In 2016 ChildSavers is advocating on several children’s issues involving early child care and mental health services for children. Advocacy involves actively promoting a cause or strategy to solve a community problem. We embrace the opportunity to share our expertise. We will not be supporting a political party or any political candidate(s). Our ongoing advocacy involves speaking with community leaders, including representatives in Virginia.
ChildSavers’ Child Development Services Advocacy
There are many champions for early child care education. Many of these supporters have had different ideas. These ideas have led to federally and State funded programs. Experts in Virginia, like ChildSavers, have adopted a nationally recognized, program: Virginia Quality.
Virginia Quality is the new statewide “gold standard” for high quality early child care. There are five levels. Each requires more resources and training for the child care provider. We believe that these providers should be rewarded and recognized for the value their participation brings.
Quality early child care is essential to a child’s success in school and life. It is essential for building a healthy community and strong work force. Research shows that children who are not school-ready cost tax payers. Millions of dollars goes towards bringing children who fall behind up to speed. Even then, many of those children grow up and have difficulties as adults. They have higher rates of crime, drop out, and long-term poverty. According to Voices for Virginia’s Children, children under six represent more than 600,000 future workers. Of those children, 200,000 are needy and below 200% of the poverty line. Forty-five percent (43,780 children) of 4-year olds who live at 185% of the poverty-line do not have access to public preschool in Virginia.
Starting our children out on the right track before they enter kindergarten is the right thing to do. This will help them be healthy, productive citizens who contribute to a strong economy. Research shows that for every dollar invested in early education there is a seven to ten dollar return on investment. This means that quality preschool education is a good community investment. That is why making Virginia Quality the standard throughout the state is important. It is also important that childcare centers be licensed through the state. This holds them to a basic standard of care.
The First Child Development Issue
Child care providers are not compelled to join Virginia Quality or be licensed. Licensing is voluntary if you care for fewer than five children. Children are five times more likely to die in unlicensed care than in licensed care. Virginia Quality and licensing needs to be made more attractive to child care providers. If more child care providers participate in both, more children will get quality early education. When children get higher quality early education, more are school-ready. School-ready children do better in school. When children do better in school, they become successful adults. These adults make for a stronger, healthier workforce.
ChildSavers Proposed Solution
The State needs to make Virginia Quality attractive to child care providers. The State can do this in two ways. One way is to link the licensing process for child care providers with participation in Virginia Quality. The second is through repayment for subsidy funds based on the provider’s Virginia Quality level. Subsidy funds for child care are monies given to families by the State who otherwise cannot afford child care. For example, a Level Five provider should be paid more money than a Level One provider. The Department of Social Services does something similar for subsidy payments now. There are two tiers of payment. One if you are unregulated and a higher reimbursement tier if you are a licensed program. Getting more money based on the level of Virginia Quality will encourage higher quality child care that continuously improves. This will also encourage child care provider to accept families that receive subsidy care. This will open spots for children who need quality care.
These solutions are long-term investment in our future workforce. These solutions ensure children are prepared for school. When school-ready children reach kindergarten their risk of drop-out, criminal behavior, and long-term poverty reduce.
The Second Child Development Issue
The early child care workforce needs development in all communities, especially disadvantaged ones. Early child care providers do not get paid enough. Many early child care workers are mothers. These mothers cannot make ends meet. These workers have low hourly pay with no benefits. They also cannot afford to educate themselves in early child care best practices. Without work related education, they can’t gain higher levels of skill or get higher wages. Those that do manage to get more education go to higher paying child care centers. These centers tend to serve wealthier suburbs. This means that many low-income neighborhoods lose quality child care workers to wealthier neighborhoods.
As mentioned, children who do not receive quality child care face more challenges later in life. This continues a cycle of poverty and crime in poorer neighborhoods. This cycle negatively affects disadvantaged communities, such as the East End of Richmond. Without quality early education, these communities do not have a chance to rise above and be successful.
Quality childcare starts with Virginia Quality. This means there is opportunity for children to be school-ready and have a brighter future. This also means that child care professionals get training and education. This training and education will lead to higher pay and a higher level of skill. We want to build a model system to help early child care providers in the East End. Building such systems in struggling neighborhoods helps early care programs maintain quality care. It helps children in struggling communities do better in school. These systems are an investment in our community’s future. Many businesses close because of lack of business skills. They can’t afford to pay their employees if they haven’t managed their budget and revenue. Developing the early child care workforce in the East End is a method to impact the economy of that community. These communities, including the East End, need early child care options for working families.
ChildSavers Proposed Solution
ChildSavers supports higher pay for early child care workers. We also propose that the cost for training and degree level education be offset. ChildSavers is launching an East End pilot project to provide workforce growth for early child care providers. This would involve training, mentoring, nutrition education, and business skills. Investing in projects such as this breaks the cycle of poverty and crime. This investment in our future will save the government millions of dollars. By putting money into this preventive service, we will have less need for public services. Less strain will be put on the justice systems. The Department of Juvenile Justice and other systems will not have to manage as many youth and young adults who never had a chance to develop the tools and skills they needed to succeed.
ChildSavers’ Mental Health Advocacy
Imagine you didn’t have access to a doctor when you needed help. Imagine you have broken your leg. Luckily, you have health insurance. Your health insurance only covers the services of one doctor. This doctor has a 60-day wait. The insurance company will not cover the cost of any other doctor. There are many other doctors you could go see but they are not selected or approved by your insurance company. The insurance company could select another doctor but does not or the process involves months of waiting. You cannot go to an unapproved doctor. You cannot afford to pay out of pocket for a doctor. Your only option is to wait. Imagine what happens to your broken leg when left untreated for two months or more.
This scenario is true for children’s mental health therapists. There is not enough access to children’s mental health therapists. There have been many a parent who can attest to this, as they frantically call around seeking help for their child. The cause of this challenge is that insurance companies will only reimburse for mental health services provided by certain therapists. These therapists are selected by the insurance companies. There are not enough therapists approved by insurance companies in Richmond to meet current needs. Many children have to wait or go without services.
Children with health insurance who need mental health services have to go to a professional covered under their health plan. Since there are not enough providers selected by insurance companies, children are put on a waiting list. They often have to wait two months. Longer wait times can turn their mental health issue into a crisis. Many of our community’s children in most need cannot afford to go to a private practice for mental health. Many of our clients can’t afford a therapist not covered by their insurance. Untreated mental health issues can be as serious and destabilizing as an untreated broken bone.
Some insurance carriers can take months to approve a new therapist. Even Tricare (military health insurance) may take over a year. Other insurance providers may never approve a therapist. Waiting to be approved by an insurance company also effects hiring. Therapists who want to work can’t get jobs and organizations like ChildSavers can’t hire them. The therapist and employer may have to wait months in limbo for the bureaucratic approval process.
ChildSavers Proposed Solution
ChildSavers proposes that insurance companies should allow for temporary approval of new therapists. These therapists will be master’s level clinical social workers and counselors who are licensed by the state board. This will allow for hiring therapists without months of waiting for approval. This will help wait times go from months to just weeks or days. This means that children would get mental health services quicker. ChildSavers also proposes that we be get approved as an agency as a whole. With this, a therapist would be approved by insurance companies by operating through us.
Targeted Case Management
The other mental health issue that we want to address is advocating for the expansion of Targeted Case Management (TCM). Currently, only Community Services Boards (CSBs), which are public entities, can provide this service. The CSBs are overloaded with cases and this makes services difficult to deliver to everyone that needs them. Often the TCM work for the month is one single phone call to the client. We propose that TCM be expanded to include private and nonprofit providers. If done properly, this service would support to individuals in prolonged crisis.
TCM provides much needed care coordination and case management to adults and children who experience extreme psychosocial stressors. If expanded, TCM connects clients to needed services. It would also make sure all participants are communicating and coordinating care and services.
Poor case management leads to a lack of wrap-around services. It also means no stability in mental health care. Research shows that this leads to greater difficulty. It can mean a loss of wages and high costs to many of the other governmental systems. Expanding TCM to included private and nonprofit providers would be of great benefit to both the client and the community as a whole.
ChildSavers Proposed Solution
ChildSavers proposes shifting some of the payments from the CSB’s to Community Providers. This would lead to long term savings because it will help families and reduce burden on all systems. ChildSavers proposes that CSB reimburse community mental health providers for the TCM work that they do with Medicaid recipients.
NEW! Virginia’s Action & Information Center is a website that will help you know and understand decisions being made at the local, state, and national level that will affect your family, your children, and your community. This site will provide you with information to allow you to become the advocate for your family with your elected officials.Visit the Action & Information Center.