March 06, 2006
Starting RIght Child Care: The Right Start for Children, Families, and Rhode Island
The 1998 Starting RIght Initiative sought to ensure access to affordable, high-quality child care and early education for all Rhode Island families with children from birth to 16 years old. The Program focused on three crucial supports: financial support to parents, provider reimbursement and training to promote a stable, regulated, and qualified provider community, and quality initiatives to promote child development. As expected, the state’s investments in the subsidized child care program, which were targeted to low and moderate income families, have benefited all Rhode Island children and families by improving and providing stability to the entire child care system.
The Poverty Institute examined outcomes of and changes to the Starting RIght program over the past seven years. Several of the study’s major findings are outlined below.
Most Families Using Subsidized Child Care Are Working Families: In 2004, 13,601 children received subsidized child care in Rhode Island, more than double the number of children enrolled in 1997. Seventy-eight percent of those children lived in low-income working families and 22% lived in families receiving FIP whose parents were working or preparing for work.
Most Families Using Subsidized Child Care Have Very Low-Income: Forty percent of children using subsidies live in families with income below or near the federal poverty level. A total of sixty percent live in families with income less than one and a half times the poverty level and ninety-three percent of children live in families with income less than twice the poverty level.
Starting Right Has Increased the Overall Availability of Regulated Care and Access for Low-Income Children: From 1997 to 2005, the number of child care centers increased by 60% (from 320 to 517) and the number of family child care providers almost doubled (from 717 to 1,314). The number of centers accepting children using subsidies increased from 71% to 85%; the number of family child care providers accepting children using subsidies increased from 56% to 81%.
Spending on FIP Cash Assistance Has Decreased while Spending for Child Care Assistance Has Increased: When the Family Independence Act was passed in 1997, the expectation was that as families moved off FIP and into the workforce the savings on cash assistance would be reinvested in child care. Spending on FIP (federal and state) has dropped from $117 million in 1997 to $68 million (enacted budget 2006); while spending on child care has increased from $19 million in 1997 to $77 million (enacted budget 2006).
State Investments in Child Care Are Wise Investments. A 2002 study found that, “for every public and private dollar spent on regulated child care, $1.75 is returned to the Rhode Island economy – a net positive return that almost doubles investments.”