Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager at Child Care Services Association
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. 
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. 
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.  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. 
People of color
Non-native English speakers
“Complex” families  (for
example, those with multiple generations of a family, unrelated families living
together and blended or foster families.) 
In North Carolina, 950,000 residents live in a
hard-to-count community,  leaving 73,000 young children at risk
of being missed in the 2020 Census. 
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. 
Can You Do?
Help spread the word! Share this article by clicking on the social media icons below.
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. 
Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
Families with jobs and secure housing access child care
through our country’s Child Care Resource & Referral network, friends and
family and the internet. Without child
care, families experiencing homelessness struggle to secure housing. And yet, for
these families, accessing child care offers two important benefits—the chance
to be able to participate in job training, education, and other programs
essential to resolving their homelessness and the opportunity to have a safe
setting for children to grow!
Research has established a strong connection between a young child’s early experiences and the development of his or her brain structure. According to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, the early years of life when more than 1 million new neural connections form every second, can provide a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. We know that homelessness jeopardizes the health, early childhood development and educational well-being of infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. It also creates unique barriers to participating in early care and education. With nearly 50% of children living in federally-funded homeless shelters under the age of five, this is a problem for families, communities, states and the country.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014, signed into law on November 19, 2014, reauthorized the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Program. The reauthorized law made significant advancements by defining health and safety requirements for child care providers, outlining family-friendly eligibility policies, and ensuring parents and the general public have transparent information about available child care choices.
The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) published the
Final Rule to implement the Child Care and Development Fund program (CCDF) in
September 2016. The full regulations may be read here.
The McKinney-Vento Act’s education definition of homelessness to be used by child care (and Head Start and public education),
A grace period or flexibility to obtain immunizations and other documents needed so that children experiencing homelessness can be served more quickly,
Outreach to homeless families with children,
Training and technical assistance in identifying and serving homeless children and their families,
The coordination of services so that families with children can get the help that they need, and
Data reporting to know how many families (and children) experiencing homelessness are receiving child care assistance.
States submitted 2016-2018 CCDF Plans and excerpts from Section 3.2.2., Improving Access to High Quality Child Care for Homeless Families, within State Plans were shared here. The state plans for 2016-2018 indicated that while many states had policies in place to help families experiencing homelessness access child care assistance, the majority of states were not yet adequately addressing those families’ unique needs.
The Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) Plan serves as
the application for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funds by
providing a description of, and assurance about, state child care programs and related
services available to eligible families. The Office of Child Care reviews the
Plans for approval.
The CCDF Plan also presents an opportunity for states to demonstrate the activities and services they are providing to meet the needs of low-income children and families. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) makes Plans publicly available to many users including members of Congress, Congressional committees, State and local child care administrators, advocacy groups, researchers and the general public. For states looking for innovative ways to better meet the child care needs of families experiencing homelessness, the publication of the state plans serves as a clearinghouse of resources for states to replicate or customize to finetune their strategies to best support these families.
The 2019-2021 CCDF State Plans show that States have embraced the CCDF law and regulations with regard to serving families experiencing homelessness, making changes to policies and practice, including eligibility requirements, coordinating with partners, increasing access and providing professional development for those within the child care field to not only increase access to child care but also to ensure that families with children experiencing homelessness receive the support and services they need. These State Plans can be found here.
View other resources for early childhood homelessness here.
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care Services Association
During a child’s earliest years, brain development occurs that sets the architecture for all future learning (e.g., the wiring needed for healthy child development across social, emotional, physical, and cognitive areas). This is what makes high-quality child care for infants and toddlers so important.
At the same time, infant and toddler care is the hardest to find. The supply of infant and toddler care pales in comparison to the needs of working parents. A report by the Center for American Progress found that 44 percent of families in North Carolina live in a child care desert where the demand for child care by working families far exceeds the supply.
Even when families can find it, too many struggle with the cost, particularly for infants and toddlers. Throughout North Carolina, the average annual price of child care for an infant in a child care center is $9,254. The average annual price of child care for an infant in a family child care home is $7,412.
perspective, for a single mother earning minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) working
full-time, she would earn $15,080 per year. The cost of center-based infant
care would be 61.4 percent of her income. The cost of infant care in a family
child care home would be 49.2 percent of her income. If she earns twice the
minimumwage ($14.50 per hour), about $30,160 per year – the cost of
child care in a center would be 30.7 percent of her income. The cost of infant
care in a family child care home would be 24.6 percent of her income. If she earnsthree times the minimum wage ($21.75 per hour), her annual income would
be about $45,240 per year. Center-based infant care would cost 20.5 percent of
her income; infant care in a family child care home would cost 16.4 percent of
To help families with the cost of child care, the North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) offers qualifying families a subsidy. The state pays most of the cost and families have a 10 percent co-pay. Unfortunately, not all families who qualify can receive assistance and more than 30,000 eligible children throughout the state are on a waiting list for child care financial help. It is important to note that the waiting list is only a snapshot in time because some families don’t join the list when they hear about the length of it. So, the waiting list reflects only those who qualify for help and who also add their names to the waiting list in case more funding becomes available to support additional families.
For families with infants
and toddlers, the supply and cost are both struggles. It’s unrealistic to think
that families can access the licensed market if they have to pay a huge
percentage of their income to cover the cost. Why is that a concern to all
North Carolina taxpayers? There are several reasons.
Quality of child care and long-term taxpayer bills. When parents can’t afford the licensed market, if they must stay in the workforce to make ends meet, then they will try to make do with a variety of unlicensed care options. Given the brain development that is underway during a child’s earliest years, it is critical that a child be in a setting that promotes his or her healthy development. That’s one of the reasons for the rated child care license in North Carolina and one of the reasons the NC General Assembly restricted the receipt of child care subsidies to programs with at least a 3-star rating. Supporting healthy child development is important, particularly for infants and toddlers when the brain is developing the fastest. Taxpayers will pay more in the long-term when a child enters kindergarten without the skills to succeed through additional costs for remediation, for special education, and for those children who must repeat a grade (e.g., repeating a grade is not “free”).
Labor force participation. Without affordable child care, parents reduce their hours or opt-out of the workforce. Ninety-four percent of workers involuntarily working part-time due to child care problems are women. In North Carolina, 457,706 children under age 6 have working parents. If one-third to one-half of these children under 6 are infants and toddlers, that’s 151,043 to 228,853 children who may need some type of child care while their parents work.
Employers & Employees. Employers depend on working parents. And, working parents with young children depend on some type of child care.
As the General Assembly meets to
discuss budget priorities, child care assistance should be at the top of the
list. Given the extraordinary cost of child care for infants and toddlers, the
General Assembly may want to consider reviewing other models to support access
to high-quality infant and toddler care.
In June 2018, the District of Columbia City Council unanimously passed the Birth to Three for All DC Act. The legislation charts the path for a comprehensive system of supports for children’s healthy growth and development with a specific focus on services for families with infants and toddlers. The Act is broad — investing in home visiting and child developmental screening, however, with regard to child care for infants and toddlers, the Act expands child care subsidy eligibility for infants and toddlers to all families by 2027, caps the percentage of annual income a family would pay toward child care expenses at 10 percent of gross income by 2028, and phases in competitive compensation for early educators. The District is now in its second year of implementation with $16 million in funding for FY2020. City Council members say it’s a high priority to increase funding as part of the 2021 budget, and work on that front is underway.
There are certainly differences
in passing legislation that supports a city (even a large city like Washington,
D.C.) compared to a state. However, the concept is innovative. It recognizes
that the cost of infant and toddler care is so high that all families may
struggle with the cost. It recognizes that access to high-quality infant and
toddler care is important to a child’s healthy development. And, it recognizes
that a compensation strategy for the child care workforce is needed to support
It is time to rethink the state’s
approach to child care subsidy, and especially how families with infants and
toddlers are supported in accessing high-quality child care. In the new year,
let’s give thanks for what we have and think through policies that can best
support our children in the future.
By Marsha Basloe, President, Child Care
Working Parents Need Access to Quality Child Care – More Support Needed
for Child Care Workforce
Currently, throughout North Carolina, nearly half a million (457,706) children under age six live in a family where all parents in the household are working. Many of these children are in some type of child care setting every week so that their parents can obtain and retain jobs that sustain and grow our state’s economy.
A study by the Committee for Economic Development (CED) shows that child care as an industry has an economic impact in North Carolina of $3.15 billion annually ($1.47 billion in direct revenue and $1.67 billion in spillover in other industries throughout our counties and cities). Child care programs have an overall job impact throughout the state of 64,852, which includes 47,282 individuals who are employed within child care centers or who operate a home-based business plus another 17,570 in spillover jobs – created through the activity of those operating child care programs. The economic impact of child care matters because it helps drive local economies. When parents can access child care, they are more likely to enter the workforce and stay employed.
The Child Care
Workforce: Early Brain Builders
What we know is that child care is not only a work support for parents but also an early learning setting for young children. Research shows that a child’s earliest years are when the brain is developing the fastest – forming a foundation for all future social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. During this time, more than 1 million new neural connections are formed every second. This is important to understand because both parents and child care providers play an important role in supporting healthy child development – helping to shape the brain’s foundation for all future learning (e.g., school readiness and school success).
Because both genes and experiences impact a child’s brain development, the child care workforce plays a critical role in supporting early learning. In essence, they are brain builders – working with children to support a strong foundation on which later learning depends – just like the foundation for a house, all floors above the basement depend on the construction or sturdiness of the basement.
The Workforce that
Supports All Other Workforces
Despite the important role that child care educators play in supporting our next generation (as well as supporting the ability of parents to work), the current economic model for child care programs falls short of supporting child care workers in a way that recognizes their role in child development. How so? The operating budget for child care programs is based on parent fees and state subsidies paid for low-income children.
Because the current cost of child care in North Carolina is so high (e.g., $9,254 annually for center-based infant care), program directors try to keep costs down because they know parents can’t pay more. However, what this translates to is low wages for the child care field. In today’s economy, where the fast-food industry and retail sales pay higher hourly wages and often offer benefits, the competition for the workforce to enter the early childhood field is steep. In fact, the early childhood field is experiencing a workforce crisis.
In North Carolina, the median wage earned for child care teachers is about $10.97 per hour ($22,818 per year if full time) and assistant teachers earn $9.97 per hour. These wages represent a modest 0.7% increase in buying power despite much larger gains in education. The study also found that statewide, 39% of teachers and teacher assistants had needed at least one type of public assistance (e.g., TANF, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, etc.) in the past three years.
Child Care Services Association (CCSA) is conducting a county-level early childhood workforce study for the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) that will be completed in August 2020. Once completed, North Carolina will have additional information.
For context, many child care educators are supporting their own families. With these wages, they fall well short of the level that qualifies them for public food assistance benefits (e.g., a family of three with income under $27,000 per year qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP). It’s not hard to understand that workers in low wage jobs face stresses in making ends meet, in supporting their own families and in parking their stress outside the classroom door when working with young children.
In North Carolina, the
state funds two programs administered by CCSA to support the early childhood
Child Care WAGE$® Program, which provides education-based salary supplements to low paid teachers, directors and family child care educators working with children ages birth to five. The program is designed to increase retention, education and compensation. The Child Care WAGE$® Program is a funding collaboration between local Smart Start partnerships (55 partnerships) and the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). Salary supplements are earned – tied to the recipient’s level of education, with teachers and family child care providers awarded on a different scale than directors.
These strategies are invaluable to better support the child care workforce for the important work that they do. It raises salaries sometimes almost a dollar an hour. You can see the impact of these programs on our website. This is an investment in the workforce that supports all other workforces, AND also an investment that results in better outcomes for our children (e.g., brain-building that leads to school readiness). We hope these programs will grow in the years ahead to support our early childhood educators who care for our young children and families.
As we approach Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the work of our early educators. It is time for our communities to think about compensation for the early childhood workforce in a manner that reflects their contribution to our state’s prosperity.
Written by Kay Ducharme, Regional
CCR&R Senior Manager at CCSA
Becoming a Gigi
Guess what? I finally became a grandmother! Over the past three years, I have had the honor of becoming a grandmother (or Gigi, as my oldest granddaughter Mila calls me) to three little girls. I used to wonder why my friends never seemed to have time for me anymore after they had grandchildren. I actually found myself feeling sorry for some of them because they were always consumed with babysitting when I wanted to go do fun things on weekends. Now, I understand. “Mila adventures” occur on my weekends now, and I love every minute of them. I find myself doing things such as going to the kiddie splash pad, brushing billy goats, riding carousels, planting flowers, visiting playgrounds, shopping for shoes and other weekend girly things. We have gone through so many things, such as potty training, sleep issues, screen time limits, visits to petting farms and zoos, being gentle with animals, learning to walk dogs, etc.
Not Now, Gigi, I’m Busy Writing My Dissertation!
As a former preschool teacher many years ago, I was fascinated with language development. As I worked with young children, I tended to focus on language skills, and obviously do the same with my grandchildren. My oldest daughter is trying to finish her Ph.D. and is on the last leg of completing her dissertation. She called me the other day and told me Mila’s teacher had just called saying that Mila had been standing over a whiteboard. The teacher asked Mila why she was standing up to write. Mila’s reply was, “I am working on my dissertation.” I have heard Mila say that she was working on her dissertation many times and didn’t even think about it being different because this dissertation is something we talk about frequently in our family.
As a result of being a Gigi, I have a renewed appreciation
of what we do at Child Care Services Association (CCSA) for parents, young
children and early care and education professionals. I am keenly aware of child
care deserts for infants and toddlers, the cost of child care and the
navigation systems that parents use to unravel the mystery of child care for
their young children. I have visited and observed child care programs as a Gigi
and talked with teachers about their days and how things work in their
programs. I am amazed at how much they are accomplishing. I see new things that
Mila learns at her preschool every week and am in total awe of her development,
but most of all those language skills.
Mila really doesn’t know what a dissertation is, but she does
know that it involves writing. No one actually prompted Mila to say the word
but obviously has heard it numerous times at home, and it just comes naturally.
As I watch my younger grandchildren learning language
skills, I am reminded of what we need to do even with young infants. We respond
to their crying at first because we want to understand what they are trying to
tell us. This takes practice, but if you really pay attention, you will
understand. When they begin babbling, we imitate their sounds and help them
learn new ones.
Recently, I listened to my younger granddaughters as they
were learning to make sounds and navigate through the house by crawling or
walking around wobbling from side to side. One of them kept repeating the “B”
and “M” sounds that she had just learned, and her mother would imitate her
attempts. They had great games going back and forth, and truly there was a lot
of glee and bonding! Finally, she started saying “momma” by the end of the week,
and this week she has learned to follow directions and kiss her momma when
Young children, as we all know, do repeat what they hear and imitate what they see. Conversations with parents aid in language development and nurtures learning. Talk at home is a powerful tool in the development of language and communication skills. Talking with babies and young children in natural tones and modeling the words that we want them to adopt is extremely important. Instead of teaching Mila the word “dissertation,” we used the word many times while we were around her. It is meaningful to her. Hopefully one day, she will write a real “dissertation” as she explores her own world!
When around young children, it is important to relax and
talk to them. Children are listening and understand much more than we sometimes
give them credit for. Making them perform their new language skills can
sometimes make them clam up, so be careful that you are not asking for
Remember that play and language development go hand-in-hand. A great deal of language is developed through pretend play. Give them lots of opportunities to talk, sing and read books. Reading books with rhyming words and sounds, or singing songs are great ways to develop language skills.
Sometimes language skills emerge over a long period of time
and sometimes they emerge overnight. All children are different and develop at
their own pace. The conversations we have with children nurture their
development and learning. Our talk at home and in preschool settings is a
powerful tool in the development of young children.
5 Power Tools to Help Develop Your Skills in Expanding Language
Here are a few ideas for helping young children develop
Talk naturally in your authentic voice;
Tell stories, sing, read books, ask questions;
Sometimes just be silly with songs, books, and
When they point at a ball, expand on it and make
a sentence out of the word they used or object they pointed out; and
Add colors, prepositions or numbers of objects
in everyday language (i.e. “We are going to climb up 7 brown steps now”).
Numbers, prepositions, colors and words used will all become a natural part of
They are soaking it all in and learn so much from you. Your words are truly powerful! Model the language that you want them to use and you can create learning opportunities wherever you go or whatever you are doing with children. Enjoy them. They grow up too fast!
On August 11, 2019, every parent’s worst nightmare happened in Erie, Pennsylvania, as a fire in an overnight family child care home took the lives of five young children ranging in age from 9 months old to 8 years old. Harris Family Daycare was regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and operated out of a three-story home for nearly 20 years. The owner offered nontraditional (and overnight) hour care to meet the needs of working parents in her community.
When I saw the news day,
my heart was heavy and my thoughts were with the families and the family child
In the United States, one out of five adult workers has a nonstandard work schedule (working early morning hours, evening hours, or overnight compared to those who work more traditional day time jobs). Among low-income families, studies have found that half of parents work jobs during nontraditional hours (e.g., cleaning offices at night or working second shift retail or food service jobs). For families who need child care during nontraditional hours, the search for child care is extraordinarily difficult. Few child care centers offer care during nontraditional hours and about one-third of regulated family child care homes offer nontraditional hour care.
In the Erie case, the mother of four of the children who died was working as a nurse during an overnight shift. The father of three of the children was a fireman responding to a call at a different location. The fire occurred at 1:15 a.m. presumably while everyone was sleeping. Fire investigators found one smoke detector located in the attic and preliminary reports indicate the fire may have been caused through an extension cord malfunction.
For regulated child care (centers and homes), federal law requires an annual inspection for health, safety and fire standards. However, fire safety rules and inspection compliance procedures are set individually by each state. To operate a licensed family child care home in North Carolina,
A battery operated smoke detector or an
electronically operated (with a battery backup) smoke detector is required.
For homes operating overnight, a battery
operated smoke detector or an electronically operated (with a battery backup)
smoke detector is required in each room where children are sleeping.
An annual licensing inspection is required and a
local fire inspection is required if the county in which the home is located
How do the North
Carolina child care licensing requirements measure up against National Fire
Protection Association (NFPA) recommendations?
Unrelated to whether a home is used for child care purposes, NFPA requires that at a minimum, smoke alarms be installed in each sleeping room and on every level of the home. NFPA recommends that smoke alarms be tested once per month. For smoke alarms with non-replaceable 10-year batteries, the battery should be replaced immediately if the alarm chirps (indicating the battery is low). For smoke alarms with any other type of battery, batteries should be replaced once per year.
In the case of the Erie family child care home fire, there was confusion about whose job it was to check for smoke alarm compliance (e.g., the P.A. Department of Human Services during annual inspections or the local fire department). Pennsylvania state legislators are now drafting legislation to clarify roles and responsibilities and requirements. Perhaps it is time for us to review those regulations and make sure that lessons learned from Pennsylvania are used to inform safety practices here in North Carolina.
Fire safety generally is a large issue. North Carolina does need fire safety rules and effective monitoring in place for licensed child care. At the same time, the public generally needs to be aware of potential fire danger and NFPA smoke alarm recommendations. It is important that all centers and homes be equipped with working smoke detectors, that those smoke alarms are regularly tested and that batteries are replaced on an annual basis. At $5 – $20, many smoke alarms are an inexpensive investment.
for licensed family child care homes, it is critical to ensure that fire
protection policies are clear, and that the roles and responsibilities for
safety checks are clear as well. Parents work nontraditional hours. Child care
is needed, which may involve hours in which everyone in the household is
asleep. The tragedy in Erie, P.A. gives us a chance to review fire safety rules
for N.C. licensed family child care homes and centers. A child’s life depends
by Jennifer Gioia, CCSA Communications Manager
In October 2016, Michelle Roach received a
call on a Tuesday morning—she would be fostering Jordan, a 6-day-old baby. “I
wasn’t really prepared for actually searching for [child care],” Michelle said.
“I’m a solo parent, so it was a big adjustment to do that, and as soon as he
came into the home, we had a clock ticking. We had eight weeks at home with him
and then he needed to find somewhere to go during the day.”
Parents often need a place to start as they begin their child care search. This is where Child Care Services Association’s Child Care Referral Central comes in. Child Care Referral Central is a trusted resource for families looking for child care, helping them find care based on their needs and providing information and resources at their request.
“We are in a unique position to link families,
child care providers and the community together, so that parents can get all
their child care answers in one place,” said Christy Thalheimer, referral
manager at CCSA’s Child Care Referral Central.
“By going to Child Care Services Association,
it really did allow me to have one place where I could ask my questions,”
Michelle said. “I could get more information about both center-based [child
care] but also family-based [child care]. I was able to sit down with a counselor
and talk about what resources I had available to me, the subsidy through [the
Department of Social Services] and what was available in the community.”
CCSA’s referral counselors can walk a family
through all their child care options at each age of their children. From infant
care to after school care, CCSA’s Child Care Referral Central can provide the
tools families need to find the right child care for their children.
Often people see child care resource and
referral programs (CCR&Rs) as only available to families who are most at
risk due to poverty or special circumstances. While the Department of Social
Services (DSS) offers a Child Care Subsidy program that uses state and federal
funds to provide subsidized child care services to eligible families, finding
the right child care is an important piece of the work-life puzzle for every
family, no matter their income. Community members often ask if services are
only for those in financial need, but CCSA’s Child Care Referral Central is
available to every family in the nine-county area of Alamance, Caswell, Durham,
Franklin, Granville, Orange, Person, Vance and Wake counties.
Silvana Rodriguez was Michelle’s child care
counselor at Child Care Referral Central. She has been a counselor for more
than seven years.
“[Michelle] walked into the office…and then told me that she was a first time parent, she was going to receive an infant and she was nervous about the whole process,” Silvana said. “So, I answered all of her questions. She had several questions about the types of care, the differences between them, and then I did a [customized] search for her based on [her work and home addresses]…We talked about national accreditation and what
to look for, and then after that, we made a package for her with all the
different information that may be useful for her.”
“One of the things, it was so small but it helped me so much, was that all of that information was placed in one packet and handed to me,” Michelle said. “In the chaos of my life of having a newborn and figuring everything out, having this one place I could go back to with all the phone numbers and all the information about ratings and other really helpful things in one spot made something that could have been really overwhelming more manageable. I was able to periodically when I had the time, make phone calls, set up tours and narrow down where he ended up going between two really high-quality centers. I picked one that was closer to my work, and I was really happy with the results from that.”
Silvana loves helping families like
“That’s the thing that drives all us counselors because you can see the results when you follow up with them, and especially when they find a great quality place, and just going through their options and helping them navigate everything in terms of finding child care,” Silvana said.
“[CCSA’s Child Care Referral Central] made the
already challenging process of being a solo parent and figuring out the process
of DSS and foster care, and also just the challenge that every parent faces
when they have to go back to work, which is that you’re leaving your tiny human
being with other people, to really make that easier and to make me feel better
about that process and more comfortable with him being there and knowing that
he would be cared for in a reputable space,” Michelle said. “I didn’t have the
pressure of having to Google or guess. I had all that information in one spot,
and for me, that really made all the difference.”
Jordan turns three at the end of next month.
He’s is “graduating” from Early Head Start and will transition over to another
classroom in the same center mid-August. Michelle has thought about reaching
out to CCSA again to speak with a counselor about more child care options. “I’m
hoping to participate in the Universal Pre-K program next August,” Michelle
You can hear more about Michelle’s story by
watching the video below.
by Jennifer Gioia, CCSA Communications Manager, and Colleen Burns, CCSA Summer
2019 Communications Intern, UNC-Chapel Hill
Lynette Mitchell has been the director and owner of Harvest Learning Center in Chapel Hill, NC for 15 years. She is in her first year as a Shape NC site. In the video above, Lynette talks about how she’s involved the parents of her center with Shape NC.
Shape NC is a program implemented by CCSA in
partnership with Smart Start that aims to increase the number of children
starting kindergarten at a healthy weight. The program promotes healthy eating
and active play for children from birth-5 years old by working with child care
programs to instill healthy behaviors early on, creating a solid foundation for
a healthy life.
CCSA’s Communications Manager, Jennifer Gioia,
sat down with Lynette to find out how her experience has been with Shape NC
Jennifer: How did your center hear about Shape NC?
Lynette: Swanda [Shape NC
Technical Assistant] called me into the office one day and said, ‘Listen, we
have a great program that we think your center might enjoy and qualify for.’
Once she described how it worked, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, most definitely
sign us up. We want to be a part of that.’ We feel like we can grow and become
a better center through this program.
Jennifer: So, it was personal face-to-face outreach?
Lynette: Definitely. I didn’t
know about the other sites. Now that I’ve been in the program, I look for them.
I actually was Googling the other day and saw there were several Shape NC
programs across the state that have been highlighted in their local newspapers.
At first, I thought Shape NC was great just on the criteria alone, but now I
see it’s truly a significant program and the community recognizes it statewide
for what it provides.
Jennifer: What resources has Shape NC provided your
center so far?
Lynette: Oh, so much. First
of all, just the educational workshops alone have been invigorating and
exciting. I’ve even taken my staff to a couple of the workshops, and that’s
just been invaluable. You know you can give someone a fish to eat for a day,
but you teach them how to fish and it’s for life. By giving us that knowledge,
we can go on and do a lot of things beyond that. Then you start getting into
the balls and hoops and recipes that they send out. I’m in the first year, but
I’ve already gotten so much.
haven’t even gotten to the playground yet. My husband and I went to NC State
where we sat down directly with the experts to design the playground. They’re
at our disposal, and have come up with things I would only dream about. You
think you could open up Home and Garden magazine and see these designs in
there. Like we can do that here? That was just mind blowing. Then Shape NC put
us on a bus to Asheboro where we saw a center that’s doing exactly what I am at
Jennifer: Why did your center want to become a Shape NC
Lynette: Let’s just put it
out there, it’s expensive, and I’m a small business owner. So, when Shape NC
told me if I’m willing to make these positive changes in my center, they’ll
contribute significantly to enhancing my playground space, it was just very
attractive. We have a beautiful natural environment at our center with big
trees and shade. When I saw some of the designs that NC State could do for us
with Shape NC, it fit perfectly into our philosophy and topography. It was a
…It was about creating beautiful, relaxing
spaces that not only enhance you physically, but mentally and spiritually. And
we’re a Christian-based center, so when I saw some of the spaces where people
can go and be quiet and calm down, but also other places to go and run around,
it’s about all of that when you go outside.
Jennifer: What is the importance of kids consistently getting that nutritional value from child care centers?
Lynette: Most of my clientele
is middle to upper-middle [income], and a lot of times you think food programs
are only for the less fortunate. But I will tell you that these families, who
are working moms and dads running here and there, have the resources but just
not the time to provide the types of meals that they would like to. What we
want to do here is give parents peace of mind that their child’s breakfast,
lunch and snack are very nutritious. They may do fast food for dinner, but
that’s okay because they had salmon, wild rice, broccoli and quinoa at school
today. I think that’s significant because we’re providing them food for the
greater portion of the day.
Jennifer: What impact have you seen Shape NC have on
your teachers, the children and on the children’s parents?
Lynette: I just can’t say
enough. I mean I feel so fortunate. Not many centers get picked each year. Just
the commitment of this entire team, Swanda and her group cannot be more
helpful. Another great thing is the networking. I love being in contact with
other sites that have already done it. They have been so helpful and so
inspiring. I mean, I forgot which center we went to, but the director kept
asking, ‘Is there anything else we can tell you?’ My phone is full of photos,
and then one site, I went beyond asking about the playground because I liked
the classroom, too.
I love the way the Asheboro center wanted to
help. She just kept it real director to director, because when you put all these
beautiful things on the playground, you need to know how to maintain them. She
told me, ‘I can tell when I get a new teacher who does not understand how we
play. She’ll be the first one to toss something over a fence and say the
children didn’t know how to play with it.’ She told me you have to continue the
education of the staff, so the children know how to enjoy the space.
You can plant all these wonderful herbs, and
children will romp through them and rip them apart, not understanding that this
is part of the environment and you care for it. This is how we work and play in
it for it to be a beautiful place for us. So, I was really glad for that good
note of how to maintain from another director.
As the President of
Child Care Services Association, a mother and a grandmother, I have been
following the advancement of HB 485, the Virtual Early Learning Pilot program, under
consideration by the North Carolina State Legislature. The 3-year pilot would
allow up to 10 school districts to offer online pre-k to at-risk, 4 year-old
children, at a cost of $500,000 per year for the next three years.
I know that every year,
state legislators are forced to make difficult decisions in allocating state
funding. I can imagine that there is great pressure with these decisions and
that legislators look for ways to save money, while still achieving intended
outcomes. With regard to state pre-k funding and the goal to have all children
throughout North Carolina enter school with the skills to succeed, it is
important for legislators to understand how young children learn and what
school readiness really means.
Decades of research show that the greatest gains made by children in pre-k occur where teacher interactions with children promote critical thinking skills as well as concept knowledge through warm and responsive relationships. This isn’t by chance. It’s by design. It’s in-person. It’s individualized to meet each child where he or she is at to build on strengths and build up areas that are not as strong.
have shown the importance of “instructional, social, and emotional serve-and-return
interactions that occur daily between teachers and children, as well as among
classmates” that result in
developmental gains across early childhood domains (e.g., social and emotional,
language and literacy, critical thinking and physical development). These
interactions “motivate and deepen
learning, enable children to organize and focus their attention and other
capacities needed to learn, and promote peer cooperation and support,”
which comprise the foundation for school readiness. It’s about soft-skill
development as well as concept development related to letters and numbers.
In my career, I’ve had
the opportunity to visit pre-k classrooms and talk to pre-k teachers. Too many
of our at-risk 4 year-olds haven’t been read to; they don’t know that books
contain words and pictures that tell a story, that letters have sounds and that
stories have a sequence – a beginning, a middle and an end. Some have never
held a pencil or colored with crayons or written their name. Some haven’t held
a pair of scissors or developed the dexterity to use a pencil or have ever put
together a puzzle. You would think by age 4, children would know colors and
basic shapes, but some do not.
The same children might know how to watch a video
on a parent’s phone, but they can’t wait their turn or share, they can’t
transition between activities and they don’t know how to use their words to
express their thoughts or feelings in a group setting – to lead, follow or just
get along with peers. They may or may not have consistent rules at home so they
don’t know how to manage themselves appropriately and follow rules in a
classroom. These are soft-skills that are learned in a hands-on experience that
can’t be learned through a computer lesson.
programs also screen children for vision, hearing, speech and physical
development and help identify children who could benefit from early
intervention services in areas where there may be a delay. None of this can
occur through an online preschool experience – at least not in an effective
The NC Pre-K program
works. Studies have found that NC Pre-K raises children’s literacy, math and
social-emotional skills not just for kindergarten entry
but also throughout elementary school and the most recent research shows gains
through middle school.
teachers are asked what school readiness means and what skills are most
important for school readiness, their top responses include: children who can
regulate their impulses, pay attention, listen to and follow directions, be
willing to try different tasks (e.g., have self-confidence), engage in self-care,
get along with peers and have motor skills such as the ability to hold a
Despite the strong
evaluations of NC Pre-K, current funding supports fewer than half of eligible
children. To me, the answer should be to adequately fund NC Pre-K so that 4
year-old children can attend, not divert resources to an online preschool that
misses the mark on what matters most for early childhood development –
effective interactions with children. Not screen time.
There is still time to course correct on state budget issues. We don’t need a 3-year pilot that diverts $1.5 million from additional pre-k seats for children. Let’s put every dollar possible into expanding what works. And, for 4-year old children, that’s a setting that promotes interactions with teachers and peers.
 The Current State of Scientific Knowledge on Pre-Kindergarten Effects, Deborah A. Phillips of Georgetown University, Mark W. Lipsey of Vanderbilt University, Kenneth A. Dodge of Duke University, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, Daphna Bassok of the University of Virginia, Margaret R. Burchinal of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Greg J. Duncan of the University of California-Irvine, Mark Dynarski of the Brookings Institution, Katherine A. Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Christina Weiland of the University of Michigan. (2017). https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/duke_prekstudy_final_4-4-17_hires.pdf
Millions of Americans live with mental illness. With May just passing as National Mental Health Awareness Month, it is important to recognize that prevention and early intervention are the solutions to a healthier, happier life. 1The National Alliance on Mental Illness records 1 in 5 (46.6 million) U.S. adults experience mental illness at least once in their lifetime, and “half of all lifetime mental health conditions begin by age 14 and 75% by age 25, but early intervention programs can help.” 2
One dependable way to intervene and prevent mental illness is recognizing it as early as possible, since even infants and young children can have mental and developmental disorders. 3 Healthy social and emotional development is the foundation for brain development in young children, and high-quality early care and education is a large piece of that development.
With this high-quality child care and education, infants and
toddlers, “who engage with responsive, consistent and nurturing caregivers, are
more likely to have strong emotional health throughout life.” 3
Supports such as T.E.A.C.H., WAGE$ and AWARD$ help child care teachers further
their education and receive additional compensation, allowing them to continue
teaching and caring for our youngest children.
While having happy, educated and stable teachers improves
the quality of care and education a child receives, child care can still be unaffordable
for parents, especially if they have more than one child in need of care. CCSA’s
free child care referral services simplify the child care search, helping parents
focus on what’s truly important for their specific child’s needs without worrying
about another expense. “Ensuring all families
have access to affordable, high-quality child care can help mitigate some of
the impacts of poverty and prepare children for success in school and beyond.” 4
However, even with affordable and positive early childhood
experiences and stable educators, mental health and developmental delays can be
seen as early as infancy. 3
“Children can show clear characteristics of
anxiety disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder,
depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and neurodevelopmental disabilities,
such as autism, at a very early age. That said, young children respond to
and process emotional experiences and traumatic events in ways that are very
different from adults and older children. Consequently, diagnosis in early
childhood can be much more difficult than it is in adults.” 5
It is important to identify and treat mental health
disorders as early as possible to reduce impairment, suffering and effects on
overall health and development. 3
However, it can be difficult to identify mental health illness in young
children, and parents may turn to their child’s doctors or teachers for
guidance. “If properly identified using diagnostic criteria relevant to infant
and early childhood development and experiences, many of these challenges can
be effectively treated.” 3
“It is clear that state agencies [also] must attend to the
mental health needs of infants and young children if they want to improve
health and developmental outcomes, prevent impairment due to early adversity,
provide trauma-informed care, and ultimately, see better returns on investment.
Adopting an age-appropriate diagnosis and treatment is a significant step
toward assuring better overall health for infants, young children, and their
and the teachers who educate and nurture our youngest.