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March 2019Vol. 20, No. 2Raising Parent Voice to Guide Early Childhood Policy

The early years of a child's life are the most formative. They are the foundation for a child's development, and good physical and emotional health directly contributes to positive outcomes, such as reading at grade level and educational success. Parents want to help their children succeed but often face barriers and challenges that can hinder their efforts. In an effort to identify, prioritize, and detail strategies to improve early literacy, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation conducted a meta-analysis of 18 parent surveys, focus groups, and meetings conducted by child- and family-supporting organizations across the state. They drafted a report that calls attention to the following:

  • Obstacles to accessing formal child care, such as costs and availability
  • Barriers to community support, such as time, transportation, and waitlists
  • Knowledge of what specific skills children need for school

This report, Not About Me, Without Me: Raising Parent Voice to Guide Early Childhood Policy, aims to be a starting point for organizations in the hopes that they can use the information collected to inform their own work and begin to fill the gaps in their own communities. It utilizes the voices of parents to offer policy and program makers a unique insight.

The report is organized to align with the North Carolina Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Measures of Success Framework, which includes the following:

  • Health and development on track, beginning at birth—Parents reported they routinely take their children to the doctor, but they need more information about specific health issues relating to child development, child mental health, and supports for parents. Parents also were concerned about accessing medical services (e.g., transportation to and from services, time away from work, cost); self-care and stress management; and their children's social-emotional development.
  • Supported and supportive families and communities—Parents reported they made use of community supports when they could access them; however, they had unmet needs that could be met in the community, such as information about resources and informal social supports. They also reported they had barriers to services, such as transportation, lack of trust, waitlists, and cultural bias.
  • High-quality learning environments for birth through age 8, with regular attendance—Parents reported they believed education is important for their children's long-term outcomes; however, there were barriers to their children's kindergarten readiness, including lack of parent awareness about what skills children need to be ready for school, insufficient communication with parents, and lack of access to formal early learning opportunities.
  • Children's living conditions—Parents reported they struggle with job training and finding a job and affordable housing and had concerns about neighborhood safety, which influence their abilities to adequately provide for their families.

Not About Me, Without Me: Raising Parent Voice to Guide Early Childhood Policy is available at (535 KB).