Founded in 2019, The EarlyWell Initiative brings together families and organizations across North Carolina who value infant and early childhood mental health to ensure all families are supported in ways that work best for them. The work is built on enacting recommendations from the Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework and strives to build a robust, evidence-based, and accessible early childhood mental health system in North Carolina.

Since beginning this work, EarlyWell has engaged hundreds of stakeholders across the state from all levels of the mental health eco-system and currently lead a growing coalition of more than 200 individuals from all levels of the child mental health ecosystem including, most importantly, families and caregivers.

The EarlyWell Coalition is co-led by NC Child and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation and is a nonpartisan group that, through public policy, seeks to ensure North Carolina’s children, prenatal through age 8, and their caregivers are thriving in healthy relationships, with positive mental health, and without barriers to care.

Impact

  • In 2020, EarlyWell organized a team of community-based organizations to interview and survey more than 200 North Carolina families with young children (birth through age eight) currently or recently involved in the social-emotional health ecosystem. The findings were compiled and published in various reports which include charts showing the quantitative analysis of the disaggregated family survey data, the survey and interview protocols, and quotes from families on various themes in each of twelve specific sectors of the social-emotional health ecosystem.
  • Based on these findings, we organized problems and solutions related to the state’s social-emotional health ecosystem as identified by the families and released the report, From Equity to Issue Campaigns, highlighting 30 policy and practice recommendations that will strengthen North Carolina’s Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health System. 
  • We developed a 10-year advocacy roadmap to prioritize EarlyWell policy and practice recommendations and in October 2023, released the first wave of policy priorities that the initiative’s growing coalition is working to advance 

Promote Understanding

EarlyWell’s growing coalition works to spread awareness and a shared understanding that strong mental health and resilience has its roots in early childhood. We believe that the family is at the core of a child’s social-emotional skills and mental health and when we focus on this foundation and support these relationships, children and their caregivers can thrive – now and into the future.

Spearhead Collaboration

EarlyWell actively engages people from all levels of the child mental health ecosystem including families, caregivers, system leaders, family-serving organizations, government partners, and other champions of child mental health. Since 2019, we have engaged hundreds of stakeholders across the state and continue to intentionally center our work on family voice.

Advance Policy

EarlyWell is dedicated to identifying and advocating for solutions that build a working system to support all children’s mental health and development, and allows them to thrive. In addition to engaging a coalition of over 200 individuals focused on advancing six specific policy priorities through 2025, the initiative has also provided valuable resources for advocates, policymakers, clinicians, funders, and others interested in improving the systems of care that address social-emotional well-being for young children and their caregivers.

Advancing Work

October 2023

The EarlyWell Coalition came together in Chapel Hill and launched the first wave of policy priorities that we will work to advance over the next two years. During the day-long retreat, coalition members took a look back on the work that EarlyWell has completed so far, from hearing from families and caregivers to developing recommendations that align with their needs, and discussed strategies and next steps to move the policy recommendations forward.  

2022-2023

The Coordinating Team worked together to review the recommendations included in the From Equity to Issues report and prioritize them through the use of a policy rubric. Through this process, we developed an advocacy roadmap for the next 10 years. 

November 2022

The EarlyWell Coordinating Team, comprised of 16 individuals across the state including family leaders, was established to guide the Coalition’s work as the primary decision-making body.

June 2022

With the support of The Duke Endowment and Alliance for Early Success, EarlyWell released the report, From Equity to Issue Campaigns: The Next Stop on the Road Map to Childhood Mental Health in North Carolina on how North Carolina’s policies and services can better support families to build their children’s mental health during their early years. The recommendations grow out of a robust family-centered stakeholder process and are rooted in the journey that kids and families take together, starting before birth.

Jan - Aug 2021

EarlyWell brought together 12 workgroups or “dance floors” representing different sectors, such as foster care, early intervention, health insurance, and early care and education to consider the scope and scale of changes our state needs to develop a robust, equitable, and accessible social-emotional health ecosystem for our state’s infants, young children, and their families.

Race equity and family leadership were central to this process; EarlyWell partnered with Empowered Parents In Community (EPiC) to provide training and keep a commitment to racial equity at the core of the workgroups’ thinking, and parents played important roles in the work groups, speaking from their experiences navigating the social-emotional health ecosystem in North Carolina and sharing what they would like to see changed to improve services, including prevention and promotion.

April 2021

The report; Lean In & Listen Up: How can we strengthen North Carolina’s early intervention, early childhood, and mental health services? By listening to families, is released, providing a window into what families need and want from North Carolina’s mental health ecosystem for babies and young children. The report is based on more than 200 interviews and surveys conducted with North Carolina parents of young children.

2020-2021

A team of community-based organizations interviewed and/or surveyed more than 200 North Carolina families from 28 counties in the state. Each of the families had young children (birth through age eight) currently or recently involved in the social-emotional health ecosystem. Their findings were compiled in the Family Voice report which includes charts showing the quantitative analysis of the disaggregated family survey data, the survey and interview protocols, and quotes from families on various themes in each of twelve specific sectors of the social-emotional health ecosystem.

October 2019

NC Child, in collaboration with early childhood leaders including the NC Early Childhood Foundation, launched the NC Initiative on Young Children’s Social Emotional Health, now known as the EarlyWell Initiative.

Partners

The EarlyWell Coalition is co-led with NC Child

Funders

Current Funders

NCECF’s EarlyWell Initiative work is funded via NC Child through a grant from the The Duke Endowment. 

 

 

 

The following Invest Early NC funders directly support NCECF’s leadership in the EarlyWell Initiative:

  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation
  • ChildTrust Foundation
  • John Rex Endowment
  • Hopestar Foundation
  • The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation 
  • The Cemala Foundation

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