Governor Cooper’s Early Childhood Advisory Council learned last week about Family Forward NC, an innovative business initiative to improve children’s health and well-being and keep North Carolina’s businesses competitive. Through research and the exchange of ideas among business leaders, employees and organizations, Family Forward NC promotes workforce investments that support children’s healthy development and a competitive business environment, both in the short and long term.
Dr. Betsey Tilson, North Carolina’s State Health Director and Chief Medical Officer described the initiative to the Council members as a “win-win” for North Carolina businesses and families. The immediate and long-term business advantages of family-friendly workplace policies are well-documented. Dr. Tilson also referenced a Guide to family-friendly workplaces that NCECF will release in January 2019. The Guide is a practical tool to support businesses as they seek to put in place family-friendly workplace policies.
Dr. Tilson spoke about Family Forward NC as an example of work already underway in the state on one of the areas of focus of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Early Childhood Action Plan. The Early Childhood Action Plan is built on the foundation of the Pathways to Grade Level Reading Initiative, which has brought cross-sector leaders together over three years to collaborate on taking a whole-child, birth-through-age-eight approach to improving third grade reading proficiency in North Carolina.
DHHS leaders invited Council members to comment on the current draft of the Early Childhood Action Plan and to start thinking about strategies for action in the areas of focus. Several Council members asked how racial equity could be more integrated throughout the Plan, from the data indicators to the proposed actions. They urged North Carolina to think differently about our systems to get better results for children of color, who currently face structural barriers to success.
Family Forward NC is an initiative of the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) with founding sponsorship from Blue Cross NC. The Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative is an initiative of NCECF in collaboration with NC Child, The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., and BEST NC.