ri children and families

The Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families Hosts Virtual Awards Presentation and Annual Meeting

Providence, RI- Today, the Rhode Island Coalition for Children and Families (RICCF) hosted a Virtual Awards Presentation in conjunction with its 7th Annual Meeting.   The Legislative Champion Awards went to legislators who spearheaded legislation to address key service issues for Rhode Island children, youth and families in foster care, in need of behavioral health services, and with disabilities,


“The pandemic revealed both the needs of and disproportionate barriers faced by the children, youth, and families that our membership serves,” notes Tanja Kubas-Meyer, Executive Director of RICCF. “We are honored to represent our members, who work every day in every Rhode Island community to help families access resources like housing and heating assistance, as well as providing services including special education, mental health and substance use treatment, healthcare, early intervention, childcare, family preservation, foster care, and adoption or support in transitioning to independence. ”


The first award was for the Foster Youth Academic Progress Act, given to Representative Julie A. Casimiro and Senator Louis P. DiPalma who sponsored this legislation. This new law requires superintendents create an annual report on the academic progress of foster care youth, tracking their progress and performance. If the superintendent determines that foster care youth are disproportionately failing to meet academic standards or are subject to school discipline at a rate more than the overall student population, they are required to create and include a plan to address those issues.


Lisa Guillette, Executive Director of Foster Forward and Co-Chair of the RICCF Education Committee presented the awards noting, “The passage of the foster youth academic progress act is a meaningful step in closing the deep gaps in educational achievement for children and youth in foster care. Our Coalition is grateful to these legislative champions for responding to the voices of the youth who are impacted and for leading the charge in passing this important legislation.”


The second award was for the two leaders on the Telemedicine Coverage Act, Senator Josh Miller and Representative Stephen Casey.  Now state law, this legislation expands the delivery of clinical healthcare services by means of real time, two-way communications and protected rates and Medicaid eligibility for telemedicine at-large.


“During the Pandemic and subsequent necessary lockdown, telemedicine was critical for maintaining the stability of hundreds of clients who were able to visit with their psychiatrists and other professionals who prescribe medication as well as receive ongoing therapy and case management services,” said Benedict F. Lessing, President/CEO of Community Care Alliance and Co-Chair of the RICCF Children’s Behavioral Health Committee during the award presentation. “Given the Coronavirus variants and community members who remain unvaccinated , telemedicine remains an essential behavioral health tool and means of reducing isolation for the people we serve.»


Lastly, the Preservation of Families with Disabled Parents Act was recognized along with the sponsors, Representative Terri-Denise Cortvriend and Senator Louis DiPalma. This law protects the best interests of children who have parents with disabilities by establishing procedural safeguards that require adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act. Specifically, it precludes the disability of a parent from serving as a basis for denial or restriction in matters involving a child’s welfare, foster care, family law, guardianship and adoption.


In presenting the award, Tanja Kubas-Meyer noted, “This law protects children and the rights of the parents to parent.  After much work by the sponsors and advocates with the Rhode Island Family Court and Department of Children, Youth, and Families, we are so pleased this legislation has successfully become law and to have the opportunity to recognize the sponsors.”


Additional awards were presented to five human service apprentices working in RICCF member organizations through a partnership with RI College, Building Futures/Apprenticeship RI, and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.  A Founder Award was presented to William Lyttle, President/CEO of the Key Program who has been instrumental in the establishment and organizational development of the Coalition and will be retiring in January.  The Annual Meeting welcomed the addition of new members to the board of directors and changes to the organizational bylaws as well as a review of the RICCF year’s highlights.