Prioritizing Children is Oregon’s Path to a Brighter Future

Prioritizing Children is Oregon’s Path to a Brighter Future

Oregon’s children and families face immediate challenges in housing and behavioral health that require urgent attention. Underlying these visible crises are hidden traumas often rooted in early childhood experiences.  

To create more equitable opportunities now and prevent challenges in the future, Oregon must invest in strategies that support children from prenatal through age five, and their families. Some of this work is underway, including investing in early literacy, Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education (EI/ECSE), and supporting the CHIPS Act child care fund.  

But Oregon urgently needs to prioritize children prenatal to age five in housing and behavioral health initiatives. Children’s Institute and other childhood advocates urge Oregon leaders to double-down on these efforts so that every child receives the love, care, and education they need. 

Early Childhood: A Foundation for Success 

We know that early childhood is a critical period for brain development. Investing in children from birth to age five has profound implications for their future success, and the overall wellbeing of our state. Oregon has an opportunity to make sure that young children have what they need to thrive. Focused efforts in several key areas can move Oregon forward: 

  • Education and early literacy: Invest in early literacy from birth and address funding issues for EI/ECSE services to help bridge achievement gaps and support children with developmental disabilities and delays.  
  • Cross-agency coordination: Ensure that support for young children is accessible, coordinated, and family-centered across various state agencies, which promotes better governance and more effective outcomes. 
  • Strategic budget investments: Allocate funds specifically for early childhood initiatives — this can yield high returns on investment, benefiting society and the economy, overall. 

Education Initiative Opportunities 

Early learning investments are the most cost-effective way to close opportunity and achievement gaps, support families, and strengthen child care availability. The case is strong for early childhood programs, with research showing that for every dollar invested there are double-digit returns. Priorities include: 

  • Inclusion in preschool and child care: Ensure effective implementation of programs that prevent suspension and expulsion, prioritizing childhood mental health, and resources for children with disabilities. 
  • Full enrollment in preschool programs: Address under-enrollment in state and federally funded preschool programs to ensure that all eligible children have access to early education opportunities. 
  • Quality across preschool settings: Enhance support and monitoring for preschool programs and ensure they meet high standards. 
  • Pathways into the early childhood workforce: Create accessible and equitable pathways for individuals to enter the early childhood workforce. 
  • Maximize the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP): Maximizing how Oregon uses CACFP funding will help with child care quality, financing, and address food insecurity for children and families.  

Behavioral Health Initiative Opportunities 

Early relational health—the emotional bond between a baby and their caregiver—is a major factor in a child’s development. Addressing the root causes of childhood trauma and making sure young children receive services at the right time, prevents challenges later in life. Priorities include: 

  • Expand access to birth and postnatal doula services: Making sure that more moms and babies have access to culturally specific doula services improves health outcomes, especially in reducing health disparities.  
  • Adopt and implement the social emotional health metric: The birth to five social emotional health metric holds coordinated care organizations accountable to ensure young children have access to proven social-emotional health programs. 
  • Substance use disorder treatment: Stabilizing and scaling successful programs that integrate prenatal care, behavioral health, and peer support can significantly reduce the need for foster care and improve outcomes for high-risk moms and their babies. 
  • Create a cross-agency system of home visiting services: Developing a coordinated system of home visiting services supports parent-child relationships and family stability, providing crucial early intervention. 

Housing Initiative Opportunities 

The effects of homelessness on young children are acute and have lifelong impacts. Safe, predictable housing provides foundational stability. Priorities include: 

  • Multi-bedroom units in housing developments: Building affordable housing units with multiple bedrooms can accommodate the diverse needs of Oregon families. 
  • Family-centered housing support: Prioritizing families in housing support strategies, including rent subsidies and shelters designed for family units, can provide the stability needed for healthy child development. 
  • Co-location of child care and housing: Building child care facilities into affordable and workforce housing can support working families and improve access to early childhood education. 

Investing in young children and families is the most important equity and anti-poverty decision we can make. Oregon has an opportunity to prioritize young children, as a cornerstone of its future success. These priorities not only address the immediate crises but focus on building a stronger, more equitable foundation for generations to come. 


Advocates Push for Child Care Relief

Advocates Push for Child Care Relief

Today, CI sent a letter to Governor Kate Brown, Oregon’s Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response, and Oregon’s Congressional Delegation to advocate for swift, bold relief efforts for Oregon’s child care providers.   

Date: March 27, 2020

To: Governor Kate Brown; Oregon’s Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response; Oregon’s Congressional Delegation

CC: Oregon State Legislators; Miriam Calderon,Early Learning Systems Director; Fariborz Pakseresht, Department of Human Services Director; Dan Haun, Self-Sufficiency Programs Director; Alyssa Chatterjee, Deputy Education Policy Advisor to the Governor

Re: Child Care Relief Efforts

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Oregon’s child care crisis and highlighted the acute needs of families, the workforce, and providers. As the coronavirus threatens our health, safety, and economic stability, it is also threatening the vulnerable child care industry. Child care providers are at risk of permanent closure, undermining the ability of our workforce to return to work and for businesses to rebound once the threat from COVID-19 subsides. The economic impact will most adversely affect Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) women, who more commonly work as child care providers and who are already most economically vulnerable.

Child care providers are especially vulnerable because, unlike public education, 70 percent of child care revenues are funded privately by families.[1] Therefore, recent actions to continue payments for Employment Related Day Care and Head Start/Oregon Pre-kindergarten will not prevent a majority of child care programs from closing. Child care providers serving families of all income levels typically operate on very tight budgets with a constant degree of uncertainty. Without immediate public investment, most providers will not survive the COVID-19 crisis.

Findings from a national survey[2] of child care providers conducted last week show:

  • Nearly 50 percent of providers report that the loss of two weeks or less of tuition will cause them to close their doors permanently.
  • Another 16 percent said they could not sustain closure for a month.
  • Some 25 percent were unclear how long they could sustain unopened.
  • Only 11 percent of child care providers reported they could weather the storm for an indeterminate period.

Child care is the unrecognized backbone of our economy. Child care and education providers allow parents to work while also supporting the health, safety, and development of children. Child care infrastructure allows many of our state industries to function. Prior to COVID-19, businesses across the state reported absenteeism, turnover, and staff shortages due to the lack of available child care in their region.[3] Child care closures resulting from the COVID-19 emergency will undermine the eventual economic recovery of the state. Strategic and substantial government intervention can strengthen the state’s child care infrastructure and establish a foundation for a strong recovery.

Oregon and the federal government need to invest boldly and quickly to protect the child care supply. Right now, we need child care providers on the front lines to provide care that is safe, reliable, and nurturing for children of essential workers.

In order to meet these immediate and mid-term needs, we need an investment of state and federal funds. Below are the policy and budget recommendations our organizations support.

First, include child care in your planning and use an equity lens in your process:

  1. Ensure an equity lens is applied to all investments so they reach all providers with targeted support for BIPOC providers. Child care information and directives should be available in a variety of languages and accessible for this very diverse workforce[4] and population served.
  2. Include child care providers in emergency planning. At least two child care providers should be included in advisory groups for emergency management agencies in order to provide input on how best to respond to changing circumstances and environments. Ensure BIPOC provider representation.

Second, establish an emergency child care system utilizing all provider types:

  1. Provide “Hazard Pay” to child care providers to cover the increased cost of care for essential workers due to COVID-19. Funds will ensure they are able to increase staff wages, pay substitutes, provide 24-hour coverage, and get access to supplies and resources needed to keep the environment safe and healthy. Provide immediate support for child care and education providers to meet the child care need for essential workers in a way that is safe and nurturing through this public health emergency. [Estimated at $4.7 million, 30 days for 5,000 kids]
  2. Cover child care expenses for “essential workers” who need child care. Many “essential workers” are using new providers and face costs that they would not typically incur due to increased hours and school closures. For “essential workers” eligible for federal child care subsidy (below 85 percent State Median Income), cover all child care costs without any parent co-pay. For “essential workers” who are not eligible for child care subsidy (above 85 percent State Median Income), cover all COVID-19 related child care costs (i.e. child care costs for school age children, extended hours/days, more expensive care for smaller groups and higher pay for providers, costs above typical pre-COVID-19 child care costs).
  3. Retain critical licensing standards for the health and safety of children and providers. Explore whether to increase standards to ensure safety for children and providers such as reduced child/staff ratios, group size, and sanitation. Ensure “red tape” doesn’t inhibit availability of care. Provide flexibility on timelines for standards such as trainings, in-person licensure visits, and food program monitoring visits.

Third, provide specific support for child care and education providers that close so they remain ready to re-open when the immediate crisis ends to support parents’ return to work and ongoing child development:

  1. Pay all subsidy child care providers the tuition and public subsidy (i.e. ERDC) they would receive if they were open. This would fund fixed costs and help retain staff. Support licensed and regulated providers with sustained relief throughout the COVID-19 crisis period.
  2. Pay non-subsidy child care providers for loss of income and compensate staff during closure, across all care settings, just as the state is doing for the K–12 education system. Pay for fixed costs and staff wages during closures to ensure enough workforce and facilities when the emergency ends. Create a fund to help offset lost tuition. [$85 million for 60 days]
  3. Enroll all child care providers in fixed cost relief efforts. This includes mortgage forbearance, deferral of rents, and support for utilities and insurance for a minimum of three months and up to six months.
  4. Ensure early care and education providers have access to variety of benefits. These include:
  • Small business relief
  • Unemployment Insurance, including self-employed providers
  • Paid Family Leave and Paid Sick Leave

This emergency underscores the need to provide consistent public funding for child care and to ensure a sustainable system that is available and accessible to all that need it. An emergency like this highlights the weakness in our current private funding model for this essential service. Swift action now will set Oregon up for a strong economic recovery and build an environment of care and education that supports our children, families, and businesses, and our nation’s safety, security, and economy.


Child Care Relief Advocates






CI Calls for Workforce Support, Emergency Aid in Coronavirus Response

CI Calls for Workforce Support, Emergency Aid in Coronavirus Response

This morning, CI sent a letter to Oregon’s Joint Committee on Coronavirus Response to advocate for those who work for and depend on early care and education programs. We appreciate your partnership and support as we work through the unprecedented challenges related to COVID-19. 

To: Joint Special Committee on Coronavirus Response 

From: Dana Hepper, Director of Policy & Advocacy, Children’s Institute  

Date: March 18, 2020  

Re: Early care and education program actions in response to Coronavirus 

Distinguished Legislators, 

Thank you for stepping up to play a leadership role during this critical time in our world. We are writing to say we are with you and ready to provide what you need to best respond in this rapidly evolving situation. We are closely tracking actions in other states and monitoring recommendations from national partners on COVID-19 regarding early care and education (ECE) programs to inform a path forward in Oregon.  

Now more than ever, we are reminded that early care and education programs are essential components of community infrastructure. They support the immediate safety and health of children while supporting children’s development. They employ a necessary workforce of early care and education teachers and staff. And they support the economy by helping parents across our state remain in the workforce, an absolute necessity at this time for essential workers, especially in health care.    

Despite the crucial role of early care and education programs for children, families, communities and our broader society, the ECE workforce is among the lowest paid and most vulnerable during times of economic insecurity. Many ECE providers make minimum wage with few or no benefits, and the average child care provider makes less than the average dog walker. Other providers are small-business owners operating with thin or no margins. The majority of the workforce is comprised of women and includes a high percentage of people of color. They have incredible value that warrants recognition and support. 

Today we are sharing immediate actions you can take to support the early care and education workforce and capacity to provide child care for essential workers. We ask that you advocate for congressional action and take state action to:  

  • Continue federal funding for early care and education programs during this crisis, regardless of whether they are open or closed and whether children are absent; 
  • Provide emergency funding for early care and education programs (small businesses, nonprofits) who rely largely on tuition during this time; and 
  • Include the child care workforce in those eligible for extended unemployment insurance and other wage replacement strategies during program closures or providers who can’t work because they are sick with, test positive for, have been exposed to, or are at high risk for COVID-19.  
  • Ensure essential workers have access to the safest child care settings possible. Provide support requested from the Early Learning Division and Department of Human Services to help sustain child care providers and create additional capacity.  
  • Grant emergency child care assistance to parents and caregivers who are required to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ensure any actions to support workers include the ECE workforce whether they work fulltime, parttime, are self-employed, or are small business owners. Debt relief options may be necessary for providers that close or experience reduced revenue during this time.  
  • Provide child care vouchers to parents who must continue to work while children are kept home from school. Support the financial stability of child care providers by adjusting subsidy policies so as not to cause financial harm. 
  • Invest in tools for essential workerspossibly through 211 and Western Oregon University—that support access to resources. Explore options for tapping into the ECE network of providers who are out of work but could provide care to smaller groups of children in settings such as in-home care. 

Beyond these immediate actions, we are ready and eager to help you answer other questions that emerge. When this crisis ends, we’ll be ready to work with you to rebuild a stronger and more stable early care and education system that Oregon desperately needs.  


A Broader Definition of Public Charge Will Harm Millions of Families

A Broader Definition of Public Charge Will Harm Millions of Families

Dana Hepper is Children’s Institute’s director of policy and advocacy. Below is her public comment on behalf of CI in response to the Trump Administration’s changes to the public charge determination. 

Last year, the Trump Administration proposed changes to a federal rule known as “public charge” that would impact millions of working families across the country. Children’s Institute opposes this change as a racially motivated “wealth test” for immigrants and their families on the path to getting green cards.

Public charge is a determination used by immigration officials to refer to legal immigrants who are dependent on the government for financial support or likely to become so. Immigrants seeking legal permanent resident status who are deemed to be a public charge can be denied a green card. The Trump Administration proposal, which would define public charge much more widely than ever before, would force many immigrants to either forego essential supports like health care, food, and housing, or risk their immigration status.

In the last year, individuals and advocacy organizations across the country, including Children’s Institute, spoke out against changes to public charge. The proposal provoked a record 200,000 comments opposing the change. Despite this overwhelming opposition, the administration announced Monday that it is adopting this cruel and unnecessarily punitive rule change. The change will take effect October 15.

Enforcing a Law That Doesn’t Exist

According to the White House, the administration’s proposal simply seeks to enforce a law that has long been ignored.

“President Trump is enforcing this longstanding law to prevent aliens from depending on public benefit programs. The Immigration and Nationality Act makes clear that those seeking to come to the United States cannot be a public charge. For many years, this clear legal requirement went largely unenforced, imposing vast burdens on American taxpayers. Now, public charge law will finally be utilized.”

While the term “public charge” does appear in immigration laws, there is no “public charge law” that defines how an immigrant’s dependence on government support should be measured. The administration’s claim that it is attempting to enforce an existing law is false.

In the absence of any law defining what it means to be a public charge, INS officers historically interpreted the phrase themselves, applying inconsistent standards and requirements to green card applicants. In 1999, INS moved to clarify the guidelines, introducing a rule that defined a public charge as someone who receives most of their cash income from the government. The government further clarified that the use of Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or other non-cash programs would not be factors in public charge determinations.

This clarification was deemed necessary because confusion over these benefits “deterred eligible aliens and their families, including U.S. citizen children, from seeking important health and nutrition benefits that they are legally entitled to receive. This reluctance to access benefits has an adverse impact not just on the potential recipients, but on public health and the general welfare.”

Punishing Families for Seeking Services to Meet Basic Needs

The Trump Administration, it seems, wants to deter working immigrants from accessing—even for a short period of time—Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare Part D prescription drug support, or housing assistance. According to Elena Rivera, Children’s Institute’s Senior Health Policy & Program Advisor, “The new public charge rule will punish immigrants for seeking services to meet their family’s most basic needs of food, health care, and housing. Even worse, this rule is yet another tool being used to create an epidemic of fear and isolation across our communities, causing lasting harm to mental health and community well-being.”

This is not, as the administration claims, simple enforcement of a long-standing law. It is another weapon in a war on immigrant communities that will have a disastrous impact on those—including millions of children—who rely on these benefits.

If you or someone you know is currently applying for a green card, or will be in the future, learn more about your rights and how this rule change might affect you from Protecting Immigrant Families. The new rule is set to take effect on October 15, though legal challenges could delay this. Under current interpretations of the rule, green card applications that have already been submitted will not be subject to these rules, the use of non-cash benefits prior to October 15 will not impact future green card applications, and programs used by your U.S. Citizen children will not be used against you.

Our Response to Proposed Changes to How We Calculate Poverty

Our Response to Proposed Changes to How We Calculate Poverty

Dana Hepper is Children’s Institute’s director of policy and advocacy. Below is her public comment on behalf of CI in response to the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to how we calculate the federal poverty threshold.

The Children’s Institute is writing in opposition to the proposed changes to the way the Office of Management and Budget calculates the Official Poverty Measure (OPM). The Office of Management and Budget should continue to use the Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U) as their inflation measure.

We are concerned that proposed changes would reduce the OPM over time. This would have an impact on millions of Americans who participate in publicly funded programs to make ends meet and improve the well-being of their families. Critical programs that support the healthy development of children include eligibility criteria related to the OPM. These programs include Head Start and Early Head Start, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Free and Reduced-Price School Meals, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance for Women, Infants, and Children, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If the inflation index for OPM changes to a number that rises more slowly than the current inflation factor, over time fewer and fewer families would have access to support families need to thrive.

Our experience is more families would benefit from access to publicly funded support, beyond those who are currently eligible under the existing OPM. The Office of Management and Budget should therefore consider changes to the way you calculate the OPM to increase the OPM and the number of families considered to be living in poverty. The cost of housing and child care has risen much faster than wages since the OPM measurement was created. A more accurate measure of poverty would factor in real costs for housing and child care.

Oregon has passed legislation this year to expand access to Free and Reduced-Price School Meals and with Women, Infants, and Children program. We are also increasing our investment in Head Start and Early Head Start. We have committed to expanding Medicaid to more children. And we are seeing the results of these investments for children and families, with more children receiving preventive well-child visits, more children enrolled in proven early childhood programs, and a plan to reduce child hunger. The federal government should be similarly exploring how to reach more families who need this support.