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Father with young baby.Q What is Smart Start?
A Smart Start is a public-private early childhood initiative to help ALL North Carolina children enter school healthy and ready to succeed. Its unique, comprehensive approach allows communities to make decisions and plans that are specific to the needs of young children and families. Smart Start services are targeted for children 0-5 and their families and include making sure child care is of high quality and affordable and accessible to those who need it, as well as health services and screenings and resources for family support.

Q How do we know Smart Start is working?
A Children Are Better Prepared for School--According to studies in Orange and Mecklenburg Counties, children who received Smart Start services were better prepared when they entered school. Scores on kindergarten assessment tests were higher for those children who received Smart Start services. Six more counties will soon have results from similar tests.

  • Child Care Quality Has Improved--Research by UNCs Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center shows that Smart Start is increasing the overall quality of child care. In addition, the number of top quality child care centers has increased by more than 60 percent in Smart Start counties.
  • Teachers Are Better Educated--Before Smart Start in Ashe County, only 5 percent of child care teachers and providers had earned their North Carolina Early Childhood Credential. Today, thanks to Smart Start and T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) grants, 100 percent of the teachers and providers in the county have completed their training and have earned the child care credential.
  • Teacher Turnover Has Been Reduced--Thanks to Smart Start and T.E.A.C.H. the teacher turnover rate in Orange County has been reduced to 22 percent, the lowest turnover rate in the state.
  • Children Are Healthier--One pressing health need in almost every county in North Carolina is the lack of dental services for young children, especially those on Medicaid. Smart Start partnerships are helping make progress by offering dental clinics and finding dentists to volunteer their time and expertise to serve young children. In Catawba County, dental screenings were made available for children in every child care center in the county. Of the children that were screened, 82 percent had never seen a dentist. In Jones, Craven and Pamlico Counties the "Smile Mobile" offers free dental care to children under the age of six in the three county area.

Q How is Smart Start different from Head Start?
A
Smart Start and Head Start are different even though they share similar goals. Head Start is a federally-funded program that targets a particular population of at-risk children. It is based on a very specific program model and serves children 3-4 years of age. Smart Start is funded by state and private funds and, although the program targets children with need, it improves services for ALL children under kindergarten-age. The specific goal of Smart Start is to assist young children to enter school healthy and prepared for success. Typically, Smart Start funds are spent on a variety of different programs.

Q Is Smart Start just for poor children?
A No. Smart Start is making an impact on North Carolina's early childhood system which benefits all of North Carolina's children. Many projects that are funded by Smart Start are directed toward children who don't have access to high quality services such as child care. When services are improved for these children, they are improved for all children in care. Families also have access to more resources through Smart Start.

Q Which children are served by Smart Start?
A Potentially, all children in a county may be impacted by Smart Start. Children may receive multiple services from a variety of programs funded by Smart Start, such as subsidized child care, developmental screenings, an enrichment program at the local library, and their parents may receive parent education. Because of these multiple services, it is difficult to know an exact unduplicated total number of children served, although it is possible to determine a total number of children served in a particular program.

Q Is Smart Start an invasion on the family and family values?
A Smart Start provides an opportunity for local citizens to make decisions about services needed for their young children, based on each county's particular circumstances, need and resources. In addition, Smart Start allows citizens to hold local agencies accountable for the services they are already providing and affords the opportunity to those who are most familiar with local needs to fill in the gaps in services.

Q How is Smart Start funded?
A Smart Start is a non-profit which is funded by the North Carolina General Assembly. An additional 10 percent of Smart Start's funding must also come from private contributions. Each year, Smart Start has exceeded its 10 percent private funding requirement. Smart Start's private supporters include all of the major banks in North Carolina.

Q How are Smart Start funds currently being spent?
A At least 70 percent of Smart Start direct service funds is spent on child care and child care-related activities. However, local Smart Start partnerships can choose to spend more in this area. Child care-related services include direct child care subsidies, child care and education and teacher education and support, etc. Of that 70 percent, a minimum of 30 percent must be spent on child care subsidies. The remaining 30 percent is spent on health care and family support programs and services.

Q How does Smart Start support welfare reform?
A Without child care, welfare families cannot work. As North Carolina continues to reduce its welfare rolls, the need for child care will increase. Smart Start makes high quality child care available and more affordable.

Q How is Smart Start different from other state-funded programs?
A Smart Start provides an opportunity for local citizens to make decisions about services needed for their young children, based on each county's particular circumstances, need and resources. In addition, Smart Start allows citizens to hold local agencies accountable for the services they are already providing and affords the opportunity to those who are most familiar with local needs to fill in the gaps in services.

Q How does Smart Start support parents?
A Smart Start offers many programs to support parents including a toll-free parenting resource line (1-800-367-2229). This line provides callers with a Parent Resource Guide which includes important information about a childs growth, health and safety. In some counties, Smart Start provides home visits and check-ups to every newborn baby and mother. In others, parents of every child born in the county receive parenting education materials before they leave the hospital.