The RIght from the Start campaign, a legislative and budget campaign to advance state policies for young children and their families in Rhode Island, announced the 2021 RIght Start Agenda on Wednesday during a Zoom conference. The RIght Start Agenda is “package of legislation designed to ensure that ALL Rhode Island kids get off to the right start in life, and that our young children and families are able to weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and emerge even stronger on the other side.”
The 2021 RIght From the Start Legislative and Budget Agenda:
- Enact strong state and federal revenue policies to maintain, expand and improve essential programs that are a lifeline for babies, young children, and families. We support the Revenue for Rhode Island proposal and other equitable strategies to increase state and federal resources that will help families with young children.
- Pass the Rhode Island Child Care is Essential Act to make the increased rates for the Child Care Assistance Program permanent, to promote children’s access to high-quality programs, and help providers meet minimum wage requirements. Safe, healthy, and high-quality child care options are essential for working parents and for children to learn and grow.
- Pass the Rhode Island Early Educator Investment Act to establish goals for early educator wages. Early educators, almost all of whom are women and many are people of color, are among the lowest paid workers in the state. Child care, preschool, family home visiting and Early Intervention programs struggle to recruit and retain excellent staff. We should ensure educators that have earned early childhood credentials and demonstrate effective practice are rewarded with increased wages, comparable to similarly qualified K-12 educators.
- Improve our state’s paid family leave program (Temporary Caregivers Insurance) to match national benchmarks by increasing wage replacement rates and extending the number of weeks. We need to improve Rhode Island’s paid family leave policy so all parents, and especially lower-wage earning parents, can have adequate income to remain at home with newborns, adoptive, and foster children for at least 12 weeks.
- Cover community-based doula services through Medicaid and private health insurance. Invest in building, supporting, and sustaining the doula workforce and infrastructure in the state as a strategy to reduce racial and economic disparities in maternal and child health outcomes.
- Address the staffing crisis for the RI Early Intervention program and our network of voluntary Family Home Visiting programs by increasing Medicaid rates and allocating adequate state funds as a Medicaid match to reach more families.
- Maintain full state funding and children’s access to RI Pre-K and Head Start. Both are high-quality programs that help get children on track for school success.
- Vote to pass Question 3 and Question 5 on the March 2, 2021 ballot to expand access to affordable housing and help early learning programs improve their facilities.
Here’s the video:
Featured speakers at the announcement included Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey (Democrat, District 29, Warwick) and House Majority Leader Christopher Blazejewski (Democrat, District 2, Providence), Senator Sandra Cano (Democrat, District 8, Pawtucket) and Representative Grace Diaz (Democrat, District 11, Providence). Many other state legislators were on the Zoom call as well, which hopefully bodes well for much of the legislation presented. Still, in past sessions, needed and important legislation, such as the doula bill, were prevented from passing when the House refused to take the bills up.
The most important testimony came from Wilmaris Soto-Ramos, mother of recent newborn, who is the subject of a YouTube video put out by RIght from the Start, who spoke about the importance of having a doula to ensure the success of her third pregnancy. Sadly, her first two pregnancies failed in the third trimester.
“Because I’d lost two previous pregnancies, being pregnant and giving birth to my beautiful daughter Amarie during COVID was a big challenge,” said Soto-Ramos. “But thanks to the support of my doula, I felt supported and empowered at every step. Doulas are an important part of our maternal health system, and it’s time for Rhode Island to pass legislation that covers doula services through Medicaid and private health insurance. I also strongly believe Rhode Island needs to expand paid family leave, so new moms, like me, have more time to bond with our beautiful newborns. These are smart policies to support families and help all Rhode Island children get off to the right start in life…
“Without my doula, I would not have had the empowering and peaceful birthing experience that I did.”
Here’s the YouTube video featuring Soto-Ramos and her doula, Quatia “Q” Osorio.
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UpriseRI will endeavor to follow the various pieces of legislation championed by the RIght from the Start campaign o the legislative session.