Blog

By Allison Miller, VP of Compensation Initiatives at CCSA

When any teacher working with young children graduates with her/his Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, it is cause for celebration. But when three teachers at the same child care program accomplish this at the same time, it is even more special. Yvette Garner, Tiffany Grace Pointer and Priscilla Rowell from Excel Christian Academy (ECA) in Alamance County did just that. They didn’t let financial struggles or the impact of COVID-19 stop them from achieving their educational goals. Congratulations!

All three teachers learned about their passion for early childhood at different points in their lives. Tiffany, for example, started teaching when she was quite young. She remembers lining up her stuffed animals, who were her very first students. They all agree that being able to impact the lives of children, seeing them grow and learn, kept them motivated to continue their education and that having the support of their director was critical to their success.

Yvette shared, “My Director, Davina Woods, and the whole staff at ECA encouraged me to go back to school. They were my support team. When I first started working there, everyone was enrolled in school and taking classes whether they were online or face to face. So, I enrolled at Alamance Community College and started off with one class at a time, until I became more comfortable with it. Their support encouraged me to keep moving forward to success.”

Priscilla said, “Mrs. Woods didn’t stop with just hiring me, she also opened my eyes for me to believe in myself and move toward what I knew I should be doing. At 60 years old, I did it and I am very proud of myself. Who knows what the next move will be?”

They also acknowledge the key roles that the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program and the Child Care WAGE$® Program played in their educational journey.  According to Tiffany, she could not have obtained her degree without the scholarship assistance. “The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship has helped me by paying for my tuition and my books for school. Without them, I do not think I would have been able to get my degree,” said Tiffany.

Priscilla echoed that perspective, “There was a time when my rent was due and I needed to have work done on my car and had to make a choice of which one was more important. They both were and I didn’t know how I was going to make it work. That very day I received a check from T.E.A.C.H. All I can say was what a blessing T.E.A.C.H. was to me while I was in school and then because of me graduating, I was able to get a raise at my job. Thanks T.E.A.C.H!”

All three receive WAGE$ supplements and discuss the importance of this additional compensation. They use the supplements to meet basic needs, to catch up on bills, for car maintenance and to enhance their classrooms. Yvette also pointed out, “WAGE$ was the incentive to encourage me to keep moving forward in my degree, because each bonus I received made up for the hours missed at work.”

When COVID-19 really hit in North Carolina, many students had to make a quick transition from seated to online courses. Yvette was one of those.  She said, “I am excited to say with hard work and dedication, I was able to complete all of my classes and earned my degree.”

Priscilla completed her coursework in December, just prior to these changes. But COVID-19 took away her ability to celebrate like she had planned.  She shared, “If I had known Mrs. Corona was around the corner and was going to stop graduation, I would have celebrated in December. This lady was looking forward and was very proud to strut her stuff across the stage.”

CCSA’s WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. are also very proud of Yvette, Tiffany and Priscilla. We celebrate them and all the teachers who persevered through these challenging times to complete their coursework. We congratulate them on their success and thank them for the difference they make in the lives of the children and families they serve.

By Jennifer Gioia, CCSA Communications Manager

In mid-March, North Carolina launched emergency child care for essential workers with procedures for health and safety precautions. Child care centers and family child care homes stepped up to play a critical role for the state as it dealt with the COVID-19 crisis. Many signed up so the health care workforce and other essential personnel would have a safe and nurturing environment for their children while they went to work.

Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launched the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund as a collaborative effort with Smart Start and local partnerships to thank our child care programs and provide additional funds during this crucial time. We want to help programs provide the highest quality early learning experience for our state’s youngest children.

Approximately 1,000 child care programs applied for aid from the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund, (the only COVID-19 relief fund designated explicitly for child care programs statewide) during its first round of funding. But the need is still great. More than 3,000 child care programs were open and serving children of essential workers as of early May, and even more programs will open now that North Carolina has started Phase I of its plan to reopen.

“This crisis has amplified significant needs, and protecting families ― and the child care programs on which they depend ― has never been more urgent,” said Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Eastern Carolinas. The PNC Foundation contributed a $100,000 grant to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund. “Child care programs represent a critical resource for essential workers and their families, and this grant will help make these programs more accessible,” said Hansen.

Our Work is Not Yet Done

COVID-19 has left child care programs to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to children. During the shelter-in-place order, child care programs in North Carolina served approximately 25% of the number of children they would normally; this made it financially difficult for programs to continue operating without sustained income. For most child care programs, even small grants will help them safely care for children.

“This crisis has financially impacted child care programs and their ability to get the supplies they need to keep children safe,” stated Smart Start Interim President Donna White. “This relief fund is critical to helping programs that are open care for the children of front-line workers and helping ensure that all programs are able to reopen on the other side of this ― a thriving child care industry will be critical to North Carolina’s recovery.”

As North Carolina re-opens in stages and the nation slowly ramps up employment levels, the business of child care will face new challenges, also considering North Carolina K-12 schools are closed for the remainder of the school year. The state and federal guidelines for child care during the pandemic aren’t always easy in a child care setting. Young children don’t social distance, especially during traumatic times. Babies can’t cover their sneezes. And right now, most child care programs are working hard to deep clean frequently to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in their classrooms.

“We are so grateful to the PNC Foundation for its generosity,” said CCSA President Marsha Basloe. “The PNC Foundation’s philanthropic mission focuses on early childhood education and community and economic development ― causes that are foundational to the work of CCSA and the relief efforts we are providing.”

Support our child care heroes. It’s not too late. We will continue to provide support to our child care community. You can donate to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund today. Any amount, big or small, can directly help early childhood educators and workers across our state best care for our children.

By Tanya Slehria, Communications Intern, and Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager, CCSA

May 8, 2020, is National Child Care Provider Appreciation Day, a day to recognize child care providers, teachers, and other educators of young children everywhere. Join CCSA in giving thanks to those who dedicate themselves every day to educating and caring for our youngest children. Especially now during COVID-19, they deserve more than just our thanks.

Child care providers are essential workers. COVID-19 has left them to operate in extreme circumstances while providing safe and loving care to the children of other essential workers. Please consider giving to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund launched in partnership with Smart Start to help child care programs in North Carolina either continue operating during this pandemic or be able to reopen once it’s safe again.

With your help, child care providers like Mary Lewis can continue to do what they love—teaching.

Mary[1] says “just watching children learn” is what she loves most about teaching. “Being able to adapt lesson plans on their level and teach them the way they need to learn, not the way I want to teach. Finding what works best for them on the individual level.”

Mary has been the director of the Children’s Center of First Baptist in Cary, N.C. for four years and just recently completed her Bachelor’s degree in December. “I have applied to UNC-G for the master’s program. I’m hoping to go all the way. I’m hoping to get a doctorate,” Mary said.

For Mary, her background sparked her career in early childhood education. “I grew up as a foster child and I’ve always looked for a way to advocate for children,” she said. As a director, Mary says she can “connect with [students] on all levels instead of just a few in the classroom.”

Her transition to teaching future teachers began with her desire to “see some changes in the early childhood college curriculum so [teachers] can be more prepared when we step in and be ready to go.” She says a change in curriculum can help teach future teachers “how to handle behavior issues [and] different things I feel like maybe we’re missing out on now in the current college curriculum.”

Mary’s favorite part of being a director is in her connections. “I love that I can connect with all the children, and all the families and the staff. My determination is to treat them the way I would want to be treated. I’ve worked for some directors that didn’t really care, you know. I really want to make a difference in [the staff’s] lives as much as the lives of the children, and T.E.A.C.H. allows me to do that,” Mary said.

As a participant in the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship program since 2014, Mary said, “I would never have completed three degrees without T.E.A.C.H.”

Her advice to those beginning a journey in early childhood education is, “to not settle. Not to just go get the paper [degree], but to go and get every piece of information offered by the colleges so you can really build yourself up and know you can help change the lives of children.” 

The most rewarding part of Mary’s experience is how she “can look back at the end of the day and say that I’ve accomplished this, or together we’ve accomplished this. Together, we’ve made a change.”

CCSA is grateful for child care providers like Mary for not just caring for and educating our youngest children, but for truly being the backbone of our economy. COVID-19 has shown the rest of America this, and we hope that the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund will help child care programs continue to care and educate our youngest after the pandemic. Say thanks to your child care provider and donate to the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund today!


[1] This interview took place in January 2020.

by the Professional Development Initiatives Team at CCSA

As Child Care Services Association (CCSA) celebrates the Week of the Young Child, T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® North Carolina would like to recognize all early childhood programs that meet the needs of young children in our great state.  Early care and education teachers are essential to our communities, families and children, yet never has it been more evident than during the current world health crisis. While a number of careers have been classified as essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, early care and education teachers have been at the forefront of caring for one of the most vulnerable groups. 

As an early care and education teacher, you have made children feel safe during an uncertain time continuing to exhibit why you make a difference for young children. In 2012, The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® National Center at CCSA launched the “I Make A Difference” campaign, and today, through adversity, the early care and education community continues to demonstrate those 10 Ways I (You) Make A Difference. You have done so by:

  1. delivering high-quality early care and education to ensure all children are ready for school and life;
  2. helping all children to gain the early language and literacy skills to prepare them for reading;
  3. modeling respectful, nurturing relationships to help all children learn to work and play well with others;
  4. promoting cognitive development by posing questions and providing developmentally appropriate materials and activities that stimulate children’s interest in pondering ideas, posing theories, formulating thoughts, growing skills to support persistence and attentiveness to solving a problem and experimenting with materials;
  5. providing rich learning environments that promote children wanting to learn new things every day;
  6. supporting children’s understanding of key mathematical concepts;
  7. creating skill development opportunities that support children’s physical health and growth, including large and fine motor development and eye-hand coordination, healthy nutrition and children’s awareness of personal health and fitness;
  8. partnering with all families around their children’s development;
  9. allowing parents to work and supporting families’ contributions to our economy; and
  10. continuing your education to ensure you know the latest research and have the resources needed to be an effective teacher.

The world has witnessed your relentless commitment to the field as an essential worker, and as a result, has enhanced the public’s education of how essential early care and education professionals are to our community. Through this, may more advocates and champions rise up to fight for better compensation and recognition of the early childhood workforce and recognize the important role teachers have in ensuring children’s well-being.

By Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at CCSA

For Latisha Edwards, teaching is “being a creator. Learning through play is the best part, because not only are the children using their imagination, but I’m using my imagination as well, and that’s just always fun.”

Latisha works as an assistant teacher at First Presbyterian Day School in Durham, North Carolina, while also attending classes at Vance-Granville Community College for her associate’s degree in early childhood education. “After that, I plan on attending UNC-Chapel Hill for my bachelor’s degree,” she said.

“Honestly, it was not [always my plan to work in early childhood education,]” Latisha said. “My mom owned a child care center my entire life and I was off doing retail. Once I had my son, I started working part-time with the center and I just kind of grew to love it, and that was almost nine years ago.”

Latisha started her education in 2014 but then had her last child, “so I stopped and got out of it. I was still working in the field, but I left [my education] alone. So, in the fall of ’19, I re-enrolled…Hopefully, I will finish in December, but I’ll walk with the May class.”

First Presbyterian has a looping program for infant-toddlers and twos. “Right now, I’m with the two-year-old [classroom], but in June, when we do our transition, I will be transitioning back to the infants, and we start all the way over until we get to two and then we do it all again,” Latisha said.

The most rewarding part of teaching for Latisha “is knowing that you are actually building a child’s self-esteem because teaching is not always a-b-c’s, 1-2-3’s. It’s about building confidence in children and having them just grow up and be great adults…I love what I do, honestly.”

By Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at Child Care Services Association

April 1, 2020, is Census Day

The Census is your chance to make sure your community counts. Participating in the Census will help make sure your community over the next 10 years receives:

  • Fair representation in Congress;
  • Financial resources for health, schools, transportation and more; and
  • Help for information leaders to plan your community’s future. [1]
Source: NC Child

More than $5 billion of North Carolina’s federal funding for children’s services is at stake in the census, so it’s critical to get the count right. That’s about $1,600 for each person in federal funding for the state. [2]

However, in the 2010 Census, nearly 1 million children (4.6% of children under the age of 5) were not counted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In fact, children under age 5 are one of the largest groups of undercounted people in the United States. [3] If missed in the Census, young children in hard to count communities also stand to suffer the most from reductions in funding to vital programs. [4]

Who is Hard-to-Count?

  • Low-income households
  • People of color
  • Non-native English speakers
  • “Complex” families [4] (for example, those with multiple generations of a family, unrelated families living together and blended or foster families.) [3]
  • Immigrants
  • Children <6
  • Renters [2]
Source: N.C. Counts Coalition

In North Carolina, 950,000 residents live in a hard-to-count community, [2] leaving 73,000 young children at risk of being missed in the 2020 Census. [4]

Nearly 1 in 5 of America’s infants are growing up in poverty, putting them at a greater risk to fall behind their peers in language development, reading proficiency, and experience learning disabilities and developmental delays. It is critical to invest in programs such as Early Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant that ensure all children have the opportunity to thrive. [5]

What Can You Do?

  • Help spread the word! Share this article by clicking on the social media icons below.
  • Learn more about the 2020 Census and find more resources and shareable materials here.
  • Tell the people in your life who care for children 5 and under to count every child in the 2020 Census on April 1.

Because census results help determine where federal funds are distributed for programs that are important for children, an accurate count can shape a child’s future for the next decade and beyond. It’s important to count young children now so they have the resources they need as they grow up. It all begins with responding to the 2020 Census. [3]


[1] North Carolina Census. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

[2] NC Counts Coalition. 2020 Census. PowerPoint. 2019.

[3] United States Census Bureau. Children Under 5 Among Most Undercounted in Last Census. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

[4] NC Child. Census 2020: Will N.C. Children Get Their Fair Share of Federal Investments? PowerPoint. 2019.

[5] Think Babies. Census Poverty Data Support Toolkit. 2019.

Read the newest edition of CCSA Communicates here, where you can see all of our activity, successes and plans. Highlights from this edition include:

  • Letter from the President
  • Meal Services Wins 2019 Durham Bowl Competition
  • Registration is now open for the 2020 A.S.K. Conference!
  • T.E.A.C.H. Celebrates 30 Years & 25 Years of WAGE$
  • Important Change to Administrative Rule Regarding Testing for Lead Contamination
  • And much more!

Maria Milla

 “I had to work when I was 15 years old,” said WAGE$ participant Maria Milla. “My country, Honduras, is very difficult, very poor. I had to move to a bigger city and live with relatives to be able to study. I wanted to be a teacher, but that required day classes. I had to work during the day, so I studied something else, but my dream was always to be a teacher. When I played school as I child, I was always the teacher!” Maria’s dream came true when she moved to the United States. 

Maria answered an advertisement for a child care center substitute and started learning about children, but she quickly realized how much more she needed and wanted to know. She kept working, took English (ESL) classes and then began her early childhood coursework. Maria started on the Child Care WAGE$® Program with the NC Early Childhood Credential (four semester hours) and now has her Birth-Kindergarten Bachelor’s Degree. She has moved up the WAGE$ scale many times, earning higher awards, and has remained at her current 5-star program since 2005. She is now only two classes away from earning her Birth to Kindergarten license. 

Maria knows how much her education and consistency mean for the children and families she serves. 

“I feel like the more education we have, the better we can do,” she said. “We learn about development and how we can help children grow and learn.” 

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Program helped her pay for classes; she says she couldn’t have done it otherwise. She’s proud of earning her degree, and she says WAGE$ helped her attain that goal. 

“It helped with the financial component of taking classes. WAGE$ is a good motivator. I’m very thankful for all that WAGE$ and my partnership do with this incentive. I love my job and I’m happy, but I don’t make much money and this incentive helps a lot of us stay in our jobs. WAGE$ helps everybody. It helps children have the same teachers. Children feel safe, secure and happier. It helps parents feel more trust. They can leave their child with someone who has been there a long time rather than someone who comes and goes. It helps families because we don’t have to charge them more than they can pay. It helps the teachers a lot.” 

Maria joked that despite her years of education in the United States, her English continues to improve with the help of the children in her class. 

“I tell them to let me know if I say something wrong. They do! They correct me!” Laughing, Maria said, “Teaching is my passion. I want to stay in the classroom.” 

By Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at Child Care Services Association

Every year on November 20, since 1954, the world celebrates Universal Children’s Day to spread awareness of improving child welfare worldwide, promoting and celebrating children’s rights and promoting togetherness and awareness amongst all children. [1] With Thanksgiving so close, we would like you to join us in taking a moment and thanking those who work tirelessly every day to improve the lives of our youngest children.

Whether that’s a parent, an early childhood educator, a doctor, child care provider, government leader, grandparent, volunteer, nurse, religious leader, an advocate for children, or a friend, we at Child Care Services Association (CCSA) thank you for your dedication and leadership to ensuring the mission that every child deserves access to affordable, high-quality child care and education.

What is high-quality early childhood education?

High-quality early childhood education is critical to a child’s development by creating a stimulating, safe and loving environment for children birth to 5. [2] “A high-quality program uses teaching approaches that support a child’s learning and curriculum goals. Teachers modify strategies to respond to the needs of individual children, and provide learning opportunities through both indoor and outdoor play.” [2]

“Quality programs are comprehensive.” [3] High-quality child birth-to-five programs have lasting boosts in cognition and socio-emotional skills driving better education, health, social and economic outcomes. [3] Research shows that “high-quality birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children can deliver a 13% return on investment,” which means children are more likely to graduate high school, go to college, have a family and live a happier, more successful life. [3]

On Giving Tuesday (December 3), consider investing in our children—our future. At Child Care Services Association, we’re all about children. From helping children build healthy behaviors in what they eat and how they play to making sure their teachers are qualified, trained and adequately paid, CCSA focuses on a child’s early years, aiming to make them happy, stable and secure.

When all children have that start—a healthy foundation—we all do better.

Children are happier and more ready to enter school, parents are secure in knowing their child is being cared for and educated in a stable environment, and early childhood educators have the resources they need to continue their education and can support their families while pursuing the career they love.

At CCSA, we’re also all about making sure all children have that healthy foundation. To have that healthy foundation, all children need more stable relationships with better-educated and fairly compensated teachers that stay in their jobs.

In fact, research shows that early experiences are particularly important for the brain development of children of color and children from low-income families.

“The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through age five, in disadvantaged families. The best investment is in quality early childhood development from birth to five for disadvantaged children and their families.” [4]

At CCSA, we use research, services and advocacy to build a healthy foundation for every child because we believe all children deserve the best start at their best life.

How can you invest in high-quality early childhood education?

Give to CCSA today! Your gift may help support a parent who is starting a new job through our referral and scholarship programs or a child care teacher who wants to finish an early childhood education degree through our scholarship and compensation programs.

Our work results in enormous benefits for children, families and the community. Help us make sure every child has a good start to lifelong learning in a safe, nurturing, quality environment.

Donate today!


[1] https://www.awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar/universal-childrens-day-2019/

[2] https://www.collabforchildren.org/families/what-high-quality-child-care

[3] https://heckmanequation.org/www/assets/2017/04/F_Heckman_CBA_InfographicHandout_040417.pdf

[4] https://heckmanequation.org/resource/invest-in-early-childhood-development-reduce-deficits-strengthen-the-economy/