental health expertise
  • Improve family court and child welfare practices to support healthy development of parent-child relationships
  • Maintain current policy focus on: affordable health/dental insurance and universal developmental screening

Family Support and Parenting

  • Broaden eligibility for evidence-based family home visiting programs
  • Expand availability of effective community-based resources and parenting programs
  • Prioritize child welfare resources to meet the needs of young children who have experienced child maltreatment
  • Maintain current policy focus on: paid family leave, evidence-based family home visiting

High-Quality Early Learning and Development Programs

  • Improve the quality of infant/toddler child care
  • Expand outreach and screening in low-income and at-risk communities to find and enroll all eligible children in Early Intervention
  • Expand access to Early Head Start and expand collaboration between Early Head Start and child care programs
  • Ensure infants and toddlers in the child welfare system have access to high-quality early learning and development programs
  • Strengthen the infant/toddler workforce
  • Maintain current policy focus on: universal newborn screening; medical homes; universal developmental, autism, and lead screenings; BrightStars Quality Rating and Improvement System; RI Early Learning and Development Standards; health and safety promotion programs

A public-private steering committee met for 18 months, gathering input from more than 200 people across the state and building consensus around the policy recommendations. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT coordinated the process, with technical assistance from ZERO TO THREE through the Alliance for Early Success.

Reviewed November 2018

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