Leaders from across the state came together on Friday, February 21, to discuss the needs in early childhood education specifically in Anson and Union counties at the Jesse Helms Center in Wingate.
The North Carolina Association for the Education of Young Children (NCAEYC), South Piedmont Community College (SPCC), and the Anson County Partnership for Children hosted the event with hopes of opening dialogue to find solutions for early childhood educational opportunities in our communities. The dialogue was spurred by the documentary, “No Small Matter.”
“In Anson County, 900 children from birth to 5 years of age do not have access to early center- or home-based early childhood education”, according to Dr. Sharon Little, Program Lead at SPCC for Early Childhood Education. “Where the county used to have 24 childcare homes, it now only has four.”
“Only one-quarter of Union County children are served in early childhood centers or licensed family child care homes from the ages of birth through five,” said Little. “Reasons for the low numbers include lack of accessibility, affordability, availability, and awareness of the child care services in the community.”
According to the documentary, the cost of having a child in an early childhood program exceeds the cost of having that child in college in 28 states in the country. North Carolina is no exception. With costs soaring, it is difficult for low-income families where parents have to work to balance income with childcare costs.
“I have generations of families that I work with who never had the advantage of early childhood education. It’s heartbreaking to know that this is the face of my clients – poverty, lack of education and even incarceration,” said Adrienne Hall from Union County Government who works with at-risk pregnancies. “They often lack the skills of simply following up with an appointment or reaching out if they have difficulty getting their medications.”
There is a frightening trend that reveals a correlation between a lack of early childhood education and high school dropouts and even prison, the documentary explains.
“We have a class of 15 former Head Start preschool children that attend our school, and they are ready for kindergarten,” said Fred Davis, principal at Wadesboro Primary School. But the other 50 kids who did not have that advantage are behind before they even start.”
‘Beginnings matter’ was stressed throughout the documentary, comparing it to a basketball team who does not play defense for the first quarter or an architect who decides to build without a blueprint. We are born learning and those early years will often decide the success or demise of a life.
Children exposed to constant stress and the lack of a learning environment, which is the case in many of the poverty-stricken homes in our communities, leads to health problems and affects proper brain development. This type of environment can lead to behavioral issues and other negative manifestations in later years.
Military leaders also see the need for investing in early childhood education because 70 percent of young people between the ages of 17-25 are unable to serve in the military because of a lack of education and poor health, issues in many cases which can be traced back to a lack of early childhood education.
“Some people say taking care of children is not rocket science,” said Lorie Barnes, executive director at NCAEYC, “and it’s not, it’s brain science. We must have a trained, quality workforce in order to achieve this brain science and that’s what South Piedmont is offering.”
SPCC offers opportunities for early childhood educators residing in Union and Anson counties to attend college through the Education STARS program and the Anson Advantage where tuition and books are free.
To learn more about what you can do to get involved in the No Small Matter movement or enroll in Early Childhood Education classes offered at SPCC, contact Dr. Sharon Little at 704-272-5399 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Misty McMillan