The House Finance Committee is expected to hear testimony this week on Tiered Reimbursement (H-6048).
In 2015, Children’s Friend received new federal funding enabling us to focus on enhancing the quality of infant toddler services in child care agencies due to an unprecedented collaboration between the Office of Head Start and the Office of Child Care and represents national recognition that infant toddler childcare is generally of poorer quality. This grant provided us a chance for insight into how childcare centers are operated and the unique challenges they face. They are uncommonly committed to children and families they serve and to increasing their quality.
An Economic Perspective
Operating infant and toddler classrooms enrolling DHS subsidized children – means you are operating at a loss. In a high quality program this gap widens. The consequences of this is multi-faceted:
Organizations economically cannot justify providing services to infants, which creates an access problem. They have closed their classrooms and there is a paucity of infant care for families receiving a DHS subsidy.
Most often, businesses cannot adequately pay staff resulting in not only increased instability of the work force, but greater reliance for these low paid employees on state and federally funded benefit structures.
A Quality Perspective
There are long term consequences of not providing high quality supports to our babies and toddlers. The developmental consequences are expensive and in many cases, difficult to remedy regardless of how much money you spend. Just as the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”, it goes without saying that we should fund services at a rate which can fully support quality services, especially at such a pivotal time in the development. For example:
Eighty-five percent (85%) of a child’s brain architecture is formed in the first 3 years of life. Infants and toddlers naturally want to thrive and grow and if we are offering them substandard services, their motivation, their development, and a litany of other things begins to diminish.
In the second year of life, the foundation for language and literacy is formed. If we are serious about third grade reading scores, we need to be serious about what we are doing during their infant and toddler years.
There is an economic opportunity here to invest in a workforce that is pivotal in the lives of Rhode Island’s children and makes a dent in the poverty level salaries of the teachers and teacher assistants providing the care and education. By supporting this effort, we are able to improve the economics of the state while improving the quality of services we provide to our youngest and most vulnerable Rhode Island citizens and have them be on track to meet third grade reading benchmarks.