Making the Case – Racial Equity at NC Early Childhood Foundation

If 2020 was a year of introspection at NC Early Childhood Foundation, then 2021 can be defined as a year of clarity and grappling with how our role as an organization ties into the greater vision that every young child deserves equitable access to life-long health, education, and well-being. This intentional direction of centering racial equity was outlined in NCECF’s Strategic Plan this year, where we recommitted our mission and vision statement to highlight racial equity as an overarching theme woven throughout the organization’s internal and external work. NCECF explicitly acknowledges the impact of systemic racism and seeks to prioritize strategies, policies, and practices designed to both disrupt racism and alleviate its effects on North Carolina’s young children and families.

By equity, we are referring to:

  • Ensuring that those facing the biggest barriers to success get the most resources
  • Dismantling systems or aspects of systems that are only working for a segment of our population and rebuilding them to work for every child

Nationally, the case to support racial equity in early childhood is clear:

  • According to the Build Initiative, the United States is becoming more diverse where 45 percent of all young children from birth to age four are children of color, and the diversity of young children will continue to grow.
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy states that children of color are more likely to experience the consequences of poverty, including negative effects on their educational experience and reduced success in adulthood – because of systemic inequities in access to healthcare, education, wealth, nutrition, and housing. 
  • Parents of Black, Indigenous, and children of color are more likely to face employment challenges that include involuntary part-time and unfair scheduling practices such as unpredictable hours, according to the Center of the Developing Child.

In North Carolina:

  • Data from the 2018-2019 school year shows that 53 percent of children in North Carolina’s public schools were non-white, a 10-percentage point increase over the 2005-06 school year when 43 percent were identified as children of color. By comparison, in 2018-19, only 21 percent of teachers were non-white, when 17 percent of teachers were identified as people of color. Children of color are not seeing a representation of themselves in leadership positions in schools and with educators they interact with on a daily basis.
  • A report from EdNC shows that a disproportionate number of Black children are more likely to be suspended and expelled from preschool highlighting widespread injustice and racial inequality in our early childhood education system. In North Carolina’s public preschool programs, 47 percent of children suspended once and 73 percent of children suspended more than once were Black in 2015-2016.

NCECF is supporting the advancement of racial equity through our action areas outlined in our strategic vision – promoting understanding, spearheading collaboration, and advancing policies:

Promoting understanding

    • Engaging NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities in shared learning around racial equity, including how to use a racial equity lens to determine goals and guide strategy choices in their collaborative.
    • Using NCECF social media to highlight racial equity issues in early childhood and lift up work led by people and communities of color.

Spearheading collaboration

  • Supporting work to incorporate a racial equity lens and family leadership in the EarlyWell Initiative; a collaborative, cross-sector effort co-led with NC Child to develop a robust social-emotional health system for young children and their families in NC. This includes contracting with a racial equity consultant and ensuring diverse representation and leadership in workgroups.
  • Facilitating the NC Early Childhood Data Advisory Council which includes data development work in areas that support equity (e.g. disaggregation of data by race/ethnicity, income, and geography)
  • Co-leading a growing coalition with Black Child Development Institute to reimagine an equitable and universally accessible early care and education system

Advancing policies

  • Developing the Pathways Action Map; an online tool designed to help drive action in prioritized policy and practice areas that promote grade-level reading for all NC children, particularly children of color. The actions were identified using a racial equity lens. The Map will feature initiatives that center racial equity and community voice, particularly efforts led by leaders of color.

As we continue to learn and unlearn our role in the early childhood space by rooting ourselves in racial equity, we ask that you hold us accountable and commit yourselves in partnership so that we can all create more equitable outcomes for young children and guarantee that every child has genuine access to opportunity to achieve their full potential.