An Act To Support Children's Healthy Development and School Readiness
Sec. 1. 22 MRSA c. 1065 is enacted to read:
FIRST 4 ME EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION PROGRAM
§ 3931. First 4 ME Early Care and Education Program
(1) At a child care center or family child care provider, for at least 48 weeks per year, 5 days per week excluding state holidays, 10 hours per day and with up to 10 days of staff training. A child care center or family child care provider shall provide a well-organized and managed learning environment, social and emotional support for children, intentional teaching practices and materials designed to stimulate a child's thinking, development and skills. Curricula must be developmentally appropriate, be research-based and implement best practices, including curriculum enhancements that have been adopted to meet the needs of specific populations and provide content-rich learning experiences to support the children's growth in key areas of development, including approaches to learning, language, literacy, cognitive development and physical development, and are based upon developmental progressions and how children learn; or
(2) Through home visiting services, for at least 48 weeks per year, once a week, 90 minutes per visit and with 2 group socialization activities per month that include children and the children's parents. Home visitation services must include interactions between the home visitor and a parent that are nurturing, responsive and intentional and that support the parent in the parent's role as the primary and most important teacher of the parent's child and assist the parent in using the parent's home and the community as the child's learning environment. Curricula must focus on the parent-child relationship and be culturally and linguistically responsive.
A participant may receive service delivery under subparagraph (1) or (2) or both;
(1) Communicating effectively with members of a family;
(2) Forming positive goal-focused relationships with members of a family;
(3) Involving a parent in decision making, teaching practices, including screening, assessment, planning for interactions and learning environments and implementing curricula;
(4) Ensuring consistency between a child's home and comprehensive, high-quality early child care and education; and
(5) Ensuring project practices are responsive to a family's needs;
(1) Who is receiving care in a facility licensed under section 8301-A; or
(2) Whose parent requests home visits;
(1) Involved or have been involved as a subject, victim or witness within the judicial system; or
(2) A refugee.
A project must ensure that at-risk children, including children with a diagnosed or suspected mental or physical disability, and the children's families within the community are provided an opportunity to participate in the project. Except as provided under subsection 6, a child who is accepted for the project remains eligible until the child attains 6 years of age or enters kindergarten. A parent's participation in any project activity is voluntary, including consent for data sharing under subsection 12, and is not required as a condition for a child's eligibility under this subsection.
A member of a community coalition must be located or operate within the community represented by the community coalition. A community coalition may include a local government staff member or agency that provides services to or local judicial staff who have engaged with an at-risk population.
(1) If the staff member performs a health care procedure or provides health care services, licensure or certification authorizing the member to perform the procedure or provide the service;
(2) If the staff member provides nutrition services, licensure, registration or certification as a dietitian or nutritionist; and
(3) If the staff member provides mental health services, licensure or certification as a mental health professional and experience in serving young children and families;
A staff member, including a community coach under subsection 11, may be an employee of the community contractor or another person who contracts with the community contractor to provide services under this subsection.
Sec. 2. Pilot projects. The Department of Health and Human Services shall request proposals for a pilot project to commence June 1, 2020 to carry out the purposes of the First 4 ME Early Care and Education Program established in the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 22, chapter 1065. The department shall select up to 10 pilot projects from proposals submitted under this section. On October 2, 2023, a pilot project selected under this section shall report to the department on the progress toward objectives, goals and outcomes of the project detailed in the project's proposal. On or before February 1, 2024, the department shall report to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over health and human services matters regarding the project reports received under this section along with any recommended legislation. The committee may report out legislation based upon the department's report to the Second Regular Session of the 131st Legislature.
This bill creates the First 4 ME Early Care and Education Program under the Department of Health and Human Services to provide comprehensive, high-quality early child care and education services for at-risk children under 6 years of age who have not entered kindergarten and the children's parents by funding projects that integrate comprehensive resources and services with traditional center-based and family child care settings. The projects are sponsored by coalitions of stakeholders, providers and other community members within the communities that the projects serve. Each project is led and coordinated by a community contractor who staffs the project's operations and contracts with community providers to provide health care, education or parenting services, which may include services provided in a licensed child care center or by a licensed family child care provider, in a home visit or by an individual providing services to a family member within the individual's or family member's residence. The community contractor employs or contracts with community coaches who train and provide support to community providers. This bill also directs the department to request proposals for up to 10 pilot projects to implement the program and to report to the Legislature on the progress of the pilot projects toward the objectives, goals and intended outcomes of the projects in 2024.