NC receives $56 million from federal government for early childhood work

Posted 1/17/20

RALEIGH — The State of North Carolina was named the recipient last week of two grants totaling around $56 million dedicated to early childhood education.

The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human …

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NC receives $56 million from federal government for early childhood work

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RALEIGH — The State of North Carolina was named the recipient last week of two grants totaling around $56 million dedicated to early childhood education.

The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services won two competitive federal grants — a $40.2 million Preschool Development Grant from the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and up to $16 million from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Together, according to a press release from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, the grants mark “one of the state’s largest infusions of new dollars in North Carolina’s early childhood system.”

The Preschool Development Grant will focus on providing professional development and coaching to teachers as well as expand access to Family Connects, a program that brings nurses into homes for parents of newborns, and “high-quality child care for infants and toddlers,” according to the news release. The state received a $4.48 million PDG grant in 2018.

The Family Connects program would work in partnership with Smart Start, a statewide initiative designed to provide quality and affordable childcare, health care and family support to children aged 0-5. The Chatham County Partnership for Children is part of the Smart Start network. According to CCPFC’s website, 75 percent of parents of young children in Chatham County work full-time outside the home, and 30 percent of the county’s Smart Start funding allocation goes to subsidizing child care for families that need it.

Genevieve Megginson, executive director of the Chatham County Partnership for Children, which administers the Smart Start program in Chatham, said the announcement was “big news.”

“I am very pleased for N.C. children and families that we have received this new funding for our Early Childhood efforts,” she said. “I have been working closely with our service agency partners here to keep aware of the rising needs and make plans for the best ways to support our families with young children.”

How this money will impact Chatham is yet to be seen. Heather Strickland, the communications and development director for the North Carolina Partnership for Children, said the organization is planning to fund three pilot Family Connects programs.

“The grant funding will be awarded on a competitive basis this spring and prioritize rural communities,” Strickland said. “If funded, families giving birth in Chatham County would be offered one to three home visits once they leave the hospital to answer questions, assess infant and maternal health, and connect with desired resources in the community. 

“This is excellent news for North Carolina’s families. The Smart Start network serves as the early childhood infrastructure for our state and we are excited to have this new funding to expand so much of the work that we are doing in our communities to support our youngest children and their families.”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services grant will be used to implement the Integrated Care for Kids initiative, designed to “improve how children receive services by coordinating healthcare and other sectors that support children,” like schools and housing.

NCDHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen said in a press release that the grants will be helpful to meet the state’s goal of serving children.

“These two grants are a down-payment on our state’s Early Childhood Action Plan, and also give us opportunities to innovate for the health and well-being of older children,” Cohen said. “We know it will take all of us working efficiently together in new ways across health, childcare, K-12 education, and child safety, to set our children up for a bright future as North Carolinians.”

Reporter Zachary Horner can be reached at zhorner@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @ZachHornerCNR.

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