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April 23, 2024

Reporter from EducationNC visits Alexander

VISITS PARTNERSHIP FOR CHILDREN — Liz Bell, a reporter from EducationNC, spent the day visiting Alexander County child care centers on July 18, 2023. She is on a mission to highlight the child care crisis in North Carolina. Pictured, left to right, are: Alexander County Partnership for Children Director Paula Cline, EducationNC Reporter Liz Bell, ACPFC staff members Ashli Elder and Natasha Williams.

By ANGELA FARR KING

Liz Bell is on a mission. She is a reporter for EducationNC and she has been traveling across the state this summer to visit early childhood classrooms and talk to teachers and directors. She recognizes the shortage of quality child care for families and is determined to find solutions.

Liz is making her way East across North Carolina and spent the entire day on July 18th visiting New Beginnings Child Enrichment Center, Millersville Child Development Center, Early Head Start, and Calling Kids Child Development Center in Alexander County. Her starting point was the Alexander County Partnership for Children (ACPFC) and she was able to attend the Partnership’s Picnic in the Park where preschool children were engaged in princess and pirate reading activities.

Bell explained that the government made a historic investment in early childcare facilities through stabilization grants during the Pandemic, but those funds will soon be going away. She said there is currently no momentum in the State House or Senate to assist once these emergency grant funds are gone. She also explained that other states have stepped up to continue this much needed funding, but North Carolina has yet to do so.

Bell said she had high hopes when a Bipartisan Caucus in cooperation with the Hunt Institute (an agency that honors the legacy of the former governor, James B. Hunt, Jr., who was an ardent champion of education) joined together and made a request of $300 million dollars to be inserted in the upcoming budget for the next two years to continue the grant funding that will soon disappear. She has been disappointed to find that this money has not been in any budget proposals as of her July 18 visit to Alexander County.

Bell saw this as a “critical moment in time to hit the road.” She wants to know what this loss of grant funding will mean to childcare center directors. Will they be able to sustain wages and bonuses? One director told her, “Staffing is already a concern, but I don’t know how I will keep my teachers without the sustainability grants.”

On August 7, Bell published an article based on her visit to the Alexander County child care centers. The directors she spoke with were honest about their concerns for continuing care for young children without the sustainability grants. The article is personal and child care directors talk about the loss of jobs for parents who can’t find child care or who have lost it due to staffing shortages or loss of facilities. Anyone who cares about the economic future of Alexander County should read this important article by Liz Bell: https://www.ednc.org/2023-08-07-alexander-county-child-care-access-dwindled-providers-uncertain-funding-parents-jobs-threat/

While making her rounds visiting child care centers across the state, Bell has found some counties who are developing some creative plans to increase child care providers and to cut costs for existing ones. According to resources shared by Bell, in Yadkin County, “a petition has been approved by the state Child Care Commission for a rule change that would allow for a new type of child care setting that houses multiple small early childhood programs. The model would lower costs for providers and meet rural communities’ needs more than current options.”

Bell also shared a resource explaining that “Generations Child Development Center in West Jefferson is part of a larger organization, Generations Ashe, which runs the child care program along with a center for low-income seniors, an assisted living center, and a day program for adults with disabilities. The child care center is physically connected to the adult day program, which helps with some costs and facilities, as well as access to a nurse. And the program provides employee benefits (paid time off, and health, dental, and vision insurance) that are hard to find in the child care field.” Those who have seen this program in action report that the intergenerational experiences between the seniors and the children have proven to be beneficial beyond the financial benefits.

Bell continues to sound the alarm about the NC child care crisis, but she also seeks innovative solutions that could be replicated in Alexander County to alleviate the strain on local child care centers and families who simply want safe places for their children to stay so they can work to provide for them.

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