Monthly Archives: December 2009

2010 ONLINE National Smart Start Conference

The 2010 National Smart Start Conference Online
February 18, 2010
11 am to 6 pm (EST)

From Vision to Reality: Essential Elements of State Early Childhood Systems

The new federal administration has added fresh energy and initiative to the early childhood work that has been taking place in states. One example is the proposed Early Childhood Challenge Fund, and its focus on the essential elements within a state early childhood development system. The National Smart Start Conference Online will elaborate on this vision and present promising practices for implementing the essential elements.

Keynote Presentation: The Vision
Joan Lombardi Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Lombardi’s presentation will be followed by presentations on the key topics that our federal partners are “studying” as they gear up for helping states implement the challenge fund. These include:

  • Data
  • Quality measures
  • Family engagement
  • Professional development

Each presentation will feature a national expert and local and state leaders who have demonstrated promising practices in each of these areas. The conference will be moderated by nationally-recognized experts Jana Martella and Helene Stebbins.

We will close the day with Stephanie Fanjul, president of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. She will share reflections, recommendations and next steps.

Taking place completely over the Web, the National Smart Start Conference Online is wherever you are. To register, please visit:

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Why are Smart Investing forums so important?

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In their own words . . .

From the Smart Start Annual Report for FY 2008-2009:

“I’m working hard to support my family and am pursuing a career in the military. Thank you for every bit of time and money that has been given.” 

“Without this program, we would still be lost and our child would not be doing as well as he is.”

“We pray that e very county can have the same opportunities for their small children.”

These are just some of the thoughts shared throughout this report about the value of Smart Start. They get to the heart of our work, making sure all children have the experiences they need to thrive. And because today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, parents and workers, every North Carolinian has a stake in making sure Smart Start succeeds.

The earliest years of childhood are critical. Experiences during this time literally shape the structure of the brain. Smart Start was created to make sure all children— including those from low-income families, those with working parents, and those who stay at home with a parent—have what they need for healthy growth and development. We are the system that brings together all the people involved in a young child’s life—families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and many others—in every county in the state.

Smart Start’s role as convener and collaborator is evident throughout this report. The programs highlighted in the pages that follow are the result of communities coming together to best meet the needs of young children and their families. You will hear firsthand from parents about our family support work; from early childhood providers about partnering to improve the quality of child care; and from health care consultants and parents about our efforts to keep children healthy.

For every story you read, there are hundreds of others just like them. Of course, there also are hundreds of others that are in need. Unfortunately, ongoing cuts in Smart Start’s funding mean that local partnerships are forced to make hard decisions about which programs they will be able to continue to fund.

Moving forward, let us remember the words of North Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce Keith Crisco, “Early education is economic development. It is the best kind.”

Ashley O. Thrift, Board Chair
The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.

Stephanie Fanjul, President
The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.

Download the report.

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Preventing Childhood Obesity

Excerpted from Shaping a Healthier Generation: Successful State Strategies to Prevent Childhood Obesity, a new report by the National Governors Assocation:

Many states have pursued public-private partnerships to provide comprehensive early child care and education systems for children. Through these partnerships, states can leverage additional funding opportunities, enhance technical assistance, coordinate and align resources, and build public will for funding and policy initiatives in child care settings.

Smart Start, a public-private partnership initiative in child care, makes child care more affordable and accessible, provides access to health services, and offers family support. . .

To improve children’s nutrition and physical health, Smart Start launched the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care Program (NAP SACC), which offers competitive local community grants to (among other things) reduce childhood obesity. To date, the NAP SACC grant program has reached nearly 3,500 children between the ages of two and five years and 67 centers in nine counties across the state. 

In North Carolina, the percentage of children ages two to four who are overweight or at risk for becoming overweight has increased from 22% in 1995 to almost 32% in 2008. Early childhood programs can play an important role in combating the obesity epidemic. Approximately 37% of North Carolina’s children between the ages of two and five are enrolled in licensed child care centers, and they may consume between 50% and 100% of their Recommended Dietary Allowances while at the center.

The NAP SACC program partners with state-trained child care health consultants and works with early childhood programs to improve nutrition and physical activity practices and policies. Smart Start introduced NAP SACC in November, 2007 with the intention that participating centers would demonstrate improvement in nutritional and physical activity practices.

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NC a Leader, Yet Behind on Early Childhood Advisory Council

The Next Step in Systems-Building: Early Childhood Advisory Councils and Federal Efforts to Promote Policy Alignment in Early Childhood, a new report from the New America Foundation, offers a nationwide assessment of how states are progressing as they work to develop Early Childhood Advisory Councils. The report shows that states differ significantly in the way that they are approaching the 2007 mandate to establish councils, but are making important gains.

There is a chart that outlines the Status of States’ Advisory Councils as of November 2009. North Carolina is one of only 14 states (including the District of Columbia) that has not named or doesn’t plan to name a Council. Despite that, North Carolina is strongly referenced in the report.


“In several states, the ECAC will sit within a larger network of coordination efforts and councils. In 26 states, particularly those with systems modeled after North Carolina’s Smart Start initiative, there is a network of local councils that can advise and implement the work of the statewide council, though many of these networks are not necessarily linked to the ECAC in a formal way.”

“The Smart Start National Technical Assistance Center, which is part of the North Carolina Smart Start program, has provided technical assistance to nearly all states . . . ”

Background on Early Childhood Advisory Councils:

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Lt. Gov. Dalton Champions Early Childhood Education

Learn more about the initiative, Smart Investing : Communities Thrive When Children Thrive

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