This legislative session proved to be a special one for children and families experiencing the first 1000 days of life, particularly in the areas of early learning and prenatal care. Early learning priorities were funded, and the Legislature passed the most important early learning policy legislation in years (CS/CS/HB 1091), adding accountability requirements to increase the quality of state-funded childcare (“School Readiness”) programs. A bill addressing post-partum depression and promoting perinatal mental health (CS/CS/HB 937) was also passed.
In addition, the budget also includes full funding or an increase in many areas of early learning such as School Readiness, Help Me Grow, Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH), the Home Instruction Program for Pre-school Youngsters (HIPPY) and more. And the KidCare program which provides reduced/affordable health care to many of Florida’s children was fully funded.
Furthermore, thanks to the work of many child advocates, proposed cuts to the Healthy Start program which would have eliminated services to 6,600 high-risk pregnant women and infants statewide, as well as dismantle 25 years of local community interventions and services that helped to lower Florida’s infant mortality, were restored.
More on the bills of importance to The First 1000 Days:
CS/CS/HB 1091 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) defines early learning program quality and establishes accountability measures. The bill was voted on final passage in the Senate, enrolled on March 8 and signed into law by the Governor on March 30. The bill also restores local flexibility in determining eligibility so that early learning coalitions can prioritize children at greatest risk of school failure.
SB 1532, by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and its House companion, HB 1175 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) authorize an early learning coalition to terminate a contract with School Readiness program providers for a Class I Health and Safety Violation. The legislation was passed as part of the large Education omnibus bill HB 7055 which was signed into law by the Governor on March 11.
Maternal Depression and Infant Mental Health
SB 138 by Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation), Perinatal Mental Health and its companion, HB 937 by Rep. Jeanette Nunez (R-Miami) require that the Department of Health offer perinatal mental health care information through the Family Health toll-free hotline accessible to the general public and that birth centers include a mental health screening, as well as the provision of certain information on postpartum depression. HB 937 was substituted for CS/SB 138, passed on March 9, and signed into law by the Governor on March 23.
Positive developments also took place at the federal level as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visitation (MIECHV) programs were reauthorized for several more years (six and five respectively). In addition, the FY 2018 omnibus spending bill recently signed by the President includes the largest-ever single-year increase in federal funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). The bill increases CCDBG discretionary funding by $2.4 billion which will fully fund the 2014 child care reauthorization and included provisions to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care and make child care assistance a more stable support for families. This funding also allows states to expand access to child care assistance—reversing course from years of decline. Florida will now receive an additional $139,521,000 to serve an additional 8,906 children.
The First 1000 Days Coalition thanks all of members of the Florida Congressional Delegation, the Legislature and the child advocates who helped to make these priorities a reality for so many families this year.