11/16/12 — Agency: Funds tougher to find

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Agency: Funds tougher to find

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 16, 2012 1:46 PM

If the Partnership for Children of Wayne County had to come up with a theme for the fiscal year 2012, it would have to be "doing more with less," its executive director said at the agency's annual meeting Thursday.

The past year was "fairly stressful," Charles Ivey said.

"We faced tremendous financial cuts," he said, citing the nearly 20 percent cut to funding and the loss of five staff members as some of the casualties. "It caused us to look at things in the right way.

"We knew we had to become more self-supporting as well as looking at more alternative ways (to fund)."

Grants and fundraisers were among the different options enlisted to bring in money to sustain the programs and to ensure quality child care remains in Wayne County.

Ivey told the gathering at Oak Forest Church of Christ that the Partnership continues to have waiting lists and growing numbers of children enrolled at five-star child care centers.

"Those first 2,000 days of a child's life are so very important," he said. "The time between when a child is born and enters kindergarten are the most opportune times for a child's brain.

"We need to be involved. We need to be invested, put our money where our mouth is."

The breakfast meeting centered around the question, "Are you IN for Wayne County Kids?" and targeted three areas -- invested, involved and informed.

Dr. Ed Wilson, chairman of Wayne Education Network, tackled the question, "Are you invested?"

He said the county has 700 people employed in the child care field, at 99 child care facilities. The latest census also showed that there are 6,123 local children who have one or both parents working and more than 8,700 children from birth to 5 years old in child care programs.

Wilson pointed out that high quality child care has been proven to better prepare children for school, help them have better test scores and even have fewer behavior problems.

The question, "Are you involved?" was addressed by Dr. Peggy Teague, vice president academic and student affairs at Wayne Community College and also a former executive director of a Partnership for Children in Alamance County.

She said she has spent more than three decades working in related fields, supporting efforts like Smart Start, and continues to challenge communities to do the same.

"Are you going to get involved in child care in Wayne County?" she asked. "The reasons are many, the ways are unlimited."

Citing just a few suggestions, she challenged the audience to find a way to take action -- volunteer to read to a group of children, participate in events like Born Learning, offer to provide child care for a neighbor to attend a parenting class, support fundraisers for the Partnership.

Stephanie Fanjul, president of the N.C. Partnership for Children, might be based at the state level but noted that the beauty of the Smart Start design is that it's not something handed down from Raleigh. Rather, each agency is able to be customized to serve its own unique population.

Her piece of the program centered around the question, "Are you informed?"

"Invest at the beginning and not the end," she said, alluding to growing budgets funding prisons versus early childhood education options. "This idea of investing early is one that business folks, law enforcement, the military are all talking about."

The importance of "building the brain" -- the only organ not fully developed at birth -- is vital, she said. And those first five years of life are the time when that is best accomplished.

"Ninety percent of the children's brain is developed during that first 2,000 days," she said. "We build their brain. That's so different, that's so much more profound than saying they got an education."