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Spotlight on Early Childhood: Smart Start Plays Critical Role During Federal Shutdown

*By Stephanie Fanjul, President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children

The federal shutdown had the potential to impact over 36,000 children under five who were at risk of losing their child care, but Smart Start was able to keep most of our youngest children from bearing any of the burden of the loss of federal funds.

Smart Start partnerships across the state brought their communities together, bringing Division of Social Services (DSS) local officials, parents, providers and community leaders together to figure out the best way to make sure our youngest children continued to receive quality care.

The state-wide network of Smart Start partnerships proved to be critical in protecting children and supporting providers by leveraging expertise and experience across the state while effectively tapping into local resources. With partnership staff working at the local level to address immediate concerns facing families and connecting with community stakeholders, and the North Carolina Partnership for Children (NCPC), the organization that leads Smart Start, engaging with state agencies and sharing information across all counties, the network provided a support system that prevented a disaster.

Here are just a few examples of local action:

  •  The Madison County Partnership for Children brought together their Board, Assistant County Manager, School Superintendent, parents, local attorneys, community faith leaders, local DSS Director, and many more to discuss solutions that helped ensure that there was no suspension of subsidy.
  • The Onslow County Partnership for Children, with strong partnership from their local DSS, responded very quickly with support and resources for families and an invaluable solution that provided temporary subsidy funding for the area’s youngest children.
  • The Lee County Partnership for Children reached out to child care programs and let them know that they could assist children whose services had been suspended during this period.  They then provided temporary vouchers for children served with federal funds.
  • The Chatham County Partnership for Children brought together local child care providers and organizations to quickly compile data and information for County Commissioners on the local economic impact of child care.
  • Wake County Smart Start worked with County officials to bridge a funding gap so that child care subsidies could continue through the end of October. This helped to delay the sending of notification to over 3,000 families that their child care would be suspended.

The dedication every Smart Start partnership showed during this time of crisis was inspiring. While the severity of the situation varied from county to county (see local coverage on the shutdown’s impact on childcare in Onslow County, Haywood and Jackson Counties, Henderson County, and Alamance County), the Smart Start network was able to facilitate informed conversations that resulted in figuring out the best solutions for our children, families and local communities.

This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Learn more about the programs we are discussing this week and read Rob Thompson’s recap of the 2013 legislative session from the perspective of early childhood programs.

 

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