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ASHEVILLE — The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina approved two $75,000 Early Childhood Development Focus Area Grants last week to Region A Partnership for Children and Southwestern Child Development Commission. Early childhood development is a focus area for the foundation, which serves 18 counties in Western North Carolina.

Region A Partnership for Children is the nonprofit organization that administers North Carolina’s Smart Start and N.C. Pre-K initiatives in the seven westernmost counties of the state and on the Qualla Boundary. Funding will expand the Parents as Teachers program in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

Parents as Teachers is a family support program widely used by Smart Start in Region A. Participating families benefit from home visits, group connections, child screenings and a resource network – the core components of PAT. Eligibility requirements are less restrictive than with other models, and there is strong evidence of success. Data shows reduced public assistance dependence and increases in positive parenting practices, identification of developmental delays, physical and social development and school readiness. The program’s flexibility makes it possible to serve a wider range of families with limited funding and to coordinate the effort across counties with a variety of agencies and organizations.

Southwestern Child Development Commission, a private nonprofit headquartered in Webster, provides quality early care and education in seven WNC counties and provides or coordinates childcare resource and referral services in 13 WNC counties. The grant to SCDC will educate and engage stakeholders with the goal of improving access to quality, affordable early childhood care and education.

Children living in poverty often do not receive the enrichment that quality childcare provides in the crucial first 2,000 days of life, and, for many families, quality, dependable child care is an unaffordable luxury without the financial aid of childcare vouchers. The commission will partner with Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County, Mountain Area Child and Family Center, Children and Family Resource Center of Henderson County and Pisgah Legal Services to advocate for a more transparent, fair and sustainable childcare subsidy allocations process, train providers and parents to advocate for expanded access to quality early childhood education for low-income families and host county roundtables to enhance collaboration and reduce gaps in service during the first 2,000 days of children’s lives.

The goal of the foundation’s early childhood development work is to improve education and developmental outcomes for children, particularly at-risk children not in formal early childhood programs. The issue resonates with CFWNC fundholders, and the Lipscomb Family Foundation Fund chose to co-invest significantly in both grants.

“In the last four years we have witnessed substantial cuts to early childhood programs, and there is no sign that this trend is reversing,” said Philip Belcher,  vice president for programs at the foundation. “We know that investing in quality learning experiences during the early years is economically efficient and more cost effective than remediation efforts. Our intent is that these grants – one focused on program expansion and one utilizing an advocacy strategy — will help to make high-quality early care and education possible for more families in the region and will improve outcomes for some of our youngest residents.”

In 2011, The Community Foundation adopted a new strategic plan that focuses discretionary resources on people in need, early childhood development, food and farming and preserving natural and cultural resources.

The Community Foundation is a permanent regional resource serving 18 counties in Western North Carolina. Foundation staff leverage knowledge about the region and relationships with donors to enrich lives and communities in the region.  The Foundation facilitates $11 million in charitable giving annually. More information can be found at www.cfwnc.org.

-Press release from The Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, shared May 14.

Angie Newsome

Angie Newsome is the executive director and editor of Carolina Public Press. Contact her at (828) 774-5290 or e-mail her at anewsome@carolinapublicpress.org.

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