A new report on the progress of the Down East Partnership for Children brings good news that shows the investments made in the partnership are making a difference. That’s even better news for parents in Nash and Edgecombe counties but officials say it comes with caution that these results cannot be maintained without continued investment.
According to data released by the N.C. Partnership for Children, the Down East Partnership for Children continues to improve the quality of child care in the two counties, and the percentage of those receiving subsidy and children with special needs receiving subsidy are in high quality child care settings. There was also an increase in the number of low-income children getting well child check-ups and accessing early intervention services. The number of young children who are obese decreased but shows that there is more work to do with those numbers hovering at or below the state average.
“Overall this is great news for the children of Nash and Edgecombe Counties, “ Down East Partnership for Children Executive Director Henrietta Zalkind said. “It shows that we are on the right track and making a difference in the quality of care and the health and well-being of young children. But we must add that we will not be able to continue to make these gains if the investment in our services is cut. We are currently facing a major reduction in services that will impact thousands of children and families and essentially every program the Down East Partnership for Children offers. We know that investing in early childhood education is a fiscally responsible way to reduce deficits and create surpluses in the short and long-term.”
The recently released data shows that more families with young children have access to, and are participating in, high quality child care programs and that more young children are getting the health services they need.
The number of children enrolled in high quality child care (programs with 4 or 5 stars) has increased dramatically since Smart Start began, reflecting a dramatic improvement in child care quality and an increase in the number of children enrolled in high quality programs. Currently, 73 percent of Nash children and 71 percent of Edgecombe children in child care are enrolled in the highest quality programs. In 1993, only 6 percent of Edgecombe children and 7 percent Nash children were in the highest quality care.
The children receiving a well-child exam increased to 77 percent last year, up from 71 percent in 2003 for both counties.
The percentage of children who are obese decreased to 13.8 percent in Edgecombe County and remained about the same in Nash County but still points to a higher percentage than desired. The Down East Partnership for Children has recently focused efforts to improve childhood obesity through a new Shape N.C. grant and through the Healthy Kids Collaborative.
“Nash and Edgecombe’s future prosperity depends on how we strengthen and build our communities today,” Zalkind said. “Science tells us that children’s early experiences can create a strong or weak foundation for all future learning, behavior and health. We must provide quality early education experiences and access to health care from the beginning. Quality early care is a critical ingredient in our community’s economic competitiveness.”
The data released in this report is part of N.C. Partnership for Children’s annual assessment of Smart Start progress. Down East Partnership for Children administers Smart Start in Nash and Edgecombe Counties. Smart Start is North Carolina’s early childhood leadership network dedicated to assuring that every child reaches his or her potential and is prepared for success in a globally competitive world. For more information, visit www.ncsmartstart.org.
The Down East Partnership for Children is a nonprofit organization founded in 1993 by citizens concerned about education and economic development of Nash and Edgecombe Counties. It provides a model of services focused on prevention and intervention targeting young children ages birth to 8. It leverages investments from local, state and national partners to launch every child as a healthy, lifelong learner by the end of the 3rd grade.
For more information about Down East Partnership for Children, visitwww.depc.org.