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336-274-5437

Guiding Healthy Behaviors in Early Childhood and NC Pre-K host Mindfulness workshop for Early Childhood Professionals

Posted on: February 17th, 2016 by Trish Nelson

Tranquility RocksBe Well: Integrating Mindfulness & Self-Compassion into the Early Care & Education Workplace

What:          A FREE workshop for Early Childhood Professionals (see “register here” link below for more information)

When:         March 5, 2016 from 1:00 pm—4:00 pm

Where:        Friendly Avenue Baptist Church, 4800 W. Friendly Avenue Greensboro, NC 27410, Multipurpose Center Classrooms 4 & 5. Please enter via Westridge and park in adjacent lot.

What You’ll Learn & Receive:

  • Learn about the benefits of mindfulness and self-compassion for well-being & positive relationships
  • .3 CEU’s ($6.00) or In-Service training credit at no cost

Register : Register here

Questions: Contact Trish Nelson, (336) 274-5437, ext. 212 or Trician@guilfordchildren.org

Preschool branches out of the classroom (News & Record, July 3, 2015)

Posted on: July 3rd, 2015 by Mary Herbenick

Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool will serve as demo site for child care in N.C.

Article by Alice Owens, a freelance writer and photographer who lives in High Point.

Kids love to play in the dirt, but many are disconnected from nature, plugging into computers, smartphones and tablets.

They’re losing their love for dirt and connection.

Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool wants to get youngsters back in the dirt through a partnership with Shape NC.

Shape NC, supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield, aims to boost the number of young children who start kindergarten at a healthy weight.

The interdisciplinary initiative brings together leading experts in early childhood education, nutrition, physical activity and landscape design to create 18 model child care centers across North Carolina.

From those 18 model centers, six were chosen as demonstration sites where other child care (centers) can see how the program works. Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool was named one of the six demo sites on June 19.

“It’s a really big deal to be a demonstration site,” said Sandy Johnson, preschool director.

The preschool boasts large outdoor spaces with blackberries, strawberries, blueberries and pears. The garden also offers tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, squash and a large herb garden.

In addition to the edible garden, there’s a fairy garden where children sit among the trees, read books, dig in the dirt and let their imaginations run wild.

“We were designed to care for nature and to be in nature,” Johnson said.

Preschoolers buzz around the outdoor space, water plants, harvest crops and even plant trees. The teachers coach and assist, but the children are heavily involved in the actual work of planting and tending the garden.

“In the garden, every aspect (of education) is happening–reading, math and social development,” said Trish Nelson, who works with the Smart Start agency in partnership with Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool and has administered the Shape NC grant money since 2011.

Children must read, measure and count when planting, Nelson said.

“This is a whole new way of viewing childhood–a more holistic approach,” said Nelson.

Johnson said a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield in 2011 helped them change their environment. First, they transformed the outdoor space. Then, with grant money and funds raised, they created the new “classroom,” trained the staff, got technical support and landscaped the area.

Professional development helped the staff branch out from a traditional preschool structure.

“We are designed to be active learners, not to sit and have information uploaded to us all day,” Johnson said.

Children at Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool are ensured 120 minutes of movement each day and never sit for more than 14 minutes at a time. Screen time is limited and only available to the older children who will need to use it for elementary school.

When learning about trees, the students designed benches and seats for the classroom. Parents made the benches, which are used daily in the classroom.

“It’s not all about the garden,” Johnson said. “It’s also about bringing outdoor elements indoors and providing an atmosphere that promotes health.”

Kids learn about nutrition, too. Each meal and snack are served “family style,” and the children set the table, put food on the table and serve themselves, choosing foods and how much of each to eat.

“This helps teach them to learn when they are full and to read hunger cues, skills that many adults never learned,” Johnson said.

Much of the food the children eats comes directly from the garden that they planted. Families are given new, healthy recipes to try and are given herbs to use in those recipes. The goal is to help the families learn new ways to cook and enjoy food that will result in better health.

“One father told me he took his child to the grocery store and couldn’t get his son out of the produce aisle. This is our greatest success story,” Johnson said.

Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool Named Shape NC Demonstration Site

Posted on: June 21st, 2015 by Mary Herbenick

 (Cindy Watkins, President of the North Carolina Partnership for Children, opened the celebration.)

On Friday, June 19, Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool in Greensboro was formally designated a Shape NC demonstration site, one of only six sites in North Carolina.

Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children is a six-year, $6 million initiative of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation and The North Carolina Partnership for Children created to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight and ready to learn.

Shape NC assists communities across the state to promote healthy eating and active play among North Carolina’s youngest children, from birth through age five. The initiative works with child care programs like Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool to instill healthy behaviors early on, creating a solid foundation for a healthy life.

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(Sandy Johnson, Director of the Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool, shared her passionate Shape NC journey with an attentive crowd.)

“When we began this work in 2011 we were hoping to make improvements to our outdoor classrooms,” said Sandy Johnson, Director, Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool. “At that time we had no idea  how participating in this journey with Shape NC would be the catalyst for totally revolutionizing the way we view early education and what a profound impact it would make in the lives of our children, families, our staff and our school.”

“We’ve seen children develop a passion for growing healthy foods and trying new foods that their parents never thought they would eat,” she continued. “As a school family we have grown in our understandings of what a healthy life looks like, not only in what we eat but how we move as well. As a result, the children will be better prepared for their future, and our families and staff benefit too.”

Several speakers shared their stories about the transformation at Friendly Avenue Christian Preschool and the importance of the work of developing healthy behaviors early in a child’s life.

“North Carolina is leading the country in helping our youngest learners develop healthy behaviors from birth,” said Jennifer MacDougall of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina. “People from across the country, including the White House’s Let’s Move initiative, are looking to places like this and people like you to lead the way.”

Cindy Watkins, President, North Carolina Partnership for Children, shared stories about the important role outdoor learning has played in her life and committed to making this opportunity available to more children across North Carolina. Rich Rairigh, Director of Be Active Kids, commended Ms. Johnson and her staff on prioritizing good health and called the center “a beacon for the whole community.”

Students and teachers performed a routine to Pharrell’s “Happy”, then Greensboro City Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann and two preschool students cut the ribbon to officially open the outdoor space. While eating healthy snacks, guests toured the preschool outdoor learning area, as well as the infant and toddler areas.

Trish Nelson, Program Specialist for the Guiding Healthy Behaviors in Early Childhood at the Guilford County Partnership for Children, has worked with Johnson and her team for several years to help them reach this goal.

“We are so proud of the work that has been done here and their new demonstration site status,” said Nelson. “It makes my heart joyous to see healthy, happy, active children and families! We’re excited to share this newly designated Shape NC Demonstration Site with Early Childhood Educators throughout Guilford County, and to spread the good news that together we can take steps promoting health starting with our youngest children.”

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 (In line with Shape NC healthy, delicious snacks were served to all.)

Harsh world of budget realities to shut child care center’s doors

Posted on: March 5th, 2015 by Mary Herbenick

By John Newsom, john.newsom@news-record.com  News & Record              March 4, 2015

After more that three decades, Guilford Technical Community College is closing its on-campus day care center. The GTCC Children’s Center has cared for the preschool-aged children of GTCC students, college faculty ans staff members ans Guilford County residents since 1979, It has a five-star rating from the state.But the college says enrollment has slumped and the center isn’t bringing in enough money to stay open. It will close June 30.

“It’s supposed to be a self-sustaining entity,” GTCC President Randy Parker said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “In the last several years it has not been self-supporting. If it’s not going to support itself, we don’t have other money to continue to pour into it.”

Some parents are dismayed at the center’s demise.

Karen Sylvester, a High Point parent whose 4-year-old daughter remains at the center, said it has provided good care and had little staff turnover. Many of the teachers who cared for her son, now 13, 10 years earlier still worked there when Sylvester enrolled her daughter there.

For years the college used tuition payments from parents to keep the center going. Monthly tuition charges for all-day care range from $725 and $820 per child. In recent years, GTCC has used state and federal grants to  make up budget shortfalls.

According to GTCC records, the 2011-12 academic year was the last time the center’s revenues outpaces expenses. The center lost money in 2012-13 and again last year – even after the college pumped in nearly $67,000 in grant subsidies two years ago and $79,000 more in 2013-14.

The center ran a deficit last year of $104,412. The college covered the shortfall by dipping into the center’s fund balance. The reason for the financial trouble? Enrollment is too low. The center is licensed to care for 61 preschool children between ages of 6 weeks to 5 years. The  college says the center needs 56 children to remain profitable. But enrollment hasn’t been above 50 since at least 2011,  when 46 children were enrolled, according to the college. Enrollment dropped to 41 last year.

Parker said there’s not as much grant money available to run the center. The center’s fund balance has declined by 50 percent since 2011, and Parker says the college might have to spend the reaminder $145,000 as of November – to keep the center open through June 30.

“We are saddened to have to close the day care center after 35 years,” Parker said, “But it is a business decision for the college.” Parker notified parents in September that the college was reviewing the center’s finances and were thinking about closing it.

The center’s director put together a proposal to offer after-school care for older children. Parker said college officials rejected the plan as unsustainable.

Some parents have explored other options to keep the center open and unsuccessfully lobbied college trustees at their December meeting. Trustees voted in January to close the center at the end of the academic year.

Enrollment sagged, meanwhile, as parents learned about the potential closure and sought child care elsewhere. The center was down to 30 children in October and 22 in November.

As of Monday , the Children’s Center had just 11 children and five employees.

“It wasn’t because (parents) wanted to leave,” Sylvester said. “They wanted to find quality care to take care of their children.”

Although parents understand the center’s precarious finances, Sylvester said she and some others are disappointed in the way the college handled the process. they said they got little information from college officials, were rebuffed in their attempts to meet with Parker (though they did meet with a college vice president in October) and did not know that trustees had scheduled a vote on the center’s fate until shortly before the December board meeting.

“I think we all felt like the way it went down didn’t reflect the values the community college allegedly holds itself to,” Sylvester said.

Contact John Newsom at (336) 373-7312, and follow  @JohnNewsomNR on Twitter. 

Child Care Dilemma: Experts say the rising costs of pre-K doesn’t mean a rise in teacher’s wages, which haven’t changed much in 25 years.

Posted on: by Mary Herbenick

By Marquita Brown, marquita.brown@news-record.com News & Record                      November 22, 2014

Greensboro – Education experts working in child care is more than being a baby sitter. It plays a crucial role in a child’s development. Even while playing, infants and toddlers are learning lifelong academic and social skills.Yet that important work doesn’t guarantee a living wage.And the pay for child care workers hasn’t changed much in the past 25 years, according to a report released this week by the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley.

Child care workers are about as likely as fast-food employees to need public support programs, such as food stamps or Medicaid. The financial struggles are the worst for workers with children, particularly single parents, according to the report.The mean salary for  child care workers is $10.33 an hour, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

None of that news surprised Teri Smith of Greensboro.Smith has about 30 years of experience in early childhood education. She once quit a job in child care when she needed more money to support herself and her two daughters.”I was a single parent at that point, going through a divorce,” she said. “I had to leave child care because it wouldn’t pay the rent and buy food for my children.” As a director of the Early Childhood Center in Greensboro, a nonprofit arm of the West Market Street United Methodist Church, Smith has filed paperwork for her teachers to get public assistance.”There has never been a year since I worked here – and I have been working here for 13 years – that I haven’t filled out paperwork for teachers to get day care vouchers,” Smith said. “I have filled out paperwork for teachers to get food stamps. I have filled out paperwork for teachers to get Section 8 housing.””I have filled out paperwork because teachers are going bankrupt.”

Research increasingly supports early childhood education – the lessons and skills children learn before age 5 – as being crucial to long-term academic success. Parents are paying twice as much for child care than they did in 1997,  according to the report. The costs of running a child care business have increased as well. Child care workers are increasingly having to earn college degrees.But those increases don’t add up to better pay.

According to the report, of roughly 16,000 child care workers in North Carolina, 42 percent qualified for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps low-income working families. About 46 percent qualified for one or more public support programs such as Medicaid or food stamps.Providing that assistance to child care workers costs North Carolina about $45.5 million a year, according to the report.In 1997, the mean hourly pay for North Carolina child care workers was $9.71 in 2013 dollars, according to the report.Their mean pay in 2013 was $9.57 an hour.When adjusted for inflation, the pay for North Carolina early education teachers – child care workers, preschool and kindergarten teachers – has remained stagnant for 17 years, according to the report.

Advocates say there should be greater public investment in child care instead of relying on parents to pay the bulk of the costs.  They also say there needs to be better, broader understanding of the skills child care requires.

Teachers say they stay because they love the work.”Children just continually bring joy to  your life,” Smith said.  “That’s what keeps people here.”

The work, experts say, is more than baby-sitting. Teachers need to understand child development and the role of play in children’s learning. Teachers say that under their care, children learn important social and life skills. They begin developing problem-solving skills and other foundational academic skills.

“The word ‘baby sitter’ always comes up, and that’s kind of a slap in the face to those of us who have gone to school and gotten a bachelor’s degree and a license to do this,” said Meredith Sawyer, who teaches a transitional kindergarten class at the Early Childhood Center.Even tasks that seem routine, like using a measuring cup or eating lunch, involve teaching children important social and lief skills, Sawyer said. They’re going to be eons ahead of kids in kindergarten who haven’t been in child care,” she added.

Researchers at Berkeley also tied low pay to high teacher turnover.

“Taking care of children means taking care of their teachers,” Marcy Whitebrook, a co-author of the report, said Tuesday during a form hosted by the New America Foundation. Early childhood teachers and others in the field gathered at UNCG that day to watch a live online stream of the forum.

The Early Childhood Center in Greensboro has a five star license – a top rating under the state of North Carolina’s system. Unlike most child care centers, teachers there receive health care benefits and a 401(k).Angie Celestine, who works with infants, expects to get an associate’s degree in early childhood education by the end of next month. She said she decided to  continue her education when she committed to the field of child care.”You need to know your stuff,” Celestine said. But she also said she works paycheck to paycheck. Missing a day of work would mean struggling to pay her bills.

Sawyer said she took a big pay cut when she left her job waiting tables at a local restaurant to work in child care full time. Even now, the 29-year-old still waits tables part time and sometimes makes more money than she does teaching a transitional kindergarten class.”That’s what we’ve been told in this country,” Sawyer, said. “If you go to school and get a degree, then you won’t rely on public assistance. “Not in this field.”

Contact Marquita Brown at (336) 373-7002, and follow @mbrownNR on Twitter

Your Input Needed! Take the Community Needs Assessment for Early Childhood

Posted on: January 15th, 2015 by Mary Herbenick

Note: Thank you to everyone who completed the 2015 community survey! We look forward to sharing the results in early 2016.

The Guilford County Partnership for Children is conducting a community needs assessment focused on young children and their caregivers. The survey will help us identify specific needs in Guilford County and inform future program planning.

Our goal is to obtain high-quality feedback from a wide variety of perspectives. Please take a few minutes to complete the online survey if you are:

  • A parent/caregiver of a young child in Guilford County;
  • A nonprofit, government or health professional who works with young children and/or their families; or
  • An early childhood professional (a child care provider, pre-K teacher, student in the early childhood field, etc.)

Take the survey now.

It should only take 10 minutes to complete the survey. We hope you will participate and encourage others to do so, too. All responses will remain strictly confidential.

If you want to print copies to distribute to families, you may download it and submit it to us via email, by fax or by mail (see our contact information). If you would like for us to send you paper copies of the survey for those without internet access, please send us an email with “Community Needs Assessment” in the heading. In the body of the email, please include your name, affiliation, address and the number of surveys you would like.

Results will be available on our website in late February 2015. Thank you for your time and for your assistance.

What Is Good for Children Is Good For Us All

Posted on: November 10th, 2014 by Mary Herbenick

 By Jennifer Gore, Executive Director,  Reading Connections, Inc.reading connections photo 1

By the time my mother was in her late twenties, she had hundreds of children. At the end of her career, I’d guess thousands. You see, my mother taught 2nd grade for 32 years. Her impact in the world is hard to estimate, although we might assume that there are many adults now in the world accomplishing great things because Mrs. Barker taught them in 2nd grade to love to read, to have fun at school, to value education.

As a champion for adult and early childhood literacy, I cannot underscore how blessed we were to have this early emphasis on education as the natural path to a secure future. And while I did not appreciate it at the time, I have fond memories of doing homework most afternoons around the kitchen table while dinner cooked on the stove.

For so many and for a great variety of reasons, the home environment is not so closely tied to education. We know that what is good for our children is really good for us all, collectively. It is an obvious, and often stated, conclusion that children are our future. And, it is staggering that so many children enter our school systems already academically disadvantaged.

How do we ensure that all children are afforded opportunities to richly explore their world and be preparedreading connections photo 2 to achieve at their highest potential?

Research tells us that children who do not acquire a substantial speaking and listening vocabulary in the preschool years often never catch up to their peers who accomplish this goal.   Frequently these children exhibit later reading difficulties.  Research in emergent literacy also tells us that parents are the best teachers to get their children ready to learn to read. Children need parents to be reading role models on a daily basis. In fact, the education level of the parent, especially the mother, is one of the strongest predictors of a child’s success. Many parents and caregivers need to be taught how to develop critical pre-reading skills so that their children enter school ready to learn.

At Reading Connections, we combine all of these findings to provide adult literacy and family literacy programs, working to improve parents’ literacy so they can in turn read to their children and promote literacy in the home.  We see phenomenal results as parents and caregivers begin to fully understand their important role, learn strategies for sharing stories and create a culture of learning in the home.reading connections photo 3

There is no more important focus for all of our community resources than the support and education of our children. We are failing them and the future if we do not succeed in educating every child. If we focus our resources on making sure our youngest, most vulnerable citizens get what they need, we are far more likely to be creating a future that is good for us all.

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Jennifer Gore is the Executive Director of Reading Connections, Inc. For more information on community literacy programs, please contact Reading Connections at 336-230-2223.

Investing in Futures

Posted on: October 22nd, 2014 by Mary Herbenick

By Robin Britt, Executive Director, Guilford Child Development

With respect to investing in futures, stockbrokers usually talk about the return on investment (ROI) for a commodity. With respect to public investment in the futures of children in need, return on investment is also an appropriate way to frame the discussion.

The future of our public school system, the future of our workforce, our future economic vitality and, indeed, our national security are all at stake if we fail to invest in our young children.

First, let’s talk about the children. In America, the richest nation in the history of the world, 22% of all children live in poverty, and in North Carolina today, 26% of all children live in poverty. Nationwide, nearly 40% of minority children are in poverty. Likewise, for our youngest children, the rate is much higher than 26%, because the younger the parents, the greater the likelihood of poverty.

Gandhi said: “The measure of a society is how it treats is weakest members.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer said “The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children.” By those measures, America and North Carolina are not doing well, and the futures of our children, school system, our workforce, and our national vitality are threatened.

Disadvantaged children entering Kindergarten are more likely to have health, emotional and toxic stress issues; poor vocabularies; developmental delays; behavioral challenges; and educational deficiencies. Hunger is no foreigner in low-income families – poor nutrition is rampant. It’s hard to learn on an empty stomach. All of these issues put stress on the children and on the school system. Even if you are the smartest kid in your class, if you jump on your neighbor, you won’t succeed in school. The cost to the classroom, the teachers, and the principal of ongoing anti-social behavior in our public schools is enormous. And we all know by now that if a child is not reading at grade level by the third grade, they are likely to drop out before completing high school.

What are the futures of our children who drop out of school? Juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, welfare dependency, hard core unemployment, incarceration. Are these the futures we want for our children?

Even worse – research now shows toxic stress conditions like poverty, a highly depressed mother, and abuse and neglect, result in chronic health disorders later in life: cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and early mortality. These chronic health disorders represent an enormous cost to society and our workforce.

What is unconscionable is that we know some preventive strategies that work for young children ages zero to five. Evidence-based programs exist that extensive research shows are successful. The Brookings Institution simulated what would happen if children from low-income families were afforded the same level and quality of school readiness preparation by age five as those of children from high-income families. Brookings indicated that well-educated and targeted investments can close the gap between more – and less advantaged children by over 70%, greatly improving the chances of disadvantaged children for social mobility and enhancing their lifetime income potential.

We also know that the outcome demanded by investors is inherent in these programs – return on investment. Quality programs directed to early learning and development return from 5% to 16% ROI according to the research. But only a small percentage of eligible children receive quality early childhood intervention, especially in the youngest years of life (ages zero to three), when brain development is at its peak.  (Ninety percent of brain development occurs by age five.)

The discussion of futures, however, doesn’t end with the futures of the children and their families. As mentioned, the future of our public schools is also at stake. Nearly 60% of children enrolled in Guilford County Schools receive free and reduced lunch. Too often, disadvantaged children enter Kindergarten and can’t do what the other children do, not because they are less able, but because they are less prepared. These children become the anchors of their class, the discipline problems, and the pace of instruction is slowed. In earlier times, the United States led the industrial nations in education. We now rank 25th in math, 17th in Science, and 14th in reading. The futures of all of our children in public school are inextricably linked to the futures of our disadvantaged children. School readiness is a rising tide that lifts all ships.

If a high percentage of our children are not well educated, what is the future of America’s work force? Ben Bernanke, former head of the Federal Reserve, affirmed the return on investment in early childhood as it relates to our future workforce. In a speech delivered while he was in office, Bernanke stated:

“Please keep in mind that formal K-12 and post –secondary education, as important as they are, do not alone build better workforces. Research increasingly has shown the importance for both individuals and the economy as a whole of both early childhood education as well as efforts to promote the lifelong acquisition of skills. The payoffs of Early Childhood Programs can be especially high.”        

If the future of America’s workforce is unsettling, what does that mean for the future of America’s economic development and competitive positioning in a highly competitive global market place? James Heckman, a Nobel Prize winning economist is spending much of his time researching the return on investment of early learning and development. A research group he participated in had this to say about the future of economic development in America in the Proceedings of the International Academy of Science:

“The future of the U.S. economy…is in jeopardy because a growing fraction of the nation’s workforce will consist of adults who were raised in disadvantaged environments…Studies of human capital formation indicate that the quality of the early childhood environment is a strong predictor of adult productivity and that early enrichment for disadvantaged children increases the probability of later economic success.”

Even our national defense is at stake. A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of our military stated in an editorial in USA Today:

“Sad but true: Most young adults in the U.S cannot qualify for military service…From a national security perspective, the situation is so serious that nearly 200 retired generals and admirals are calling on Congress to consider major educational reform, with a special emphasis on increased investments in high-quality early education…Why early education? Because research shows that these high-quality programs are the most cost-effective way to provide children with the skills they need to succeed in school and later in life.”

Better outcomes for children and their parents, better outcomes for our public schools, a more productive workforce, a stronger national defense, and a competitive economy represent the return on investment, the ROI, in early learning and development. What better investment could we possibly make?

Sources:

  • U.S. Census/clasp.org, September, 2013
  • Brookings Institution, How Much Could We Improve Children’s Chances by Intervening Early and Often?; October, 2013
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