Legislative Recap: 2022 Short Session Brings Big Wins

Legislative Recap: 2022 Short Session Brings Big Wins

The 2022 legislative session came to a close on Friday, March 5, and as we welcome spring and a time of renewal, Children’s Institute is optimistic about the future of early childhood in Oregon.

In the short span of five weeks, the Oregon legislature passed several of the Early Childhood Coalition’s legislative priorities, including investments that will fund wage increases for Healthy Families Oregon (HFO) and Relief Nurseries, and the Child Care Emergency Response Package. Together, the legislature made a nearly $100 million investment that will help stabilize the child care sector, support providers, and ensure more families have access to early childhood opportunities. While this investment is a step towards progress, it’s a short-term relief to address the immediate child care crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Together these investments will:

  • Provide $2 million to Healthy Families Oregon to raise wages
  • Provide $2 million to Relief Nurseries to raise wages
  • Fund an additional $122,830 to restore Healthy Families Oregon services
  • Invest $26 million to increase the amount of money providers who accept Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) subsidies receive per child, bringing rates to a more equitable level
  • Provide $21 million in direct relief payments of $500 each to currently-working child care providers—one payment in 2022 and another in 2023
  • Invest $39.3 million to recruit and train new child care providers, and provide direct grants to expand existing facilities of all types
  • Direct $3.6 million to the Department of Early Learning & Care

“This is a significant win for Oregon’s children,” said Kali Thorne Ladd, CEO of Children’s Institute. “But it’s an important step along the way in building a strong early childhood system… we must continue to advocate for our youngest community members and ensure we implement lasting solutions so that we build a future that we can all be proud of.”

 

We want to thank the Early Childhood Coalition and community partners who have spent countless hours working to build a more equitable early childhood system by crafting thoughtful messages, providing testimony, and meeting with lawmakers on behalf of young children.

“What began in 2018 as a handful of advocates who recognized the need for an aligned, comprehensive early childhood systems strategy is now a partnership of over 50 organizations across the state of Oregon, and we’re still growing,” said Malea Miller, advocacy and policy coordinator at Children’s Institute.

“The discrepancies we see in outcomes related to child health and education are a result of intentional, systemic injustice and exclusion from the political process,” Miller said. “Because of this, we are excited and committed to expand our relationships and continue to center our most deeply impacted families and community partners in policy development and decision-making. The power of the collective cannot be overstated; none of us can do this work alone.”

The ECC is always looking for additional partner organizations to advocate for equitable early childhood policies. We invite you to join us, by learning more about our collective goals, sharing our message with your networks, and working with us to remind lawmakers why early childhood matters! To get involved, please email Malea Miller at malea@childinst.org

 

Related Links

Oregon’s Early Childhood Coalition Releases 2021 Legislative Report

Home Visits Help Families Stick Together

Home Visits Help Families Stick Together

Home Visits Help Families Stick Together

Early Childhood advocates, providers, and parents brought their voices together in 2022 to tell decision makers that investing in family support programs is vital to kids and families, and an important piece of the early childhood system.

This year, we saw big policy wins for family support programs, including wage increases for and restoring service in Healthy Families Oregonand relief nurseries. During the 2022 session, The Oregon legislature passed House Bill 4005 and the Child Care Emergency Response Package, an historic $100 million investment in Oregon’s early childhood system. 

Now that the session has ended, we’re joyful about the investments that will support the recruitment and retention of early childhood providers in both of these programs, which will ensure that there are enough people to serve families, and that providers are making a living wage. Stabilizing a skilled, diverse workforce is a critical component in improving services and ultimately, ensuring that kids and families have access to support when they need it.

We talked to parents who have participated or are currently participating in voluntary home visiting, offered through both Healthy Families and relief nurseries, and they emphasized why continued investment in family support programs is so needed. 

Marnesha Strickland learned about voluntary home visiting services for parents with newborns in the hospital, after she gave birth to her daughter. Shortly thereafter, she met with a home visitor through Albina Head Start, a contractor providing Healthy Families Oregon Services.

Kalisha Griffin is another parent who participates in home visiting services through Albina. She said that her doctor referred her to the program and that her home visitor has helped her connect to resources she may not have discovered otherwise.

Home visits are free and voluntary, and are designed to improve health outcomes for children and parents, encourage positive child development, and enhance family well-being. Home visits focus on the whole family, including helping parents meet their own goals. 

Natasha Griffin has a one-year-old, and meets virtually with her home visitor once a week. Griffin shared that  home visiting services have helped her to pursue a job in early education, and she recently took a position as a teacher’s assistant with Albina Head Start. 

Home visiting services aren’t just for first-time parents. Constance Arron explained that she reconnected with her home visitor when she had a baby eight years after having her last child, and that having the support of a home visitor brought comfort as she navigated parenting a new baby.

 

The Child Care Emergency Response Package and House Bill 4005 are steps towards progress, but are a short-term solution to address the immediate child care crisis, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Together these bills will:

  • Provide $2 million to Healthy Families Oregon and relief nurseries to raise wages
  • Fund an additional $122,830 to restore Healthy Families Oregon services
  • Increase the amount of money providers who accept Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) subsidies receive per child, bringing rates to a more equitable level
  • Provide $21 million in direct relief payments of $500 each to currently-working child care providers—one payment in 2022 and another in 2023
  • Invest $39.3 million to recruit and train new child care providers, and provide direct grants to expand existing facilities of all types
  • Direct $3.6 million to the Department of Early Learning & Care

There is still work to be done to make significant, long-term progress within the early childhood system. In 2023, Children’s Institute and the Early Childhood Coalition will continue to advocate for lasting solutions that will expand access to early childhood programs, child care, and family support services.

We want to give a heartfelt thank you to the parents who shared their experiences with us.

 

Related Links

‘You feel like you have someone in your corner,’ Parents and Providers Urge Leaders to Invest in Family Support Programs, Home Visiting Services

Funding Relief Nurseries is an Investment in Families and Communities

Oregon’s Early Childhood Coalition Releases 2021 Legislative Report

‘You feel like you have someone in your corner,’ Parents and Providers Urge Leaders to Invest in Family Support Programs, Home Visiting Services

‘You feel like you have someone in your corner,’ Parents and Providers Urge Leaders to Invest in Family Support Programs, Home Visiting Services

When Marnesha Strickland gave birth to her daughter, the hospital connected her with a program to support her with her newborn. Shortly thereafter, Strickland was introduced to Vanessa Stewart, a home visitor with Albina Head Start, which is a contractor providing Healthy Families Oregon (HFO) services, including home visits.

Home visits are free, voluntary, and offer support and education to people who are pregnant or parenting newborns. These services are offered in communities across Oregon and are designed to improve health outcomes for children and parents, encourage positive child development, and enhance family well-being. Before the pandemic, visits occurred weekly in families’ homes; now, home visitors and parents meet virtually. Families can choose to participate for six months or longer, depending on their needs, and visits can continue for up to three years. 

Vanessa Stewart has been a home visitor for 23 years and is passionate about working alongside families as they navigate parenthood. “I love my job,” she said. “I love to help my families with child development activities, set goals, and help them find and access resources.”

“A lot of families aren’t able to get into the classroom, but they still get support with home visits and they can still teach their kids, and have someone to help guide them.”

Stewart worked with Strickland and her young daughter for three years. Today, Strickland’s daughter is over the age of three, and although she no longer uses home visiting services, she said that visits with Stewart provided her with extra support, parenting tips, learning techniques to teach her young daughter, and someone to talk to.

“Home visiting is important for parents who feel like they are alone and nobody is there to help or listen,” said Strickland. “You feel like you have someone in your corner. Miss Vanessa was not just my caseworker — she went above and beyond to help me and my daughter.”

Unfortunately, the early childhood sector — and specifically, family support programs like Healthy Families Oregon and relief nurseries — faces workforce and recruitment shortages, putting these vital early childhood and family services at risk. 

Family support programs are effective because they build deep relationships with parents and children, and support the self-determination of families. That means stabilizing a skilled, diverse workforce is a critical component in improving services, and Oregon’s early childhood providers should not have to live in poverty.

Currently, Healthy Families Oregon and Oregon Relief Nurseries provide services to 2,300 families and 3,500 children, respectively, but have not been able to raise wages to match other early childhood programs, such as Preschool Promise and Oregon Head Start PreKindergarten, let alone wages in other sectors with similar skills. 

Kara Tachikawa, Executive Director of Mountainstar Relief Nursery, explained that with the current super-competitive hiring market and increasing cost of living, relief nurseries are not able to offer the salaries necessary to attract highly qualified staff.

“Many of our organizations are only able to offer the same, and sometimes even less than local fast food or grocery store entry-level positions,” said Tachikawa. “This makes it less likely that people with education and experience in social work or infant mental health will join the statewide team of relief nurseries, where their skills are desperately needed in order to keep children safe with their families and help parents become the best they can be.”

If legislators want to interrupt the negative cycle of trauma and decrease future state costs related to foster care, special education, criminal justice, and long-term negative health outcomes, they should make an investment now.

In the 2021 legislative session, Oregon’s Early Childhood Coalition asked for $4.8 million for relief nurseries and $10 million for Healthy Families Oregon, largely to raise wages. However, relief nurseries received only $2 million of their wages request, and HFO received $800,000 — not to raise wages, but to serve more families.

This year, Oregon’s Early Childhood Coalition is supporting investments that were incomplete in 2021:

  • $2.8 million investment in Relief Nurseries to achieve wage parity with other early childhood programs to reduce turnover and improve consistency
  • $3.746 million investment in Healthy Families Oregon to raise wages to be comparable with other early childhood programs to support retention and recruitment of staff
  • $275,000 investment to continue Healthy Families Oregon services in Tillamook and Jefferson counties, which have lost the Federal Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) funding. The full biennial cost to restore funding is $245,660 in Tillamook and $130,000 in Jefferson.

“If legislators want to interrupt the negative cycle of trauma and decrease future state costs related to foster care, special education, criminal justice, and long-term negative health outcomes, they should make an investment now,” said Tachikawa. 

Harvard Guide Presents new Framework for Re-Envisioning Early Childhood Development

Harvard Guide Presents new Framework for Re-Envisioning Early Childhood Development

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child published Early Childhood Development (ECD 1.0), highlighting the science behind early childhood health and development with a list of resources for parents, caregivers, child care providers, and policymakers to understand how to support young children during this critical stage of growth.

Introducing ECD 2.0

Recently, the Center released a new guide, ECD 2.0: A Framework for Science-Informed Investment in the Early Foundations of Health and Development, which presents a new framework and resources for re-envisioning early childhood development in the wake of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

Resources

Portland State University Presents Key Findings in Year 1 Early Childhood Equity Fund Evaluation

Portland State University Presents Key Findings in Year 1 Early Childhood Equity Fund Evaluation

A report from Portland State University’s Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services (PSU CCF) spotlights the first year of the Early Childhood Equity Fund program (ECEF).

The report is divided into three parts: 

  • Part 1 describes the key findings from the implementation evaluation 
  • Part 2 summarizes findings from the data capacity assessment
  • Part 3 proposes the Equitable Evaluation Framework 

Key findings will inform Children’s Institute’s ongoing early childhood advocacy efforts, and program and community engagement work.

Background

In 2016, the Early Childhood Equity Collaborative (ECEC) first organized to “engage the voices of communities of color who were not being heard in critical discussions about the funding and policies relating to their children.” The main purpose of the collaborative was to generate awareness and advocacy to increase state investments in culturally specific early learning and family support programming.  

Acronym List

ECEF  Early Childhood Equity Fund

ECEC Early Childhood Equity Collaborative

PSU CCF Portland State University Center for Improvement of Child & Family Services

In 2019, Oregon’s legislature approved the ECEF as part of the Student Success Act, providing funding for culturally specific early learning, early childhood, and parent support programs. In the 2019-2021 biennium, 30 program grants and five planning grants went to grantees across Oregon.  

Key findings from this report will inform Children’s Institute’s ongoing early childhood advocacy efforts, and program and community engagement work. 

Part 1:  Implementation Evaluation

This part of the report outlines the findings gathered throughout the Year 1 Implementation Evaluation, with a focus on two outcomes: delivering early learning services using culturally specific methods, and increasing grantee organizations’ capacity to deliver services. 

The evaluation team used three methods to collect data: 

  • Reviewing existing documents, reports, and data
  • Completing qualitative interviews with representatives from each of the ECEF grantee programs
  • Completing qualitative interviews with Early Learning Division staff

Culturally specific services

Grantees showed that they had strong community connections and demonstrated several successful strategies in delivering culturally specific services, including: 

  1. Implementing culturally specific program models
  2. Valuing cultural celebrations and traditions
  3. Giving attention to community language requirements
  4. Focusing on family agency and advocacy skills
  5. Adapting practices when providing virtual services
  6. Demonstrating flexibility and responsiveness to family needs

COVID-19's Impact on Program Implementation

Many of the ECEF grant proposals were submitted before the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent closures across the state. Program implementation mostly started after March 2020, and continued throughout the pandemic. Throughout the course of program implementation, the pandemic had a profound impact on grantees’ ability to provide services, effectively serve families, and hire and train staff. However, grantees showed extraordinary innovation, commitment, and tenacity all while continuing to center families at the core of their work.  

Increased organizational capacity

Findings also indicate that grantees’ organizational capacity increased. The implementation evaluation showed success in: 

  1. Recruiting, hiring and training staff who reflect the communities served by the organization
  2. Supporting comprehensive staff training and supports for staff well-being
  3. Leveraging partnerships and other resources

Part 2: Data Capacity Assessment

Part 2 of the report summarizes information about grantee organizations’ data systems, needs for data-related support and technical assistance, and strengths in data-related processes among the grantees. The Year 1 Evaluation highlights several success strategies related to data tools and systems, as well as data use: 


Data collection tools and systems

Technological aids

Before the pandemic, data were most often gathered using pen and paper, e.g., parent surveys. However, many organizations quickly adapted to successfully collecting data using websites, email, QR codes, or surveys sent to families via smart phones. In particular, grantees found success using QR codes because of the varying access to technology in participant communities.

Culturally specific and trauma-informed data collection

Participating organizations were able to collect meaningful data from their communities, by building trusting relationships, prioritizing the needs and strengths of families, and ensuring that forms and information gathering tools were available in families’ first languages. 

Trained and dedicated staff

Having adequately trained, supported, and long-term staff is key in collecting data that is trauma-informed and culturally specific. Staff also often shared similar cultural backgrounds and experiences as grantees, which likely helped them in forming trusting relationships with families and communities.

Data use

Using family feedback to adjust programs and services

Families provided input to help guide organizations’ approach to developing appropriate services that were also COVID-safe. Feedback was collected through surveys and interviews after families participated in services. 

“Our organization held Zoom meetings with parents on what’s working and what’s not working online. We are working on building a support group for families and parents since all are virtual and tailor to their capabilities.”

– ECEF Grantee

Use of community needs assessments

ECEF grantees assessed their community’s needs in a number of ways, including focus groups, program participant feedback, leadership circles, elder and youth advisory groups, needs assessments, and data collection. This was successful in providing a more holistic view of the community’s needs. 

Intentional partnerships

Grantees described the ways that they partner with other organizations to gather and use data to support their communities. Partnerships included shared decision-making processes, community ownership of data, and opportunities for joint ownership. 

Part 3 – Equitable Evaluation Framework

The PSU CCF evaluation team is using a framework and approach, developed by Ann Ishimaru and colleagues at the University of Washington, called Data Inquiry for Equitable Collaboration; an evaluation model where grantees drive the evaluation process at every step. Specifically, they decide what questions to ask, define what “data” means, decide what data to collect, and how to collect it. They also collect the data itself, make meaning of the data, and use that to support organizational change. There is an opportunity here for the ECEF evaluation to transform power, support collective learning, strengthen organizations, engage communities, and drive systems change.

Next Steps

The evaluation framework is meant to serve as a guide for co-design and collaborative planning and implementation for the ECEF evaluation, while supporting grantees and communities to be leaders in decision-making. The next steps in this work are to continue to revise the process, finalize the framework and ultimately, co-design an evaluation that aligns with legislative requirements while also shifting mainstream dominant understandings and elevating the unacknowledged role of culturally specific organizations and services.

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