Access to high-quality early care and education, support for families, and the availability of programs and services to meet basic needs, were voted the top priorities that would make the greatest, lasting impact on the lives of young children across the state. The results appear in a report released today called What do North Carolinians Want for Their Children?, a summary of findings from statewide gatherings of the Smart Investing public engagement initiative, which brought together more than 800 citizens from all walks of life to discuss the needs of young children in the state.
The 23-page report is already making an impact with state leaders, as portions of it were included in the North Carolina Early Childhood Advisory Council’s (ECAC) proposal for federal funding. Governor Bev Perdue recently established the ECAC to create and sustain a shared vision for young children in the state. As part of the Governor’s proposal, the ECAC will address the priorities identified by Smart Investing.
“It is important to me to hear from our citizens about what they consider the most pressing needs for North Carolina’s children,” said Gov. Bev Perdue. “The Early Childhood Advisory Council will give careful consideration of the priorities identified by the Smart Investing initiative.”
Smart Investing: Communities Thrive When Children Thrive is a statewide, civic engagement effort to determine how best to invest in children birth to five, for a stronger, more prosperous North Carolina. With funding from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and support from Lt. Governor Walter Dalton and Smart Start, Smart Investing hosted eight forums and three summits in the last year to determine priorities for young children. Participants from diverse political parties and demographic backgrounds voted and agreed that North Carolina—through its citizens, communities, and government—had a responsibility to advance access to high quality care and education, support for families, and programs and services to meet basic needs. The report also includes participants’ recommendations to meet these needs.
“This report represents the voices of engaged citizens committed to improving the lives of children and strengthening our state,” said Dalton. “I hope that this report will continue to spark action among citizens and leaders who all want the best for North Carolina’s children.”
The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that leads Smart Start, is committed to addressing the needs identified through Smart Investing and has included some “next steps” in the report. For example, to meet the need for more family support programs, Smart Start will bring The Incredible Years—a program that teaches positive parenting strategies to reduce behavioral problems in children—to more communities.
“The commitments are just the beginning,” said Stephanie Fanjul, President of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. “This report will continue to inform our work, as we strive to make sure all North Carolina children have all they need for their healthy growth and development.”