FIRST 1000 DAYS FLORIDA LEGISLATIVE NEWSLETTER – WEEK 5
Nutrition during pregnancy and in the first years of a child’s life provides the essential building blocks for brain development, healthy growth and a strong immune system. In fact, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that the foundations of a person’s lifelong health are largely set during this 1,000 day window. This is the most rapid period of brain growth and its period of highest plasticity is in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first three years of life.
Week 5 of the Legislative Session centered around the passing of the proposed 2018-2019 state budget by both chambers, setting the stage for the budget conference process to iron out the differences in the weeks to come. The Senate Bill, SB 2500 and, the House Bill, HB 5001 are only $100 million apart, but contain large differences in priorities between the chambers. Both budgets contain increases for the School Readiness and Voluntary Pre-K programs. However, only the Senate budget proposes an increase per child for the VPK program.
Several Early Learning bills of importance to The First 1000 Days moved forward during Week 5, while proposed budget cuts to the Healthy Start program are concerning.
2018 Legislative Priorities
It has been proven that much of what is needed to succeed in life is established before entering kindergarten. During the period age 0-3, the human brain undergoes rapid development. It is a period when a child builds cognitive skills which are the foundation for reading, math, science and academics as well as character skills, social-emotional growth, gross-motor skills and executive functioning, which includes everything from impulse control to problem solving. These foundational skills allow children to build on their learning and knowledge through school and into adulthood.
SB 1254 by Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) and its House companion HB 1091 by Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) strengthen accountability measures in the School Readiness program, as well as restore local flexibility in determining eligibility so that early learning coalitions can prioritize children at greatest risk of school failure within their communities.
SB 1254 was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on February 6th and now heads to Appropriations, its final committee of reference. HB 1091 was amended to include provisions related to the voluntary use of child assessments for School Readiness providers, and was reported favorably by the PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee on February 6th. The bill has moved to its final stop, the Education Committee.
SB 1532, by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and its House companion, HB 1175 by Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Eustis) authorizes an early learning coalition to terminate a contract with School Readiness program providers for a Class I Health and Safety Violation. SB 1532 was reported favorably by its second committee of reference, the Appropriations Subcommittee on PreK-12 Education, on February 8th. HB 1175 is awaiting action on the House floor.
Maternal Depression and Infant Mental Health
There is a need to build capacity in Florida to identify and address parental depression, as well as provide mental health services to families with young children who have been impacted by trauma and other adverse experiences. Depression, particularly in mothers, has a direct and measureable impact on the health and wellbeing of women and their families, and, if untreated, contributes to long-term health, education and societal costs.
More than half of mothers in the state report experiencing postpartum depression after childbirth. The prevalence of depression is higher among mothers who are younger or older, black, low-income, single, with Medicaid or an unintended pregnancy. Less than 10 percent of mothers who experienced postpartum depression sought professional help. Depression also affects 10-14 percent of fathers. Parental depression and family factors that contribute to it—intimate partner violence, trauma, stress, poor birth outcomes and infant mortality —compromise the nurturing relationships that are key to healthy child development.
Florida’s Healthy Start initiative is a nationally recognized program that reduces risks for poor maternal and child health outcomes by helping pregnant women find needed health care and social supports to have healthy babies. The program also helps new mothers, infants, and children up to age three with home visits, childbirth education/preparation, parenting education and support, nutrition counseling, smoking cessation, and breastfeeding education.
The Senate 2018-2019 budget cuts Healthy Start funding by $19 million, almost one-third of its entire budget. According to The Florida Association of Healthy Start Coalitions, Inc. and United Way of Florida, this will result in the loss of services statewide to 6,600 high-risk pregnant women and infants in the Healthy Start home visiting/face to face services program and jeopardizes implementation of the new Healthy Start System of Care intended to ensure more collaboration and less duplication of services.
Sources: United Way’s Legislative Link, and The Florida Children’s Council’s Capitol Connection.
Federal Advocacy Priorities
The First 1000 Days Florida Coalition urges Congress to take immediate action to reauthorize the MIECHV program that is continuing with short term funding. An opportunity to reauthorize the MIECHV program will occur in the next couple of weeks when Congress once again has to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open.
HM (House Memorial) 817 by Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) is a memorial to the Congress of the United States imploring the renewal of the Title IV-E Waivers for child welfare services. Florida is one of 26 states that have approved agreements with the federal government for the administration of child welfare services.
Florida’s variance permits it to use funds for services beyond out-of-home care this removes the financial incentive to remove a child when it may not be the appropriate action. HM 817 was adopted by the full chamber on January 31st and was sent to the Senate. The bill was heard in the Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee on February 12.
2018 Bipartisan Budget Act: Good News for Children
Last week, both the House and Senate passed another Continuing Resolution that included a government spending deal with a $5.8 billion increase for Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) over two years. This is the largest increase in federal child care funding in history. Thanks to all advocates who took part in the effort to increase funding for this federal program that provides funding for Florida’s School Readiness Program.
The 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act, signed on Friday by President Donald Trump, includes good news for children and vulnerable families! Among key provisions, it reauthorizes and funds the Maternal, Infant & Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program for five years and extends the state Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) for an additional four years providing a decade of stability for uninsured children.
The budget bill, passed in Congress with bipartisan support, also includes a significant boost in funding for the CCDBG program, effectively doubling the program’s discretionary funding and enabling important improvements to child care quality standards. Community Health Centers, a critical source of health care for low-income pregnant women and uninsured families, are also reauthorized and provided with increased funding in the bill.
In addition to these provisions, the expansive budget provides resources for disaster recovery, infrastructure, and the opioid epidemic, extends numerous health and tax provisions, and raises the debt limit.
2018 First 1000 Days Florida Summit September 26-28 in Palm Beach
Mark your calendar and plan to be a part of Florida’s premiere multi-disciplinary, cross-sector summit focusing on child health and well-being, prevention of abuse and neglect, trauma-informed care, early child development and school readiness during the critical first 1000 days of life.
The 2018 First 1000 Days Florida Summit will be held September 26-28 at the Palm Beach Convention Center.
The 2018 summit includes six plenary sessions featuring national experts and thought-leaders, and over 40 educational and skill-building workshops for professionals and programs serving families with children age 0-3.
Conference registration will open in February, 2018. Marquee sponsors for the 2018 event are the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County and the Florida Maternal, Infant & Early Childhood Home Visiting Initiative.
The 2018 summit will also include a Poster Showcase highlighting innovative front-line programs and practices from the field. Watch for the Call for Abstracts in February.
Learn more about sponsorship and vendor opportunities here
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