October 19, 2021

Acqua NYC

Fit And Go Forward

Moving forward from 2020 | Feature Columnist

COVID-19 has forced us all to adapt the way we live, work and play. That’s why our theme this year at DEPC is “Moving Forward.”

That’s what we do to put children first. We move forward to ensure they receive the services and resources they need to be successful, no matter what. We are very proud of the work that was accomplished this year.

Child care providers opened their doors to the children of first responders and health professionals. Thousands of meals and fresh boxes of food were distributed to families, many of whom faced food insecurity for the first time. School opened, virtually for many, but learning continued with unprecedented parent engagement.

So as we close out 2020 and begin a new year, DEPC will continue to move forward supporting all four building blocks of the early education system: healthy growth and development beginning before birth; high quality early care and education; engaged families and coordinated communities; and effective teaching and learning for K-3 students, inside and out 365 days a year.

In November, DEPC’s board approved an updated Strategic Framework and prioritized the following areas to guide our work: Outreach, Alignment, Workforce Development, Leandro Mandates and Closing Disparities.

Support for families: We will be proactively reaching out to families with enhanced marketing to help build understanding of the full range of services available across the local network and the importance of starting early. We will continue to cultivate parent leadership and resilience.

We will work to understand what families and employers need in the current context and create deeper and more transparent linkages between programs. For now, programs and services for families will continue to be virtual, including Incredible Years, Kaleidoscope Playgroups, Triple P training and Circle of Parents support groups, as well as F.I.T. (Families Involved Together), and FEED (Farm to Early Ed), Faithful Families and other SNAP-Ed activities to build healthy food habits. Food access updates are posted on our website at depc.org.

Support for child care providers: Child care providers continue to be on the frontline providing essential services for families who are working. They are the workforce essential to allowing all other workforces to continue and grow. Most centers and homes are open, but not fully enrolled, so space is available for children 0-12.

If you or someone you know needs care for children, please have them call our Family First Line at 252-985-4300, ext. 220, to talk about the best options for your needs. Spaces are available in child care, Head Start and public schools, where each will follow special health and safety guidelines.

Did you know, even prior to the pandemic, the child care teacher pipeline has been drying up because of low wages for difficult work. The average salary range for a child care teacher in Edgecombe County is between $9 and $12 per hour, and in Nash County, it is $10-$13 per hour.

This range is not sufficient to attract new teachers or retain existing ones. DEPC is committed to identifying concrete strategies to raise compensation levels of our early childhood workforce in order to develop and build the workforce of our community’s future.

Support for schools: Schools continue to adapt their services to fit the changing needs of our young children. Partnering with parents, child care providers, businesses, churches and community groups, they are facilitating after-school care and access to technology. Robust virtual resources are available at both districts’ websites, as well as DEPC.

Please call our Family First Line at 985-4300 if you need help learning how to use these resources. We are still recruiting 4-year-old children for NC Pre-K. Spaces are available in public schools and private child care centers and there is both live and remote instruction.

DEPC is committed to systemically implementing the mandates of the Leandro decision and to closing disparities that have trapped too many children for too long in a cycle of poverty. Scaling up NCPre-K and Smart Start are essential to this outcome. We hope you will join us in advocacy with policy makers at all levels to ensure that a sound basic education is the reality for all children.

Finally, we are very grateful for the many, many partners who have come together to rise to this unprecedented challenge to raise happy, healthy and hopeful children. Moving forward together we will continue to build a better future for all, I have no doubt.

Happy Holidays to all and I look forward to seeing you all in person in 2021.

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