10/12/07 — Partnership reports year of helping ounty children start right

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Partnership reports year of helping ounty children start right

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 12, 2007 2:17 PM

Partnership for Children of Wayne County completed another year providing a solid foundation for parents and children, local and state officials reported Thursday at the group's annual meeting.

Since the partnership's inception nine years ago, the list of services has expanded beyond programs like More at Four, to include such initiatives as parent education, car seat safety and a recent grant targeted to study childhood obesity, said Don Magoon, executive director.

"When we started the partnership, we were like a toddler's puzzle," he said. "We have grown ever since. We have grown up. ...The puzzle is now multi-dimensional and has a lot more pieces.

"We're very proud of the tremendous gains in Wayne County."

Stephanie Fanjul, N.C. Partnership for Children president, said Wayne County is "blessed" to have Smart Start, and likewise Magoon heading its efforts.

"He is well thought of across all the counties," she said.

With the state now boasting 78 partnerships covering 100 counties, the program is effective, she said.

"This isn't a program you pump lots of money into and it doesn't work," she said. "There's no other table in our state where people committed to children from 0-8, or 0-5 in some counties, come together to solve problems for our children. Only at the Smart Start table do we get to talk about solving our problems."

Calling it a "movement that's working to ensure that every child gets all that they need to be successful," she commended local staff and child care workers for doing that.

"Every time you welcome a new baby into the world, you're starting that process."

Several other beneficiaries of the partnership also spoke.

Regina Henderson, accompanied by son Timothy, who will soon be a part of More at Four, said she first sought information about it for her older daughter Alexis, and later enrolled her son, Daniel.

It was worth the drive she had to make from LaGrange, she said.

"More at Four helped us know their strengths and weaknesses and work with them," she said.

Melanie Cox, the parent of a kindergartener, applauded the Parents as Teachers program.

"It has been a big part of our life from the time our daughter was 14 months old," she said. "We have gone to play group. Parents as Teachers has opened up a lot of doors for us."

Mrs. Cox said the home visits and access to staff provided countless resources for her as a new mother.

"The ladies have been like family to us the last few years," she said.

Cookie Chase, a childbirth educator in the partnership's prenatal program, covers the other end of the spectrum.

"I get the people before you get the people," she said.

Her role is to educate parents before they give birth and ready them for what lies ahead.

"I had one man who said he wanted to be the best father he could be...but didn't have a clue how," she said. "After the parenting class, he said he was confident that he could do it because of all he'd learned."

Child care providers also benefit from the supplement services of Smart Start -- such as providing laptop computers to those who don't have them, scholarship incentives and a lending library.

"To further your education is so important because we know that we'll have good qualified teachers out there," said Diane Dean, assistant director at Bright Beginnings. "When you see them having the ability to go to school, to be able to get their associates or bachelors degree, you know they're in it because they love it."

Ms. Sanjul agreed that much has been accomplished, but there is still much to be done.

The local partnership has done exemplary work, she noted, surpassing many of its counterparts in other areas of the state. But things like funding and willing workers will always be gaps that must be filled.

"I need passion. I need you to be absolutely relentless about this mission," she told her audience Thursday. "This is the work of more than one lifetime....We need to find people to pass the baton on to."