Monthly Archives: April 2011

Jacksonville Police Chief Asks Legislators to Support Smart Start


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Rowan County Chamber of Commerce Supports Smart Start Funding

The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to legislators asking for continued investments in Smart Start.

Dear Senator Berger and Representative Tillis:

 The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce would like to express its support for North Carolina’s Smart Start program. We understand that this year’s state budget presents a tremendous challenge and that many programs are facing unprecedented cuts. It is our hope that North Carolina’s nationally recognized Smart Start program will not receive disproportionate cuts nor be severely curtailed in its ability to serve children, families and their communities.  Smart Start programs provide a network of developmentally appropriate early education & care, parenting and health activities for North Carolina’s children birth to five years of age.  State funding through Smart Start serves to support many small businesses in our community which directly employ hundreds of workers.  Families using Smart Start childcare centers are enabled to remain in the workforce, knowing that their children are cared for in a quality loving environment.  

 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a 2010 report that stated, “Early childhood education has a tremendous impact on the national economic security and viability of the American dream.” In North Carolina, 59% of all children under six live in families where all parents work and, each year, early learning programs allow 380,000 parents in our state to work. Smart Start has been instrumental in increasing child care quality since its inception in 1993 and, preliminary research released this month by Duke University, found that investments in Smart Start generate broad educational benefits.

 Smart Start Rowan is our local administrator.  As a local non-profit member of the Chamber of Commerce, Smart Start Rowan grew out of a local public-private partnership of community leaders in 1997. Using Smart Start funds blended with other revenue streams, the organization has been able to invest in our community’s children and families through vital and comprehensive support of the child care industry, preventive health programs for young children, early learning and pre-literacy programs, parent education and support and payment for child care expenses often in flexible ways that meet the needs of our community.  Smart Start Rowan continues to be a reliable source for information and referrals, receiving calls from parents seeking child care, parenting support or knowledge about the local child care industry as they consider moving to the area. Early childhood programs are vital to economic stability, reducing costly unscheduled absences in the workplace and attracting skilled workers to the area.

 The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce and Smart Start both share a goal of building an educated work force that will enhance our community and quality of life for all. It has now been established that the early years between birth and kindergarten are critical periods of time for brain and social/emotional development.  The foundation that we lay during these years sets the stage for all future learning. A solid investment in early education to support childhood development and working families not only helps a child develop into his/her potential, but also enhances our economic development as a community thus strengthening all sectors of the greater Rowan community.

We urge you to consider the important economic and educational role that Smart Start plays in local communities like Rowan County across North Carolina and encourage you to strive to maintain this valuable program that has wisely invested in our most important resource – our future generation.   All children are precious.  We do not suggest favorable special funding for the early childhood age group of activities, merely equally fair consideration and funding for all public school aged children across North Carolina.

 Sincerely,

Robert H. Wright, President

Rowan County Chamber of Commerce

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Dalton Touts Smart Start Success

 

Drawing a comparison to an Olympic ski jumper with the misfortune of taking off from slushy snow, Lt. Gov. Walter Dalton on Wednesday stressed the importance of early childhood education programs such as Smart Start in giving young North Carolinians a fair shot.

With majority House Republicans proposing a 20 percent cut to Smart Start’s $188 million in state funding, Dalton spoke out in support of such programs at a roundtable with community leaders and parents at White Rock Baptist Child Development Center.

He said there’s a clear link between early childhood education and North Carolina’s economic future.

“That’s what Smart Start is about — building stronger families ultimately leads to building stronger communities, ultimately building a stronger economy,” he said.

Read more: The Herald-Sun – Dalton touts Smart Start funding

 

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NC Lieutenant Gov. Dalton Visits Smart Start in Guilford County

Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton is speaking out in support of Smart Start and is touring local child care programs in Greensboro and Durham this week. Today he met with local parents, child care providers, and business leaders to hear how Smart Start is positively impacting Guilford County. He toured Child Care Network 162 in Greensboro.

Last week the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee released a proposed budget that would cut Smart Start funding by 20 percent and included provisions that would dismantle North Carolina’s early childhood system.

“Severely cutting our state’s high-quality, award-winning childcare program jeopardizes North Carolina’s continued success in economic development and job recruitment and hurts our children’s future. If Smart Start is cut, teachers and small businesses would be hurt—the early learning industry, comprised mostly of small businesses, sustains tens of thousands of jobs,” said Lt. Governor Dalton. “It would be very short-sighted for North Carolina to threaten our future economic success and each child’s personal success by inordinate cuts to such a successful and productive program. I encourage each member of the General Assembly to protect Smart Start from these massive cuts.”

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Tell Legislators Proposed Changes to Smart Start are Unacceptable!

This week House budget writers proposed changes that will dismantle North Carolina’s nationally recognized early childhood system. We cannot let them get away with it. Call your legislators and let them know that North Carolinians will not tolerate destroying years of early childhood progress that has raised third grade outcomes and given thousands of children an opportunity to succeed.

Let’s be clear—these changes are not about money. These are policy changes to an initiative repeatedly shown to work because of its policies.

This budget takes everything that makes Smart Start work and eliminates it. Furthermore it ignores everything we know about children and child development. Smart Start has always been about all of the children in our communities. The House forbids Smart Start from providing parents with tools that support them in raising healthy, happy, successful children and ensuring that children have access to preventive health care. Under this plan, families with young children who do not use child care may not receive any support from Smart Start.

These proposals are incredibly puzzling to say the least. The come on the heels of study just released by Duke University that found that Smart Start’s approach improved third grade reading and math scores and lowered the special education placement for children.

Tell your legislators that these changes are unacceptable. Our children deserve better.

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Lt. Governor Dalton Calls on General Assembly to Protect Smart Start Funding

Raleigh, NC – Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton today spoke out on the House of Representatives’ Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee’s proposed 20% cut to Smart Start. Dalton, the statewide spokesperson for Smart Start, will conduct roundtables next week in Durham and Greensboro with parents, child care providers, and business leaders to hear how Smart Start is positively impacting these communities.

“Severely cutting our state’s high-quality, award-winning childcare program jeopardizes North Carolina’s continued success in economic development and job recruitment and hurts our children’s future. If Smart Start is cut, teachers and small businesses would be hurt—the early learning industry, comprised mostly of small businesses, sustains tens of thousands of jobs,” said Lt. Governor Dalton. “It would be very short-sighted for North Carolina to threaten our future economic success and each child’s personal success by inordinate cuts to such a successful and productive program. I encourage each member of the General Assembly to protect Smart Start from these massive cuts.”

Lt. Governor Dalton will hold roundtables at Child Care Network 162 in Greensboro on Tuesday, April 19th, and White Rock Baptist Child Development Center in Durham on Wednesday, April 20th.

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Catawba Valley Healthy Families Director’s Letter to Rep. Blackwell

Parents, child care providers, and business leaders from counties across North Carolina have been writing letters to their legislators explaining the need to maintain funding for Smart Start. Below is just one example.

Hello Representative Blackwell,

First, let me thank you for your service to the people in our county. I know you have, and continue to work hard, for the people of Burke County and our entire state.

I had a nice conversation with your assistant, Dixie, yesterday afternoon. I regret I was unable to talk to you personally; however, I truly enjoyed talking with Dixie. She suggested that I e-mail you.

I called and am writing because I am gravely concerned that there may be funding cuts to early childhood programs in our state such as Smart Start, More at Four, and others. I have over 26 years of experience working with children and my experience ranges from pre-birth to grade 12. I am a NC, Masters level (G-licensed) Special Education teacher and have taught children in the public school as well as lived with and served them in group homes, in a daycare supervising a developmental day program, and in an early childhood intensive home-visiting program serving families pre-birth to five years that I had the opportunity to develop 11 years ago and have since directed. In my group home experience serving troubled youth 11-17 years in a program which was a community-based alternative to training school and which focused primarily on the child but also on strengthening the parent-child relationship, I remember frequently thinking how nice it would have been if someone could have reached those families and provided intensive support at the time the parents were birthing those babies and bringing them home to get them off to a better start. Perhaps with the right kind of support at that very vulnerable and highly important time in their lives, i.e., pregnancy and the early years following birth, they could have gotten off to a better start and avoided many of the problems that got them to the point of out of home placement. Smart Start, More-at-Four, and other early childhood programs are working hard to do just that. And we really need to preserve and strengthen these efforts in any way we can. Our society is leaving its next generations with a load of problems to work through; so, our society will need to raise up a lot of bright, critical thinkers. We owe it to them to do anything in our power now to help them grow up to be healthy, contributing citizens. And, as you know, that starts well before Kindergarten.

In my experience, I have seen the great work accomplished on behalf of children and families through Smart Start, More-at-Four, and other early childhood programs. There was a time when I was much younger that I was not an advocate for day care. However, since I’ve worked in the field a while serving Burke County’s overburdened first-time parents who have the most intensive needs, I have come to realize that it definitely has its place, particularly for those children born to parents who are impoverished in so many ways (financially, educationally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc.). Those children really benefit from and need the added support of their community. And, our society really needs them to have it or we all suffer.

Additionally, a sample of the outcomes of the program I currently direct, Catawba Valley Healthy Families, demonstrate the effectiveness of programs supported by Smart Start money. These include: 1) the graduates of the CVHF program show significant change between pre- and post-test scores on a standardized measure of positive parenting attitudes and practices which suggest a substantial shift away from attitudes and practices that have been associated with child maltreatment; 2) when compared to their age peers, children whose families graduated from CVHF exhibit higher levels of
social and emotional competence as measured by the frequency with which they display social and behavioral challenges (Cullen, JP., Ownbey, JB., & Ownbey, MA. The Effects of the Healthy Families America Home Visitation Program on Parenting Attitudes and Practices and Child Social and Emotional Competence. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. October 2010) ; 3) the rate of Rapid Repeat Births is significantly less for CVHF participants (18%) than for a comparison group (30%) (Ownbey, M., Ownbey, J., & Cullen, J. The Effects of a Healthy Families Home Visitation Program on Rapid Repeat Births. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. Under Review.); 4) 100% of the families completing the CVHF program show a reduction in risk factors present at the time of enrollment; 5) In SFY ’08-’09, 100% (99/99) of participating parents/couples reported regularly reading to their babies/children on average 5.46 days per week; and, 6) During SFY ’08-’09, out of 60 individual parents who have graduated from the CVHF program and who represent 51 families, there were no substantiations of abuse/neglect as determined by data obtained by the Burke County Department of Social Services using the NC Child Protective Services Central Registry.

As you and other legislators make the really tough decisions regarding how to spend NC’s money, I firmly trust that you will do all you can to preserve and strengthen programs that look out for our most vulnerable children helping them to grow healthy and strong, equipped to take on the challenges that lie ahead of them.

Thanks for ALL you do,
Jeannie Ownbey, Director Catawba Valley Healthy Families

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