Early Childhood Development

Our goal is to help every young child in Western North Carolina to realize their full potential.

How We're Making a Difference

Investing in the expansion of high-quality early care and education will improve quality of life throughout the region and lead to a stronger economy and more vibrant communities. Since 2011, CFWNC has made grants to effective, evidence-based programs and has supported advocacy encouraging systems-level changes in early childhood development.

Goals: Support every young child in Western North Carolina in realizing their full potential and to improve educational and development outcomes for children ages 0-5 in Western North Carolina.

Strategies: CFWNC makes grants to: (1) raise public awareness of the importance of investing in early childhood development; (2) initiate or continue evidence-based early childhood development programs; and (3) advocate for changes to public policy that will enhance the lives of young children in our region.

Photo courtesy of Smart Start of Transylvania County.

High Quality Childcare Benefits Us All

WNC is experiencing the early childcare staffing and capacity shortages that have spiked across the country in the wake of the pandemic. More than 25 percent of early childhood education staff has left the workforce in Transylvania County, resulting in long wait lists and disruptions for families, especially parents of infants and toddlers.

With a $100,000 Early Childhood Development grant awarded in August, Smart Start of Transylvania County (SSTC) is working to retain qualified and experienced early childhood educators and to build childcare capacity. SSTC is leveraging partnerships with existing childcare programs and developing potential new childcare program operators, both in- and out-of-home care settings.

The need is urgent and SSTC has already deployed resources to build capacity. It helped to outfit two new classrooms for three- and four-year-olds at high demand sites and created an outdoor gear library for students at Ripple Collective to ensure that outdoor education is an option throughout the year.

Read the entire article by Rebecca Snurr, SSTC Early Childhood Education & Capacity Lead.

High-quality early care and education are essential to the health, development and future success of children.

Greg Borom, Director of Advocay, CF/CIS; photo by Camille Nevarez-Hernandez, courtesy of CF/CIS

The WNC Early Childhood Coalition (WNC ECC), a collaboration of Smart Start Partnerships, local providers like the YWCA and Verner Center for Early Learning, Head Start programs, and early childhood providers, is a region-wide group collaborating on policy advocacy to improve care and education of WNC’s young children. Children First/Communities In Schools (CF/CIS) provides staffing and coordination, and, in recent years, has assumed a leadership role headed by Greg Borom, Director of Advocacy. The effort evolved from a smaller, more informal partnership to an umbrella model that effectively elevates early childhood issues.

“Our coalition of nonprofits gives us an 18-county footprint and a table that welcomes perspectives of the major funded programs for early childhood systems as well as of organizations that operate on a broader level. This group informs WNC ECC’s work around early childhood policies. There is a cost to participate in the Coalition, and engagement requires resources. From the beginning, our goal has been to share funds raised with participating nonprofits.

The expansion of this strong network is a success. We’ve been intentional about creating a space where we can explore and learn together. As a result, our work has attracted the attention of statewide policy makers. While some of our issues are unique to WNC, others are experienced across the state, enabling us to be part of broad conversations and wider early childhood efforts.

Understanding the potential of advocacy, CFWNC awarded the first grant to the WNC ECC. The Foundation has continued to invest in the Coalition and has been a strong partner for nearly a decade. With stronger relationships and networks, we have established a more powerful voice in the region and in Raleigh. Philanthropy was key to supporting our growth. Our long-term focus, however, is on policies with the potential to make substantial changes. The big dollars to be transformative in the early childhood space are at the federal and state levels, and the time horizon for policy success is long."

Read the Entire Article - The Value of Advocacy

Photo by Michael Oppenheim.

Strengthening the Region

Mount Zion Community Development’s Project NAF

Mount Zion Community Development was awarded $50,000 to implement strategies to reduce minority infant mortality and improve the quality of early childhood experiences of the children of NAF (Nurturing Asheville and Area Families) participants. Mount Zion Community Development, through NAF, has provided case management, support, and advocacy services to pregnant and post-partum African American women and their children since 1998. With this grant, NAF is working (1) to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes by implementing the Partners for a Healthy Baby Curriculum; (2) to provide case management, advocacy, and supportive services, including initial assessment, empowerment plans, and monthly one-on-one education sessions; and (3) to improve infant and child development outcomes by assisting parents and children within the context of the multifaceted needs of parenting families. The Oliver Family Fund, the Dogwood Charitable Endowment Fund, and the Dr. Robert J. and Kimberly S. Reynolds Fund provided co-investment for this grant.

To learn more about our Early Childhood Development focus area, contact Philip Belcher, Vice President for Programs, at 828-367-9901.