Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina will receive $56 million in federal funding over the next seven years to support children’s health and well-being, improve access to high-quality early learning for families across the state and invest in the state’s early childhood workforce.
The federal funding is one of the state’s largest infusions of new dollars in North Carolina’s early childhood system.
“When all children have the tools they need to succeed, we will have a healthier and stronger North Carolina for generations to come,” Cooper said. “The science is overwhelming that early childhood education and intervention make a significant difference in whether a child succeeds in school and beyond. Every child deserves the best chance to succeed. That means we have to support families, early childhood teachers, and all those who have an impact on early childhood development.”
The new funding comes from two competitive federal grant awards to the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), including a $40.2 million Preschool Development Grant (PDG) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families and up to a $16 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
The PDG grant invests in the people who shape young children’s healthy development – parents and early childhood professionals. It will help early childhood teachers build the skills needed to support children’s optimal development without having to leave the classroom. By providing job-embedded professional development and coaching, the grant removes barriers that make it difficult for teachers to pursue higher education.
In addition, the grant funds a partnership with the Smart Start network to expand access to Family Connects, a nurse home visiting program for parents of newborns; support for families as their children transition into kindergarten; and expanded access to high-quality child care for infants and toddlers.
This is the state’s second PDG grant. In 2018, the NCDHHS was awarded a one-year, $4.48 million PDG planning grant.
The grant from CMS aims to improve quality of care and reduce costs for Medicaid-insured children (age 0-20 years) by implementing the Integrated Care for Kids (InCK) model. InCK will improve how children receive services by coordinating healthcare and other sectors that support children, such as schools, food, and housing. Medicaid and its partners will design and implement alternative payment models that align incentives for positive health and well-being outcomes for children.
“These two grants are a down-payment on our state’s Early Childhood Action Plan, and also give us opportunities to innovate for the health and well-being of older children,” said NCDHHS Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen. “We know it will take all of us working efficiently together in new ways across health, childcare, K-12 education, and child safety, to set our children up for a bright future as North Carolinians.”
The grants build on Cooper’s ongoing efforts to support children and their families and teachers. In 2019, the governor launched the statewide Early Childhood Action Plan, provided paid parental leave to thousands of state employees, improved pregnancy accommodations in the workplace, and pushed to expand Medicaid so that hardworking North Carolinians, including many parents and early childhood teachers, could access affordable health insurance.