Families Share Insights to Inform Early Childhood Systems Improvements

NCECF recently asked families across the state about their experiences raising young children, parent education resource needs and preferences, family engagement and leadership, and fostering social and emotional health in young children. Highlights from the findings are below:

Experiences raising children:

  • Critical influences in raising young children: access to early childhood and family support services, recreational and community activities, and community environment.
  • Challenges in raising young children: parenting struggles (single parenthood and child behavior), economic security, and awareness of available resources.

Parent Education Resources:

Access to resources:

  • Parents find out about programs or services through social media, word of mouth, friends or family members, and school/child care/other programs.
  • The biggest challenges to accessing resources were the timing/schedule of services not meeting their needs, awareness of the resources, transportation, and eligibility.
  • Families want to know more about finding affordable quality care, finding activities, parenting programs, school readiness, behavior supports and resources.

Parent education preferences:

  • More than half of survey respondents preferred parent education activities to which they can bring their children. Others identified were parenting classes, receiving information on their phone, and parent support groups.
  • For those who have received home visiting services, more than 90 percent reported a positive experience.

Family engagement and leadership:

  • The preferred family engagement opportunities were: receiving parenting information, involving child in learning activities at home, working with professionals on child’s learning and development, and supporting child’s transitions.
  • The parent leadership opportunity that the most parents (41 percent) were interested in was being part of decision-making process in children’s school or programs. One-fifth of parents responded that they were not interested in any of the listed parent leadership opportunities.

Social and emotional health and resilience:

  • Parents were asked what helps children learn and talk about their feelings. They identified modeling and coaching about feelings as well as communicating openly about feelings with their children.
  • Services to support child social and emotional development were parenting programs and mental health services. Socialization opportunities with other children were also identified.

The feedback was gathered in the fall of 2019, through the federal Preschool Development Grant, which was administered by the NC Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE). Acknowledging the importance of family voice in guiding and informing state planning for early childhood systems building, the input from families is supporting the development of DCDEE’s B-5 Strategic Plan. NCECF created and supported the process by which 26 community-based organizations representing 16 counties in North Carolina gathered input from 871 families via surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups. The full report is available here.

The input was gathered using a racial equity lens. Read more about that here.

The B-5 Strategic Plan aligns with the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading framework and DHHS’ Early Childhood Action Plan. This month, NC was one of 20 states awarded a continuation Preschool Development Grant, which will support the implementation of the strategic plan over the next three years.

In addition to informing the B-5 Strategic Plan, the family voice collected through this project will inform:

  • The operationalization of the Pathways Action Framework
  • The ongoing work, led by the NC Partnership for Children, to develop and implement a statewide family engagement framework
  • Home visiting and parenting education system planning efforts