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Advocating for babies

40+ baby strollers went to the State House to advocate for quality child care and early learning.

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Photo: RI Kids Count

As part of Strolling Thunder RI, more than 40 strollers carrying babies descended on RI’s State Capital to make the point that babies and toddlers are our future and they need to be a priority in the state legislature.

Rhode Island Kids Count is working with the national Think BabiesTM campaign by Zero to Three, which is designed to bring attention to the many issues that affect what babies and families need to thrive. This year the focus is on high-quality child care for infants and toddlers. RI is one of only 6 states chosen by Think Babies for this year’s campaign. RI’s Strolling Thunder campaign follows a national event done in Washington, DC, which was also attended by RI families.

“Rhode Island is fortunate to have a strong network of early childhood advocates and partners working together to support young children’s early learning and development,” said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Executive Director. “Strolling Thunder Rhode Island builds on that momentum and [brought] our littlest learners and their families to the State House to advocate for smart policies that provide the strongest possible start for young children.”

As part of Strolling Thunder RI on May 16, 2018, local families left the Providence Omni Hotel where they had decorated their strollers and heard welcoming remarks and made their way to the State House with a police escort.

They gathered in the Bell Room which was equipped with baby-friendly snacks, supplies, and activities, for a meet-and-greet with Rhode Island state legislators. At the end of the event, families were introduced on the floor of the RI House of Representatives or the RI Senate.

Primary advocacy area: Quality Child Care Rates

This year’s primary advocacy focus for Strolling Thunder is high quality infant-toddler child care and early learning.

With 72% of RI’s children under age 6 having all parents in the work force, high-quality child care is needed to both support parents’ ability to work and to develop children’s early learning – including providing access to environments that promote school readiness and set a course for school success.

Currently, according to RI Kids Count, Rhode Island’s child care rates through the Child Care Assistance Program do not support or incentivize quality child care. The organization is urging the General Assembly to pass legislation that would change the child care rate structure so that it will better promote access to high-quality child care for low-income families.

“Now is the time to make this investment in quality rates that support and incentivize child care programs to provide high quality early learning experiences. We are one of only 9 states in the US that do not structure rates to support high-quality child care for low-income children. Research shows that it is high-quality child care that makes a difference to improving school readiness and educational outcomes,” said Bryant.

“Improving investments in Rhode Island’s Child Care Assistance Program will increase access to high quality early learning opportunities for low-income children by ensuring that programs can attract and retain effective, caring educators to teach our youngest children.”

The groups are urging the General Assembly to pass Budget Article 15, which includes $1.5 million for tiered quality child care rates for infants and toddlers, and legislation that establishes tiered quality rates for all age groups (H-7174 and S-2120).

About Think Babies

Strolling Thunder is the flagship advocacy event of the Think Babies campaign, part of a national campaign designed to bring attention to the many issues that affect what babies and families need to thrive. Key campaign priorities include: quality, affordable child care; time for parents to bond with their babies; healthy emotional development; and strong physical health and nutrition. Areas of focus for Think Babies campaigns include:

  • Increasing access to affordable, quality child care for infants and toddlers;
  • Ensuring access to paid family leave policies;
  • Increasing access to infant and early childhood mental health services;
  • Ensuring access to voluntary, evidence-based home visiting for families with infants and toddlers; and
  • Increasing access to child and family screenings, supports and linkages to needed services.
  • Increasing access to healthy nutrition and obesity prevention initiatives for infants and toddlers.

About RI Kids Count

The mission of Rhode Island Kids Count is to improve the health, safety, education, economic well-being, and development of Rhode Island’s children. According to their website, RI Kids Count:

  • Provides independent, credible, comprehensive information on Rhode Island’s children.
  • Uses that information to change or influence public policies and programs to improve children’s lives.
  • Provides information and strategies on “what works” and promotes best practices that will turn the curve on indicators of child well-being.
  • Holds systems accountable and indicates where changes should be made to improve programs that don’t work.
  • Stimulates dialogue on children’s issues and brings together individuals and organizations to develop strategies and solutions to improve children’s lives.
  • Engages in information-based advocacy to affect public policies and programs for the improvement of children’s lives.