Stokes: Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives. Part 8. is a condensed version of the note below. Cindy Tuttle, Executive Director Stokes Partnership for Children contributed to the Local People, Local Stories, Local Impact series and her entire article is listed below.
The Smart Start Network is made up of 75 local partnerships across the state of North Carolina. Each local partnership is its own independent 501(c)(3). Stokes Partnership for Children (SPC) is one of those local partnerships, specifically serving Stokes County. SPC has a history of over 25 years serving our early childhood community, with a focus on children birth to age five. Our primary goal is to identify and meet the needs of young children so that they are prepared for success in school and beyond.
With COVID-19, NCDHHS thought of the Smart Start Network as a primary partner in our local communities, classifying local partnerships as essential businesses.
Daily, SPC is working to ensure that child care programs, providing care for the children of essential workers, have access to critical expert health and safety consultation and are connected to available resources, such as information about funding, supplies, financial assistance, teacher supports and more.
It is the job of SPC to track the needs of centers and families so that state officials are kept informed and aware of the needs of child care programs and families in our community.
For example, the Smart Start Network, in Collaboration with the Child Care Services Association (CCSA) and Child Care Resource and Referral Networks have created the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund for child care programs. Local child care programs submit their applications to SPC. SPC processes them and then forwards eligibility information back to CCSA. Through the CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund, child care programs are provided extra funds to support them during this health crisis.
During this time of chaos, it is amazing how our community has come together to develop new methods of operation. Making connections has been vital to the early childhood centers providing care for the children of essential workers. Having the supplies to provide this care is imperative, but difficult, with restrictions being made to daily supplies such as toilet paper, cleaning products and milk. SPC helped to bridge the gap between child care programs and local suppliers by personally contacting local stores and speaking directly with managers to explain how child care facilities were considered essential businesses and that caring for the children may require an increase in supplies. SPC provided the businesses and the child care facilities with a letter verifying their role as an essential business. This helped the centers to be able to purchase the necessary supplies they needed to remain open. The connection made between local suppliers and child care programs built an understanding of support and care in our community.
In addition to being the local Smart Start agency, SPC also is the Contract Administrator for the NC Pre-Kindergarten Program for Stokes County. SPC contracts with the Stokes County Schools, Head Start and private child care programs to provide high-quality educational experiences to enhance school readiness for eligible four-year-old children. Classrooms for approximately 160 children enrolled in the NC Pre-K program in Stokes County closed along with Stokes County Schools classrooms mid-March. Thirteen classrooms in some elementary schools, Head Start centers and a private childcare facility were providing high-quality early education to these at-risk 4-year olds to help prepare them to be successful in kindergarten next school year.
Dedicated Pre-K Teachers are finding creative ways to offer virtual learning. They are using take-home packets as well as online platforms to reach their students and engage families to actively participate in teaching.
One teacher stated, “I’ve gotten into the swing of things and I’ve received great feedback from the families–they say it is easily accessible and they all seem to love the activities (families and children). They send me pictures and videos of what they are doing, how they complete the extension activities, and can answer questions that I ask, all of which brings me so much joy!”
For children who do not have access to on-line resources, teachers are texting, emailing and calling individual families in order to rise to the challenge of teaching, in spite of the pandemic.
In addition to providing in-house programs, SPC subcontracts Smart Start funds out to other community organizations to provide needed services to Stokes County’s young children and families. SPC supports these service providers as they creatively continue to serve children and families during COVID-19, while ensuring they are being a good steward of state funds. It is amazing how innovative these programs have been to continue serving our community.
One great example of this is the Children’s Center of Northwest NC, who SPC contracts with to provide the Nurturing Parenting Program (NPP).
NPP is a family-centered trauma-informed initiative designed to build nurturing parenting skills as an alternative to abusive and neglecting parenting and child-rearing practices. NPP staff have continued to provide services by mailing NPP lessons weekly to families, then are following up each week either by phone or virtual technology (Zoom, FaceTime) if the family has access to this technology.
The families then have the lesson in front of them while NPP staff discusses it with them and answers any questions they may have. NPP also mails any types of resources/helpful information the family may request or NPP staff may feel is beneficial. NPP staff have sent information about how to stay safe and healthy during COVID-19, ways to talk to their children about it, helpful ways to assist with school work, etc. If NPP staff discovers they have a need for food or supplies they see how they can help them so that their needs are being met. Despite COVID-19, NPP staff are still taking referrals for this program.
During this pandemic, SPC strongly encourages the community to follow all of the safety guidelines related to COVID-19, to stay home and follow the latest NC Shelter in Place orders.
With that thought in mind, Stokes Partnership for Children staff are working mostly from home, but you can rest assured we are still working very hard from behind the scenes. We can be reached via email or by calling us at 336-985-2676 and leaving a voicemail. We check our voicemail several times daily.
Cindy S. Tuttle, Executive Director
Stokes Partnership for Children