Stokes Partnership for Children (SPC) recently requested input from the community at large in order to conduct a community needs assessment. The needs assessment was conducted in two phases in collaboration with an evaluation consultant, Justine A. Wayne, MSW, MSPH. Phase one involved collecting and analyzing various existing data from a variety of sources. Phase two consisted of the online needs assessment survey. There were 294 respondents who participated over the three week period that the survey was accessible. Responses were collected electronically (on-line). The primary target audience was parents, caregivers and professionals who work with young children, however; high-quality feedback was requested from a wide variety of community stakeholders. The survey results will be used as a tool to help identify the Smart Start funding priorities over a three year period (2016-19) for programs in Stokes County that support children from birth to age five, but not yet in kindergarten.
It is important to note that not all of the data directly relates to the mission of Stokes Partnership for Children or its funding sources such as Smart Start, therefore; SPC will focus mainly on the data that does directly relate to its core focus areas: early literacy, family support, health and early care and education. However, the data may be relevant and useful to other local agencies and to the public. Based on the mission of Stokes Partnership for Children for Children, the following primary funding priorities were identified:
Early childhood literacy;
Lead teacher education through college credits, with a special focus on the education of infant/toddler lead teachers;
Family support and education.
In phase one, a few highlights of Stokes County data reflects:
The population of young children has steadily declined, while the county’s overall population has remained relatively stagnant or slightly grew.
Ranks 40 out of 100 counties in overall child well-being, 34th in economic development, 39th in health, 42nd in education and 64th in youth behavior.
25% of the children in Stokes County live in poverty.
Ranks 83 out of 100 counties (8%) for adults who have at least a Bachelor’s degree.
Ranks 88 out of 100 counties in access to physicians and has 4 physicians per 10,000 people.
Ranks 11 out of 100 counties for child fatalities or 1 out of 10,000 children.
Ranks 55 out of 100 counties (15%) in child obesity.
Ranks 50 out of 100 counties (27%) in child food insecurity.
Ranks 58 out of 100 counties (56.60%) for 3rd grade reading proficiency (updated for SY2013-14*).
Ranks 36 out of 100 counties (86.20%) graduation rate (updated for SY2013-14*).
Ranks 63 out of 100 counties or 24.52 out of 1,000 juveniles for juvenile delinquent rate.
Ranks 81 out of 100 counties or 11.54 out of 1,000 children in DSS custody.
Ranks 72 out of 100 counties or 15.94 out of 1,000 child abuse and neglect rate.
*Source – 2016 Roadmap of Need (Public School Forum of North Carolina’s Center for Afterschool Programs (NC CAP).
In Phase two and on a broader level, when asked, “What are the challenges for your family and/or families you work with?” the following are the top ten concerns:
1. Affordable health insurance
2. Unemployment, or availability of jobs
3. Children with challenging behaviors
4. Availability of high quality child care or pre-k near home or work
5. Access to affordable high quality child care or pre-k
6. Availability of high quality child care or pre-k when I need it
7. Services/care for children with special needs (speech, physical, occupational therapy)
8. Access to affordable camps, classes, or after school programs
9. Lack of general parenting support or child development information
10. Access to affordable medical care
It was noted in the survey that early childhood teachers with the lowest levels of education are in classrooms with the very youngest children (birth to two). This is of concern due to the fact research proves a child’s brain develops faster in the earliest years of life than at any other time, particularly from birth to 14 months of age. Research supports that the youngest children in child care are the ones who should be in the highest quality early learning environments, including higher educated teachers who have an in-depth knowledge of child development. The survey results reflect that the higher educated teachers are teachers in the NC Pre-K program (serves at-risk 4 year olds) or Head Start program (serves 3 and 4 year olds from low income families), which have mandatory teacher education requirements. This is not only an issue in Stokes County, but in North Carolina in general. The brain development research and the data relating to children with challenging behavior reflect the need to invest in family support programs, as well.
Social and emotional issues relating to young children rose to the top and many expressed concern over challenging behaviors exhibited by young children in and out of early learning environments. This is supported by the fact that behavioral challenges have become more prevalent in the child care system as a whole, including in the public school pre-k classrooms, Head Start and private child care.
In the open ended questions, participants verbally expressed frustration over the lack of available child care in the county, with a particular emphasis on the lack in the northern portion of the county. Universally, many expressed concern about children being ready for kindergarten, whether referring to their own children or as expressed by educators.
Stokes Partnership for Children was awarded $10,000 from a North Carolina Smart Start Data Capacity Mini-Grant and a portion of those funds supported conducting a needs assessment. Mini-Grants were awarded to enhance data collection and management to further ensure data-driven decision making to increase the health, well-being and development of the young children. Funds for the Smart Start Data Project are a part of the Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge Grant. The funds have provided an opportunity for the Smart Start system to develop common outcomes, increase the capacity of local partnerships to collect, manage, and utilize programmatic data related to these outcomes, and develop a new Smart Start data reporting system for local partnerships to provide their results.
For access to the full needs assessment survey results go to www.stokepfc.com. For questions concerning data sources or general inquiry contact Cindy Tuttle, Executive Director at firstname.lastname@example.org or Shannon Cox, Program Manager at email@example.com or by calling (336) 985-2676.