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.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT is coordinating the RIght from the Start campaign to develop and advance policies benefiting infants, toddlers, and young children. Please see the RIght from the Start campaign agenda hereClick here to take action to contact your state legislators to urge support for legislative and budget priorities that help families with young children!

Our Publications

Early Learning & Development indicators from 2020 Factbook

Issue Briefs

  • Infants and Toddlers in the Child Welfare System in Rhode Island, February 2019 - The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are a time of great opportunity and great vulnerability. Experiences during the first three years are critical to healthy brain development and positive relationships with parents and caregivers and lay the foundation for social, emotional, cognitive, language, and physical development. Nationally and in Rhode Island, very young children are more likely to experience abuse and neglect than older children. In Rhode Island in 2018, nearly one in four victims of child abuse and neglect were infants and toddlers under age three (856 out of 3,505 victims).
  • Working Parents, Child Care, and Paid Family Leave in Rhode Island, June 2018 This Issue Brief includes data and research on low-income working families as well as provide a deeper analysis of three key policies – child care assistance, paid family leave, and earned sick leave – that promote family economic security and children’s development and school readiness. The Issue Brief also includes recommendations on how to improve these policies to best support low-income working parents and their young children in Rhode Island.
  • 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. 

The Early Learning Fact Sheet Series:

Each Early Learning Fact Sheet focuses on a specific area within the early learning continuum, and provides the latest available data, key facts, and recommendations for each topic. Please click below to learn more about:

Special Publications

  • Policy Brief: Early Intervention Financing, Staffing, and Access in Rhode Island
  • Fact Sheet from Think Babies and the National Partnership for Women and Families — Strengthening Paid Family Leave Will Help Rhode Island Families.
  • Rhode Island KIDS COUNT and the Rhode Island Association for the Education of Young Children collaborated on, Improving the Compensation of Effective Infant/Toddler Educators in Rhode Island, developed by a state task force that reviewed current data, researched national best practices, and developed a set of recommended strategies to improve the compensation of infant/toddler educators who work in child care, family home visiting, and Early Intervention programs. Please read the Final Task Force Summary here. The early childhood professionals who provide the day-to-day services for infants and toddlers are supporting the development of healthy brain architecture upon which all future learning and development is built. Yet wages for infant/toddler educators remain well below the wages of kindergarten teachers and below the levels needed to meet the basic needs of individuals and families.  The Task Force received support from ZERO TO THREE’s Think Babies Campaign and the Moving the Needle on Compensation initiative led by the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center.
  • Policy Brief: Focus on Integrated Early Care and Education Data

    Decades of research show that when children participate in high-quality programs designed to improve early learning and development, they do better in school and in life. In every state, there is a diverse array of programs designed to support the healthy development of young children. These include family home visiting, child care, Early Head Start/Head Start, State Pre-K, Early Intervention, and preschool special education. Programs vary in quality and intensity of services, training and qualifications of staff, and focus of services to improve individual child outcomes and/or family outcomes.

    Focus on Integrated Early Care and Education Data provides an overview of a demonstration project conducted by Rhode Island KIDS COUNT that sought to create an integrated data set from early care and education programs and to use this data set to better understand a population of children with high needs (young children who were maltreated in 2015) and their participation in high-quality early learning programs.


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. 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.
  • Family Home Visiting Program
    Family Home 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
    Early Head Start serves low-income infants and toddlers up to age three and their families. The program is available in some Rhode Island communities. There are not enough spaces to serve everyone who is eligible, so children and families are prioritized for enrollment based on risk factors. Head Start offers preschool to low-income children who are ages 3 and 4. The program is statewide and is free. There are not enough spaces to serve everyone who is eligible, so children and families are prioritized for enrollment based on risk factors.
  • 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.
  • RI Pre-K Program
    The RI 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. 


  • 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.
  • 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


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