Raising Parent Voice to Guide Early Childhood Policy

A new report synthesizes the voices of more than 2,000 North Carolina parents and identifies themes around what helps and hinders them as they support their young children’s healthy development. Not About Me, Without Me: Raising Parent Voice to Guide Early Childhood Policy is a meta-analysis of 18 parent surveys, focus groups, and meetings from across the state, conducted by organizations that support children and families.The report recognizes that policies must be informed by the perspectives of those who are most important in helping children succeed—parents.

Not About Me, Without Me lifts up parent voice in three key areas. Good health and on-track development, supported and supportive families and communities, and high quality education from birth through third grade all help ensure that children will be reading on grade level by the end of third grade.

Research shows that children’s development during the first eight years of life is strongly affected by their health. Experiences during this time are hardwired into their brains and bodies, forming the foundation for all subsequent development. Good physical and emotional health helps ensure that children are successful learners from their earliest years, putting them on the pathway to becoming proficient readers. Supportive families and communities also play a critical role in building strong foundations for learning. Positive parent and child interactions, such as talking, playing, eating meals, and reading together help children grow stronger emotionally, develop larger vocabularies, and learn to read more easily. Children living in safe and economically viable families and neighborhoods, with stable housing and limited environmental health hazards, are more likely to be successful in school and in life. High-quality child care, prekindergarten programs, and elementary school environments help prepare children for school and life success.

Highlights from Not About Me, Without Me include:

  • Parents want more information about specific health issues, including child development, nutrition, mental health, and supports for parents.
  • Parents need easier access to medical services, due to transportation challenges, having to take time away from work, paperwork requirements, and cost of services.
  • Parents have unmet needs that could be met in the community, such as information about resources, informal social supports, affordable programs (including supports for new parents and parent education), resources and services for families of color and immigrants, and services for children with disabilities and developmental delays.
  • Parents encounter barriers when trying to access community supports, including time, transportation, lack of trust, waitlists and eligibility, and cultural bias and stigma.
  • Parents encounter obstacles to accessing formal child care, including cost, quality, availability, knowledge about options, and transportation.
  • Parents are unclear about what specific skills children need to be ready for school.
  • Parents need more time at home, more books at home, and tips about reading with children to best support their children’s learning during the summer months.
  • Parents need help with job training and finding work and wages that allow them to adequately provide for their families.

This report is a starting point in NCECF’s effort to learn from and authentically engage parents and families in our work. We hope the report’s findings will be used broadly by partner organizations and initiatives embarking on their own efforts to learn from parents.

The report will inform the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative’s Design Teams as they seek to identify, prioritize and detail strategies for improving early literacy, through work in three key areas of child and family well-being, including social-emotional health and development, high quality birth-through-age-eight education, and regular school attendance. Pathways’ vision is that all NC children, regardless of race, ethnicity or socioeconomic status, are reading on grade-level by the end of third grade, and all children with disabilities achieve expressive and receptive communication skills commensurate with their developmental ages, so that they have the greatest opportunity for life success.

NCECF would like to thank the partner organizations who collected and analyzed parent voice data through their local work and shared that information to be synthesized for this report, including the East Durham Children’s Initiative, Great Expectations (Forsyth County), Read Charlotte, Ready for School Ready for Life (Guilford County), and Smart Start local partnerships across the state. The full list is available in the report.