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The state health agency plans to close three Eastern North Carolina offices that provide services for developmentally disabled infants and toddlers, a move that will eliminate an estimated 170 state jobs by July.

Documents obtained by N.C. Policy Watch show that budget cuts prompted the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Intervention Program to call for the closure of three children’s developmental services agencies in New Bern, Rocky Mount and Wilmington.

The state agency will expand an existing contract with East Carolina University’s School of Medicine to continue providing services to families in the 21 affected counties, according to a Feb. 10 strategic plan written by Dr. Robin Cummings, the state’s acting health director, and obtained by N.C. Policy Watch.

ECU already has a contract with DHHS to provide early intervention services for several counties in the Greenville area.

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From the good folks at the NC Alliance for Health:

Raleigh – Fifteen years after the 1998 state tobacco settlement, North Carolina ranks 45th in the nation in funding programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit, according to a national report released by a coalition of public health organizations.

North Carolina currently spends $1.2 million a year on tobacco prevention and cessation programs, which is 1.1 percent of the $106.8 million recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Read More

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If you get a chance, check out this Charlotte Observer editorial on the state Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the North Carolina’s still badly inadequate pre-Kindergarten effort. As the editorial notes:

Berger pre-K“We’re a little puzzled by the fist-pumping from Republicans in Raleigh last week after the N.C. Supreme Court tossed out a case involving the legislature and the state’s pre-K program.

The court, in a six-page decision, dismissed an appeal of a 2011 lower-court ruling that said the Republican-led legislature had violated a constitutional mandate by making it harder for at-risk children to participate in pre-K. The court also vacated that lower-court ruling because Republicans undid the two things that landed them in court in the first place – capping pre-K enrollment and initiating a co-pay for some eligible families. Read More

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Speaking of anniversaries, the fine advocacy group Action for Children North Carolina celebrated its 30th last week. Executive Director Deborah Bryan sent us the following essay in contemplation of the event.  

Supporting Our Children’s Past, Present and Future

Since 1983, North Carolinians have raised millions of children–and we have millions more to go. Each in a small but real way holds the state’s future in his or her hands. Action for Children North Carolina exists to give them every opportunity to succeed. The last 30 years points the way for the decades to come.

Action for Children’s network of support has ensured that the voices of our children are heard in local and state government, school districts and even our state’s juvenile and adult correctional facilities.

Our advocates have worked tirelessly to:

*expand Health Choice to cover more than 140,000 children;

*ensure the passage of critical child safety laws like the booster seat law and the child bicycle safety act;

*orchestrate the ban of corporal punishment in nearly all of North Carolina’s school districts; and

*help lift nearly 300,000 North Carolinians, half of whom were children, above the federal poverty line through passage of the Earned Income Tax Credit–all successes we achieved together.

Even with all of these accomplishments, our work is far from complete. Read More

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(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. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we?ll be discussing here.)

Helen LaddClara MuschkinBy Helen Ladd and Clara Muschkin

Education research clearly documents that investments in early childhood programs are among the smartest investments that states can make.  It is time now for policy makers from both parties in North Carolina to come together to reaffirm what previous policy makers in this state have well understood:  That we must invest in our young children today not only because it is the right thing to do for them but because it is the right thing to do for our state.  

North Carolina has long been a leader in early childhood programs. Starting in the early 1990s, then Governor Hunt led a crusade to address the many challenges facing young    children in this state, and for 15 years the state’s Smart Start Initiative and, later, its More at Four Program were recognized as models for other states. Over the years, various studies by the Frank Porter Graham Center at UNC-CH have documented how these initiatives have helped young children and their families address challenges such as poor health, low-quality child care options, family dysfunction, and lack of readiness for school.  

Along with our Duke colleague Kenneth Dodge, we have recently expanded that research by looking at the communitywide effects on third-grade outcomes of the Smart Start initiative aimed at children aged 0 to 5 and the More at Four program that funded slots in high-quality settings for at-risk four-year olds.  Read More