Early Learning & Development in
Rhode Island

Investments in early childhood have proven long-term benefits for children, their families, and society. Effective early childhood programs and family support initiatives provide a solid foundation for development and learning, help to prevent and reduce achievement gaps, and impact the likelihood of success for children throughout their life.

Early Leaning IllustrationEvery family with young children needs support in order to thrive. Without effective early intervention and support, children from low-income families are 18 months behind their higher income peers at age four. Expanding access to high-quality early learning and development programs, particularly for children from poor and low-income families, helps to level the playing field at school entry and produce long-term positive outcomes for children and society.

Our Publications

Early Learning & Development indicators from 2017 Factbook

Issue Briefs

  • Maternal Depression in Rhode Island: Two Generations at Risk, January 2018 - this report includes information on risk factors for maternal depression, effects of maternal depression on child development, and the importance of screening and treatment. The Issue Brief also includes recommendations on how to best support maternal mental health, healthy transitions into motherhood, and children’s healthy development.
  • Investing in the Future: Financing Early Education & Care in Rhode Island, September 2016
    The first five years in a child’s life are crucial to their success in school. Children begin learning at birth and brain development proceeds rapidly in early childhood. Disparities in learning based on access to enriched experiences and environments begin to appear in the first years of life and, without intervention, grow over time.
  • Young Children in the Child Welfare System, December 2015
    In Rhode Island and in the U.S., young children under age 6 are more likely to experience maltreatment (neglect or abuse) than older children. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships in the first years of life are fundamental for healthy brain development. Child maltreatment disrupts the development of the brain and biological systems, resulting in short-term harm and long-term negative outcomes.

    Young Children in the Child Welfare System provides an overview of data on child maltreatment, how the child welfare system responds to abuse and neglect, the role of kinship and non-kinship foster homes, and includes recommendations for keeping children safe and meeting their developmental needs.
  • Infants, Toddler, and their Families in Rhode Island, June 2015
    This report includes information and data on issues affecting Rhode Island infants, toddlers, and their families, including: economic security, parental education, family home visiting programs, quality early childhood education, healthy births, developmental screenings and other health issues, and paid family leave.
  • Young Children with Developmental Delays & Disabilities, November 2013
    This report outlines the benefits young children receive from early developmental screenings and high-quality intervention and education programs, and key issues related to young children with disabilities. The report also outlines Rhode Island’s developmental screening, referral, intervention, and education system for young children with developmental delays and disabilities.
  • Improving Access to High-Quality Early Learning Programs in Rhode Island, April 2013
    This report discusses access to and the quality of Rhode Island’s early learning programs, including Early Head Start and Head Start, child care subsidies, State Pre-K, early childhood special education, and full-day kindergarten.

The Early Learning Fact Sheet Series

Special Publications

Early Childhood/Early Learning E-News

Related Rhode Island KIDS COUNT TV Shows

Special Initiatives

  • The Rhode Island Early Learning Council provides ongoing leadership for Rhode Island's Race to the Top - Early Learning Challenge initiative, and advises on the development of sustainable, high-quality systems of early childhood education and care in Rhode Island. The Council was appointed by the Governor and is co-chaired by Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and Ken Wagner, Commissioner of the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Related Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Resources

Additional Resources

Rhode Island

  • Child Care Assistance Program
    Children, age birth through 12, of low-income working parents are eligible for financial assistance to pay for child care. The current income limit to enroll in the Child Care Assistance Program is 180% of the federal poverty guidelines. Families who qualify are issued a certificate that they can use to enroll their child at participating child care programs (centers and family child care homes). Families with incomes above the poverty level are charged co-payments.
  • Early Intervention
    Infants and toddlers (under age three) who have developmental delays or disabilities are eligible to participate in the statewide Early Intervention program. The program is open to families of all incomes. Services are offered at home or in community-based settings. There are 11 agencies providing certified Early Intervention services.
  • Exceed is Rhode Island's cross departmental initiative to implement the work of the Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grant. The name conveys the commitment of all of those in our state’s early learning community who are working to help ensure that all of our young children have the opportunity to soar. Exceed is striving to reach key goals in the strategic plan of the Rhode Island Early Learning Council.
  • Family Visiting Program (The Rhode Island Department of Health)
    Family Visiting is provided to pregnant women and parents with kids up to age three. Family Visitors visit in the home, or anywhere else you like – and with all kinds of free family support services and resources.
  • Head Start & Early Head Start
    The Head Start program serves children statewide who are ages 3 and 4 and from very low-income families. The program is free but there are not enough spaces to serve everyone who is eligible. There are 7 agencies in the state that operate Head Start programs. The Early Head Start program serves children in certain communities from birth up to age 3 from very low-income families. The program is free but there are not enough spaces to serve everyone who is eligible. There are 6 agencies in the state that operate Early Head Start programs.
  • Preschool Special Education
    Every school district in Rhode Island serves children ages 3 to 5 (up to kindergarten entry) who have developmental delays and disabilities. The program is open to families of all incomes. Some school districts also enroll typically developing children in the preschool special education classrooms. The program is free to children who have delays or disabilities. Some districts charge tuition for families of typically developing children. For more information contact your local school district and ask for the Early Childhood coordinator or Special Education director.
  • Rhode Island's Early Learning and Development Standards
    The 2013 Rhode Island Early Learning and Development Standards are intended to provide guidance to families, teachers and administrators on what children should know and be able to do as they grow and develop from infancy through preschool age. They are intended to be inclusive of all children - English language learners, children with special health care needs, children with disabilities and children who are typically developing - recognizing that all children may meet the Early Learning and Development Standards.
  • State Pre-K Program
    The State Pre-K program serves children in certain communities who are age 4 by September 1. The program is free and is open to families of all incomes. Children are selected by lottery during the summer before the program starts. For more information please visit Early Childhood Education Programs and click on the Pre-K Programs tab.


  • The Alliance for Early Success is a catalyst for bringing state, national, and funding partners together to improve state policies for children, starting at birth and continuing through age eight.
  • The First Eight Years: Building a Foundation for Lifetime Success 
    This 2013 national KIDS COUNT policy report makes the case for an integrated and comprehensive solution to meet the developmental needs of all children through age 8. 
  • Annie E. Casey Foundation National Data Center – Education Indicators
    Rhode Island KIDS COUNT contributes data to the national KIDS COUNT Data Center, which is managed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The national KIDS COUNT Data Center connects you to over four million data points about the well-being of children and families in each state and across the country. You can easily access hundreds of indicators related to health, education, employment and income, child welfare, and many other topics. The Data Center is free and available to all.
  • The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading   
    The Campaign is a collaborative effort by foundations, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. The Campaign focuses on an important predictor of school success and high school graduation—grade-level reading by the end of third grade.
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy develops and advocates for federal, state and local policies to strengthen families and create pathways to education and work.
  • Child Care Aware is the nation's most respected hub of information for parents and child care providers. A program of Child Care Aware of America, Child Care Aware helps families learn more about the elements of quality child care and how to locate programs in their communities.
  • The First Five Years Fund works with policymakers, experts, business leaders and advocates to advance federal investment in quality early childhood education for disadvantaged children from birth to age five.
  • The National Institute for Early Education Research conducts and communicates research to support high-quality, effective early childhood education for all young children. Such education enhances their physical, cognitive, and social development, and subsequent success in school and later life.
  • The National Women's Law Center has worked for more than 40 years to expand, protect, and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls at every stage of their lives — from education to employment to retirement security to health care and everything in between.The Center's research, analysis, and advocacy take place when legislatures are enacting or amending laws, the executive branch and its agencies are writing regulations or otherwise enforcing laws and policies, and the courts are reviewing actions. The Center also conducts campaigns and public awareness efforts to educate and mobilize the public to press for policy changes to improve women's lives. 
  • ZERO TO THREE is a national, nonprofit organization that provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT works to improve the health, safety, education, economic security, and development of Rhode Island’s children.


Rhode Island KIDS COUNT
One Union Station
Providence, RI 02903


Email Us

Email Us

Sign Up for E-newsletter