Monthly Archives: January 2010

North Carolina Child Care Assistants Help Family of Educators On Extreme Makeover Home Edition

Program airs January 31, 8:00 p.m. EST

RALEIGH- Thirteen members of the Stokes Partnership for Children’s AmeriCorps and Children Together (ACT) program will appear on this week’s episode of Extreme Makeover Home Edition. The ACT members help build a house for a family of Lexington educators who serve the local school system.

ACT members provide release time for early childhood teachers so the teachers may continue to study early education to better serve North Carolina’s youngest children. ACT members often serve 30 hours a week as teacher assistants in North Carolina child care centers to provide this relief to teachers. The Stokes Partnership for Children administers the program locally and through Smart Start and Head Start programs across the state. It is just one of the many ways Smart Start partnerships bring in hundreds of thousands of federal funds to serve North Carolina families each year.

Katie Snow, the ACT Program Coordinator with the Stokes Partnership for Children, coordinated the participation of more than 50 North Carolina AmeriCorps volunteers from various counties and programs across the state for the TV show.

“When I first heard the announcement that the show was coming to our area, I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to showcase the local AmeriCorps programs in North Carolina,” said Snow. “This is right up our alley; volunteer work is what we do. And, it was great to help a family that—like our members—were giving their time to children. It was a wonderful experience for our members.”

AmeriCorps members planted flowers, moved furniture, cleaned, and helped host and carpenter Ty Pennington create a “special project” for the family. The episode will air this Sunday, January 31 at 8:00 p.m. The AmeriCorps members can be identified by their matching black baseball hats with the AmeriCorps logo.

For more information about Smart Start, North Carolina’s nationally-recognized early childhood initiative, visit To learn more about ACT, visit To learn more about AmeriCorps programs in North Carolina, visit


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First Lady Joins the Fight Against Obesity and Promotes Healthy Choices in Children and Adults

First Lady Michelle Obama, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced plans today to help Americans lead healthier lives through better nutrition, regular physical activity, and by encouraging communities to support healthy choices. At a YMCA in Alexandria, VA, they talked directly with national and local leaders, parents and health professionals about reducing overweight and obesity in adults and children.

The First Lady recently announced that she will launch a major initiative on childhood obesity in the next few weeks and has asked HHS to play a key role. Today, HHS released The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation. In her first release to the nation, Dr. Benjamin highlights the alarming trend of overweight and obese Americans, and asks them to join her in a grassroots effort to commit to changes that promote the health and wellness of our families and communities.

“The surge in obesity in this country is nothing short of a public health crisis that is threatening our children, our families, and our future,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “In fact, the health consequences are so severe that medical experts have warned that our children could be on track to live shorter lives than their parents.  The paper released today is an incredibly important step in directing the Nation’s attention to solving the obesity epidemic and we do not have a moment to waste.”

The prevalence of obesity has more than doubled among adults and has tripled among children and adolescents from 1980 to 2004.  Currently, two-thirds of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese.  Increased food intake, a sedentary lifestyle, and environments that make it difficult for people to make healthy choices but easy to consume extra calories, all contribute to the epidemic of overweight and obesity. This epidemic threatens the progress we have made in increasing Americans’ quality and years of healthy life.

“Curbing the obesity epidemic requires committed people and organizations across the nation working together to take action,” said Secretary Sebelius. “Today, we outline a vision for the nation that requires parents, neighborhoods, the medical community, employers, schools and individuals to take a coordinated and comprehensive approach to combating overweight and obesity.”

Additionally, many racial and ethnic groups and geographic regions of the United States are disproportionately affected. For instance, African American girls and Hispanic boys are more likely to be obese compared to non-Hispanic whites.  Among adults, American Indian and Alaskan native adults have the highest rates of obesity.  The sobering impact of these numbers is reflected in the nation’s concurrent epidemics of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Researchers warn that if trends are not reversed, our children will be seriously afflicted with medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease in early adulthood.

“Americans will be more likely to change their behavior if they have a meaningful reward – something more than just reaching a certain weight or dress size,” said Dr. Benjamin.  “The real reward is invigorating, energizing, joyous health.  It is a level of health that allows people to embrace each day and live their lives to the fullest without disease or disability.” 

The recommendations inThe Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation include:

Improving our communities – Neighborhoods and communities should become actively involved in creating healthier environments.  The availability of supermarkets, outdoor recreational facilities and the limitation of advertisements of less healthy foods and beverages are all examples of ways to create a healthier living environment.

Healthy Choices and Healthy Home Environments – Change starts with the individual choices Americans make each day for themselves, their families and those around them. Reducing the consumption of sodas and juices with added sugars; eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; limiting television time; and being more physically active help us achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Creating Healthy Child Care Settings – It is estimated that more than 12 million children ages 0-6 receive some form of child care on a regular basis from someone other than their parents.  Parents should talk with their child care providers about changes to promote their children’s health.

Creating Healthy Schools – To help students develop life-long health habits, schools should provide appealing healthy food options including fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, water and low-fat beverages. School systems should also require nutrition standards and daily physical education for students.

Creating Healthy Work Sites – Employers can implement wellness programs that promote healthy eating in cafeterias, encourage physical activity through group classes and create incentives for employees to participate.

Mobilizing Medical Communities – Medical care providers must make it a priority to teach their patients about the importance of good health. Doctors and other health care providers are often the most trusted source of health information and are powerful role models for healthy lifestyle habits.

To view The Surgeon General’s Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation, visit

To learn about NAP SACC, a program fighting childhood obesity in child care, visit

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Essential Elements of State Early Childhood Systems

On February 18, 2010, Smart Start will host a national interactive online conference on the hottest topic in the early childhood field. The National Smart Start Conference Online will elaborate on the vision behind the Federal Early Learning Challenge Fund and present promising practices for implementing the essential elements within a state early childhood development system.

Conference Agenda

Opening Keynote
11 am to Noon (EST)
Joan Lombardi, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will elaborate on this vision behind the Early Learning Challenge Fund. The new federal administration has added fresh energy and initiative to the early childhood work that has been taking place in states. The Early Learning Challenge Fund focuses on the essential elements within a state early childhood development system.

Noon to 1 pm (EST)
Where are the children? What programs and services are they receiving? What are the results of these experiences in a child’s development? These are key questions that most data systems cannot currently answer. The Head Start Act of 2007 charges every state to develop recommendations on establishing a unified data collection system. Hear from data experts who have succeeded in creating data systems with the elements needed to make data work for young children, practitioners, and policymakers.
Janice Gruendel, Ph.D., Senior Policy Advisor on Children and Youth Connecticut’s Governor M. Jodi Rell
Kelly Swanson, Communications & Public Policy Director, PA Early Learning Keys to Quality

1:30 pm to 2:30 pm (EST)
“Quality” is the watchword of what research tells us about how programs serve young children best. Our presenters will discuss how states are using Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) to define, measure and document quality and drive change across states. They also will touch on how QRIS models can provide policy levers for early childhood systems development and improvement.
Peggy M. Ball, Education and Management Policy Analyst, Cansler Fuquay Solutions, Inc.

Engaging Families
2:30 pm to 3:30 pm (EST)
Families are the field’s central allies in assuring successful early childhood development. Critical to a successful journey is their engagement and support for all dimensions of the child’s learning. This session will highlight how families can be enlisted and empowered to support health, social and emotional outcomes, and how these relate to education progress and effects in the cognitive domain.
Janice L. Cooper, Ph.D., Interim Director, National Center for Children in Poverty

Professional Development
4 pm to 5 pm (EST)
An early childhood development system is a complex enterprise — but where the rubber hits the road is in the classrooms and settings where professionals interact with children. Our speakers will provide national and “on-the-ground” perspectives on the most promising characteristics of professional development programs and practices with an eye toward systemic and integrated solutions to a skilled workforce.
Sharon Lynn Kagan, Ed.D., Co-Director, National Center for Children and Families
Deb Torrence, NC Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development

Closing Keynote
5 pm to 6 pm (EST)
Stephanie Fanjul, President of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc.

Additional presenters will be announced shortly. Register online at

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$6.2 Million for Home-Visiting and High-Quality Child Care

Durham, Onslow, and Sampson receive federal Early Head Start grants

Smart Start partnerships in Durham, Onslow, and Sampson Counties received a total of $6.2 million in federal stimulus funding to help expand Early Head Start across North Carolina. The partnerships, which lead and convene early education efforts in their communities, will use the funds to provide home-visiting services and help more children access high-quality child care.  

Decades of research show that the earliest years of childhood are critical to brain development and lay the foundation for all future learning. In addition, children who have positive, nurturing relationships with their parents and caregivers have better health and social skills. Early Head Start is a federally-funded program with services for low-income families that enhance children’s physical, social, emotional, and intellectual development; help pregnant women access prenatal and postpartum care; and support parents in fulfilling their parental roles.

These goals are often served through access to high-quality child care and home-visiting programs in which trainers go into the home and show parents, a child’s first and primary teachers, developmentally-appropriate activities for their children. Home-visiting programs may also offer comprehensive medical, nutritional and social services.

Durham’s Partnership for Children received $3.3 million to create Early Head Start programs in Durham for the first time. The county has 15,600 children birth to three years of age, of which almost a quarter, live in poverty. Durham’s Partnership for Children will serve 120 children with a focus on supporting homeless and special-needs children.

The Onslow County Partnership for Children received nearly $1.5 million to implement Early Head Start in Onslow County for the first time.  The Partnership will begin a home-visiting program for 72 low-income pregnant women and children with specific emphasis on serving the Hispanic community and children with disabilities. 

The Sampson County Partnership for Children received more than $1.4 million to provide intensive family support services for 80 at-risk young children and their families.

“The federal government’s investment means a brighter future for North Carolina children, who will be better prepared to succeed in school and become productive members of society as adults,” said Stephanie Fanjul, President of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that leads Smart Start. “Years of experience and collaboration with early education programs in the state make Smart Start the ideal vehicle to maximize this stimulus money and best serve local families.”

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What Does Early Childhood Learning Have to Do with Economic Development?

John B. Marek knows the answer to this question! He’s the Director of BRE & Marketing at the Greater Statesville Development Corporation. Here’s what he had to say on his blog, ThunkTank.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to work with Charlotte-based science museum, Discovery Place, on a new children’s museum concept which would eventually come to be known as Discovery Place Kids. One of my tasks on this project was to research the quantitative effects of early childhood learning on economic development and write a white paper on how a community investment in this area today might result in measurable economic benefits in the future. The results of that study, frankly, surprised me. Current available research indicates that there is at least a ten-to-one payback on early childhood learning expenditures; a far greater return on public investment than found with primary, secondary or post-secondary education.

This point was brought home to me again yesterday at the Smart Investing Educational Forum in Charlotte. I was part of the Iredell County delegation to this forum, the purpose of which was to make recommendations and determine priorities for educational funding for the State of North Carolina. I was joined in the Iredell delegation by several other business and community leaders, including Thomas Kinkaid, Amy Fuhman, John Pritchard, Valerie Chambers, Harry Stillerman, Alan Smith, Kelly Johnson and Marta Koesling; and we were, in turn, joined by delegations from Anson, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Lincoln, Mecklenbueg, Rowan, Stanly and Union counties. In the crowd of more than 100 people, however, I saw only one other economic developer, Crystal Gettys from the Lincoln Economic Development Association.

Certainly, economic development organizations understand the importance of education in developing a skilled workforce, but most tend to focus their attention at the secondary or post-secondary level. Virtually every industrial recruiting presentation I have ever been part of has gone in depth about the education and vocational skill levels of the workforce, and typically that is what the client is most interested in. But, at a more fundamental level, those technical skills are built on a foundation of learning and education which begins long before college or high school, and that’s why I took a few hours out of my schedule to voice my support for early childhood learning.>

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Three Chatham County Mayors Discuss Children’s Issues

Tim Cunnup of Goldston, Charles J. Johnson of Siler City, Randolph Voller of Pittsboro, with Genevieve Megginson, Executive Director of the Chatham County Partnership for Children

Three Chatham County mayors traveled to Greesnboro on Tuesday to participate in a Smart Investing forum to discuss the needs of young children in North Carolina. The three mayors, Tim Cunnup of Goldston, Randolph Voller of Pittsboro, Charles J. Johnson of Siler City, who made the drive together, were part of the Chatham County delegation of 12 people coordinated by the Chatham County Partnership for Children.

The Greensboro forum is part of a public engagement initiative titled Smart Investing: Communities Thrive When Children Thrive to establish what North Carolina communities want for their youngest children and the future of the state. Funded by theZ. Smith Reynolds Foundation and with participation from Lt. Governor Walter DaltonSmart Investing brings together a diverse mix of citizens to begin a new dialogue about early education and children’s health in North Carolina. The Chatham delegation also included a nurse with the health department, staff from the health department’s protective services department, members of the Hispanic Liaison nonprofit and other community members.

“We had a great team attending this forum for Chatham, a very special and diverse group,” said Genevieve Megginson, Executive Director of the Chatham County Partnership for Children. “Having our mayors with us was demonstrative of the spirit of service we have in our public officials here in Chatham. Our community leaders are committed to the people, engaged and connected. We have a better community and a more hopeful future because they pay attention to what’s important, like our children!”

The Greensboro forum is one of eight taking place around the state. Smart Start’s 77 partnerships are leveraging their networks to assemble local parents, business leaders, health care providers, education professionals and policy makers representing every county in the state. The groups are participating in forums and summits to determine children’s needs in every region and the state as a whole. Three, larger summits will take place in early 2010 in Asheville, Durham, and Greenville.

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Get Children out of the Adult System: Justice for Juveniles

From Action for Children:

North Carolina is the only state in the nation that still prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, with no exceptions. Incarcerated children in North Carolina have no right to rehabilitative programming, mentoring, counseling, or even an education. Of the more than 30,000 minors in the the adult system, more than 85% of them have committed minor crimes.

When children go to prison, no one wins. Research shows that prosecuting children in the adult criminal justice system wastes young lives, fosters crime, does not increase public safety, and costs society more in the long run.

Evidence shows that the juvenile system–with programs tailored to how children think and learn– is more effective at rehabilitating youth. Fewer then go on to commit another crime, which means lower costs to society and more children growing up to become educated, employed citizens.

Tell North Carolina’s leaders that it’s time to join the rest of the country. Tell them to throw out this nearly 100-year-old law and put 16- and 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system, where they can be treated, rehabilitated, educated, counseled, and prepared for a successful life. Sign the petition.

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