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What parents can learn from Rhode Island Kids Count's Factbook

A child plays with a learning toy in a classroom. (WJAR File Photo){ }
A child plays with a learning toy in a classroom. (WJAR File Photo)
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Rhode Island Kids Count's annual Factbook is now available online for free.

The report covers a lot of ground, tracking 70 indicators of how our kids are doing in Rhode Island. Racial disparities remain across the board.

Another biggie? Our childcare-early learning-workforce crisis

"We had 30 head start classrooms that could not open because there were not enough educators for them and there was limited enrollment in fourteen of our head start classrooms," said Paige Clausius-Parks, the new executive director at RI Kids Count.

Pay serves as a major reason behind this educator shortage.

"We know that many of our early childhood educators are paid really low wages, some wages even lower than our fast food workers. But their jobs are so important and so critical," said Clausius-Parks.

Clasius-Parks said the new factbook spells out how this impact families--beyond giving them a head start on learning

"It's harder to afford many of the things that families need when a child's not able to get high quality placement -- the parent's not able to work," she said.

Mental health and lack of treatment remain a huge problem with one in four children diagnosed with an emotional, mental or behavioral health problem--and one in three not being able to access help.

"During the pandemic every child in a RI public school had access to free lunch and breakfast," said Clausius-Parks.

Not anymore.

"Those meals are extremely important so RI Kids Count is really proud to be a part of a coalition of organizations that are really advocating for healthy school meals for all," said Clausius-Parks.

The news isn't all bad.

"Rhode Island is ranked fourth in the country in our coverage of children for health care and we expect those numbers to go up," said Clausius-Parks.

Especially now that all income eligible children, regardless of immigration status, can get comprehensive coverage.

"We want parents to know that they have an extremely important role to play in our policy making process. So, parents are our kids' first teachers and can be the strongest advocates for their own kids and policy makers want to hear from you," said Clausius-Parks.

Clausius-Parks is encouraging parents to read the report and reach out to lawmakers about changes they want to see happen.

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