As part of the statewide Smart Start network, the Watauga Children’s Council launched two new initiatives to support children and families during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Children’s Council is providing training for parents and early childhood professionals to address ongoing stress, and collaborating with family child care providers to adjust their operations and maintain access to care for families.
“During this crisis, I’m proud Smart Start has worked quickly through our network of local partnerships to leverage these funds to meet the needs of children and families across the state,” said Amy Cubbage, president of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, which oversees the Smart Start network. “We are grateful that our state’s policymakers recognized the importance of support for child care, children and families and invested in these needs.”
The Children’s Council’s investments are made possible by $20 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds allocated by the North Carolina General Assembly to support early childhood initiatives. The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services allocated $5 million of this funding to The North Carolina Partnership for Children to be used throughout the Smart Start network for initiatives focused on children and families.
“We are thankful for this additional funding being provided to Smart Start partnerships throughout the state to help alleviate some of the stress and burden that has been caused by the pandemic,” said Children’s Council Associated Director Mary Scott. “Our staff has worked hard for the past several months to provide crucial support to families and caregivers throughout this crisis, and the additional funding will enable us offer a little more assistance in the form of business support to some of our family child care home providers, and stress/resiliency support to our staff and community members.”
One of the Smart Start initiatives addresses the ongoing stress faced by young children and families. Resources for Resilience includes self-awareness and self-regulation training for parents and coaching for early childhood professionals. The program trains adults on what happens to children affected by stress, provides coaching to support resiliency tools and includes a schedule of drop-in Listening Circles for parents and educators to discuss the strategies learned.
Smart Start is also supporting family child care directors in order to ensure critical access to child care. In September, there were more than 1,300 family child care homes in North Carolina, serving almost 8,700 children, according to the Children’s Council. Smart Start is helping these providers by offering access to Wonderschool — a business automation platform for family child care and small centers.
Wondershool delivers digital tools and training to help providers adjust to business challenges caused by the pandemic and to improve communication with parents.