Children, Families and Education
Given that the early years of a person’s life are among the most important developmentally, early childhood services and supports are critical to make it possible for every Rhode Islander to reach their full potential. Even before the pandemic, families too often struggled to access affordable and equitable early learning opportunities and health services. The pandemic has exacerbated these problems and introduced new challenges, such as disruptions in regular preventative care that is often the front door to other critical services. The following supports will target communities that were disproportionately impacted by the interruption of basic health care services because of the pandemic.
The Rhode Island Foundation is providing general operating grants to nonprofit organizations that are working to address food insecurity, housing instability and homelessness prevention, and behavioral health needs.
According to the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the child day care services industry in Rhode Island experienced a 14.9% employment loss from the first quarter of 2020 compared to the second quarter of 2021.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents to a nationwide National Association for the Education of Young Children survey identified low wages as the main obstacle to recruitment of educators, while 81% said they are a key reason that educators leave.
To address this issue, the Child Care Industry Support initiative provides $18.7 million in $1,500 semiannual pandemic retention bonuses for full- and part-time educators at child care centers and licensed family providers. Additionally, $0.3 million in family provider grants and technical assistance is available to help launch approximately 100 new family child care providers.
DCYF Workforce Stabilization ($12.5 million)
Since March 2020, the Department of Children, Youth and Families has lost 103 placements for children, or 30% of the total capacity in the state. The reasons for this vary, but the underlying reality is that staffing shortages in congregate care settings have caused sites to limit the number of youth they can serve at any given time. Funding is available to:
- Provide monthly premium payments of up to $694.50 to eligible direct care and support care staff who earn less than $75,000 per year on both a retrospective and prospective basis
- Provide sign-on bonuses of up to $750 for newly hired employees who earn less than $75,000 per year after they have completed 90 days of work. This hiring bonus is in addition to any prospective premium payments.
The Pediatric Provider Relief and Recovery initiative is providing $6.0 million in stabilization grants to pediatric primary care providers to incentivize them to improve access to care and make necessary investments to rebound from delays in care caused by the pandemic.
Additionally, the initiative is providing $1.2 million in performance bonus grants to pediatric or family practice primary care providers who adapt new training and workflow designs intended to screen children for healthy physical, cognitive and socio-emotional development. Another $0.3 million is being used for technical assistance for screening expansion to assist performance bonus grant recipients.
Pediatric Provider Relief and Recovery: Phase II ($7.5 million)
The project incentivizes pediatric primary care providers to improve access to care, immunizations, and screenings, and to invest in the staffing and infrastructure necessary to rebound from pandemic-related delays in care. The Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) is making six payments to participating practices.
The first payment is based on the submission of the program application, including a practice improvement plan and a commitment to participate in the technical assistance program. Four quarterly payments are contingent on practices’ performance on several vaccine and screening measures. One payment is based on participation in the program’s robust learning component, a six-session Behavioral Health Learning Initiative.
A portion of funds supports a technical assistance contractor tasked with training and workflow redesign, data collection and reporting, and best practice sharing to aid providers in successfully improving performance, as well as evaluating practice performance.
As of February 2022, all nine Early Intervention providers in the state struggled to accept referrals due to significant staffing shortages. The Early Intervention Provider Relief and Recovery program aims to rapidly reopen referrals by providing $2.6 million in stabilization grants for Early Intervention providers to cover operating costs, such as staffing, outreach, and professional development.
It also is providing $2.9 million in pay-for-performance bonus payments for meeting targets, such as recovering referrals at their 2019 levels, increasing the percentage of children referred who complete the eligibility process and engage in services, and reducing disproportionality for families with Medicaid coverage and families of color.