Advocacy at Rhode Island State House
Advocacy testimony at Rhode Island State House
Advocacy at Rhode Island State House


Advocacy is one of Children’s Friends’ five principles. We define advocacy as “taking a leadership role in educating policymakers and the public on the needs of the youngest and most vulnerable children and their families.”

2024 Budget and Legislative Priorities

Children’s Friend is calling for investments in First Connections, Early Interventions, Head Start, and the Child Care Assistance program.

First Connections is Rhode Island’s frontline home visiting service for families with newborns statewide. Children’s Friend is one of four non-profit agencies that provide this program designed to identify babies’ and families’ needs as early as possible and connect them with services to address those needs. Children’s Friend served almost 400 children in 2023.

Rates for First Connections have not been permanently increased in 22 years. Without a permanent increase, we will no longer be able to provide this critical service. We urge the state to make the increased rates permanent, effective July 1, 2024.

  • (S2360 Valverde / H7899 Giraldo): Make the long-needed (23 years!) rate increase permanent for the Rhode Island First Connections home visiting program to prevent substantial rate cuts scheduled for July 1.

Rhode Island’s EI program provides special education services to infants and toddlers who
have developmental delays or disabilities. EI is the front door to the state’s public education system and the foundation of the special education system. Children’s Friend served 600 children in 2023.

Rates for EI are below what is needed to sustain the program and, coupled with a staffing crisis, the result is children have long wait times for services. We urge the state to fully fund Early Intervention as recommended by the Office of the Health Insurance Commissioner.

  • End Waiting Lists for Early Intervention (H7334 Cotter / S2359 Valverde, Governor’s FY25 budget):
    • Provide a 25% Medicaid rate increase to fully staff Early Intervention programs to end waiting lists and serve all children in need.
    • Establish an annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for rates.
    • Add Early Intervention staff to the Child Care for Child Care Educators program (and remove the household income limit). See this also under (Solve the Early Educator Staffing Crisis below).

Children’s Friend provides an array of early education and early child care options for families including Early Head Start, Head Start, Child Care, and Pre-K. We served over 1,900 children in 2023 at one of our 13 licensed early childhood centers. We have a waitlist for these programs, primarily due to our inability to hire enough staff.

We urge the state to invest in child care reimbursement rates, the Head Start program, and strategies to invest in our early education workforce.

  • Solve the Early Educator Staffing Crisis (H7123 Diaz / S2344 DiMario): Expand and continue the Child Care for Child Care Educators program to include Early Intervention staff. Remove the household income limit by providing eligibility for early educators to the Child Care Assistance Program as a protected population with no copayments. This program will end in July 2024 unless continued in statute.
  • Pass the Early Educator Compensation Stabilization Act (H7251 Donovan / S2038 Cano) to:
    • Invest $2.5 million to continue the Child Care WAGE$ national model program to provide substantial wage supplements for early educators with CDAs, associate’s, and bachelor’s degrees. This program will end in summer 2024 without new funding.
    • Invest $5 million to continue retention bonuses @ $3,000/year for some early educators to prevent loss of staff/closure of more classrooms and programs.
  • Streamline Access to the Child Care Assistance Program (H7122 Diaz / S2459 DiMario): Remove the outdated child support enforcement requirement in the statute.
  • Child Care is Essential (H7124  Diaz/Cano):
    • Invest approximately $12 million to raise family income eligibility to the federal standard for CCAP, helping about half of the families in Rhode Island with babies and young children.
    • Invest $6 million to provide a 50% rate increase for infants under 18 months in the RI Child Care Assistance Program to stabilize and expand access to quality care for the age group in greatest need.
    • Increase provider rates for all ages of children in the RI Child Care Assistance Program to meet or exceed federal standards.
  • Expand RI Pre-K Equitably in Birth – 5 Context (H7497  McNamara/Gallo, Governor’s FY25 budget):
    As Pre-K expands, ensure there is adequate investment to:
    • Provide compensation parity for all teachers of publicly funded preschool classrooms (RI Pre-K and Head Start) equal to public Kindergarten teachers with similar qualifications and experience. Right now, there is a $25,000 gap in pay.
    • Sustain and expand state investments in Head Start and Early Head Start as part of the state’s plan to achieve universal access to preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
    • Establish and fund a 30% infant/toddler spending benchmark in statute as part of RI Pre-K expansion, so that for every $10 million of new funding invested in RI Pre-K expansion there will be at least $3 million of new funding invested to sustain and expand access to high-quality infant and toddler child care and early learning.
    • Allow and support family child care programs to participate in delivering RI Pre-K. Remove state requirements restricting enrollment based on child residence for RI Pre-K programs in community-based settings to promote continuity and family choice.

Requests that the Children’s Cabinet be required to host an open meeting by September of 2024 to review these measures of progress on the recommendations included in the “RI Early Childhood Governance Systems Analysis” report released in December 2023.

  • Joint Resolution Supporting Continued Focus and Actions for Improved Coordination between Agencies Responsible for Early Childhood and Early Learning Programs (S2530 Gallo / H7934 Caldwell):
    • Implementing improved data infrastructure
    • Intra-agency coordination on guidance for problem-solving in the system
    • Engaging directly with providers and families to develop a set of metrics for success
    • Establishing an annual unified budget submission and annual report on system spending and performance outcomes; and reviewing and updating the State’s quality standards and corollary requirements for professional qualifications
    • Ensuring that supports for early care and education professionals are being delivered effectively
    • Implementation of a “no wrong door approach” to enrolling in programs; and planning and implementing a strategy for cross-agency family engagement and communications
  • December 30, 2023, Letter to the editor, David Caprio
  • Improve the RI Works Cash Assistance Program (H7686 Handy /  S2337 Murray):
    • Update the cash assistance benefit to ensure children do not live in deep poverty (below 50% FPL)
    • Adopt an annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).
    • Repeal the full family sanction.
    • Restore eligibility to legal permanent residents.

2024 Testimony

Yeisha Pereira, lead Head Start teacher at Children’s Friend, testified at the Senate Finance Committee meeting on 4.23.24 on the importance of the Child Care for Early Educators program.
Tiana Ochoa, VP of Programs/Director of Head Start at Children’s Friend testified on 5.09.24 on the need for the Child Care is Essential Act, H7124.
Children’s Friend President and CEO David Caprio, First Connections Nurse Alyssa Carvalho, and Early Intervention Clinical Supervisor Alicia Moran testified at the Senate Finance Committee meeting on 4.11.24 to share why First Connections and Early Intervention programs are so important.

How You Can Help

Join a meeting with the RIght from the Start campaign to learn more about these issues.

One of the most effective tools we have is to share real stories of how Children’s Friend makes a difference for the children and families we serve.

Thriving In Early Head Start: Donovan’s Story

You might remember a very cute young boy stealing the show at RI Strolling Thunder 2023 by spontaneously grabbing a toy microphone and joining Governor McKee and other leaders to offer his “remarks.”

Willing to share your story? Reach out to  Rachel Flum at

Contact Your Legislators

It’s never too late to reach out to thank your legislators or ask them to do more to help children. 

To learn about advocacy events, see our social media.

For more information, please contact Rachel Flum at 

2023 Testimony

2023 End of Legislative Session Update

On Friday, June 16, Governor Dan McKee signed the Fiscal Year 2024 State Budget, which included several of our priorities and needed investments in early childhood.

See how our 2023 Priorities fared in the FY24 Budget and legislative session:

The final budget includes funding to keep all Pre-K classrooms running even after federal funding ends.

The final budget includes a one-time investment of $3 million to support Head Start and Early Head Start.

The final budget includes a one-year continuation of bonuses to Teachers and Teacher Assistants, and a one-year pilot of a program to offer free child care to Teachers and Teacher Assistants for their own young children.

The final budget includes a one-year extension of last year’s rate increase. 

The final budget did not include any changes to the Early Intervention program, nor were EI professionals added to the Wave Maker program. 

The final budget includes a one-year extension of the DCYF wage stabilization payments.

As you can see, while we achieved many successes this year, they are not permanent, and we will need to advocate again next year to continue these investments.We are optimistic that we can continue to advocate for permanent investments in services that benefit our most vulnerable children.