Access to quality family child care is critical to Rhode Island’s economic recovery and to the success of children later in life. With the passage of a legislative proposal announced today, Rhode Island children and families would benefit from a greater voice for family child care providers and parents in shaping the child care program and promoting quality and stability in the early learning workforce.
“My child care provider is like family to me, and I’m grateful that she’s in our lives,” said Amanda Campbell, a parent from East Greenwich who brings her daughter to a family child care provider in West Warwick. “I’ve spent years as a teacher’s assistant with special-needs children, so I understand the importance of consistent, individualized care to help children develop. Family child care providers deserve recognition for everything they do to educate and prepare our children for school and life.”
A 2003 study sponsored by the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce found that for every dollar spent on child care, $1.75 is returned to the Rhode Island economy. But as the state’s economy has faltered, the number of family child care providers in Rhode Island has been cut in half, leaving children and parents with fewer options.
“As we work to rebuild our economy, ensuring access to quality, stable child care is one of the most important things we can do,” said Senator Maryellen Goodwin, the sponsor of the Senate bill. “Other states, including our neighbors in Massachusetts and Connecticut, have enacted similar measures to strengthen their child care programs and allow those on the front lines to have a voice in shaping the program. Rhode Island should do the same.”
Today, 70% of Rhode Island children under the age of six have both of their parents, or their parent, in the workforce and are in child care at least part time. Family child care, in which licensed child care providers deliver early learning and child care services in their homes, allows parents to work while knowing their children are in a healthy educational environment.
In addition to the immediate economic impact, studies show that children who have quality early education start school ready to learn, continue their education longer, and are more likely to grow up to be productive citizens. Family child care providers want to work with the state to improve the Rhode Island’s early education system, which is key to closing the achievement gap and ensuring the long-term success of every child.
“Child care providers have dedicated their lives to educating children and preparing them to enter school ready to learn,” said Marcia Coné, CEO of Women’s Fund of RI. “They are primarily women-owned small businesses who want to work together to raise up their profession and ensure high-quality care and early learning opportunities for all children.”
The proposed legislation would give family child care providers who care for children in the state’s Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) the freedom to choose a union and work with the state on matters related to the quality and stability of Rhode Island’s child care program, including training and professional development, recruitment and retention of qualified child care providers, and streamlining & simplifying state payment procedures.
“In 20 years working as an early educator, I’ve seen lots of ways that our state’s child care program can be improved,” said Dawn Newman, a family child care provider from Cumberland. “But we’ve had little opportunity to provide input on these issues, and that’s why we’re coming together.”
The proposed legislation is revenue-neutral, and it does not make family child care providers state employees. They would not be eligible for the state employee pension or have the right to strike. The legislation would also establish a parent advisory committee to ensure that parents’ ideas about improving Rhode Island’s child care program are heard.
“As a father of two young children, I know how important it is to all parents to have high-quality, affordable child care options,” said State Representative Scott Slater, the House sponsor of the legislation. “Allowing providers and parents a voice is a common-sense way to improve early childhood education and our state’s economy, both today and tomorrow.”