Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Stephanie Skordas APR  joined Ready for School, Ready for Life in October 2020 as Director of Marketing & Communications. A creative communicator with a focus on strategic communications, media relations, social media, and content marketing, Stephanie develops compelling multimedia stories around key messages to build and enhance brand reputation.

With experience in industries such as: higher education, home furnishings, health insurance, finance, and pet care, Stephanie has extensive communications experience both in-house and as a consultant. Her public relations work has won national recognition. She is Accredited in Public Relations (APR) from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). Currently Stephanie serves on the board of PRSA Southeast Region and is co-president of the PRSA Tar Heel Chapter. She has also served as Director of Marketing for the Greensboro Children’s Museum.

Before beginning her career in public relations, Stephanie worked in broadcast news for nearly 20 years as an anchor, reporter, producer, and even weekend weather person. She graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Media and Journalism. Stephanie is married with two daughters and has called Greensboro home for nearly 30 years.

 

Christina Dobson, Director of Navigation Services

 

Christina Dobson, Director of Navigation Services

Christina Dobson joined Ready for School, Ready for Life in 2017. As the Director of Navigation Services, she has brought together local, state, and national partners to design and implement elements of the Get Ready Guilford Initiative and build a responsive system of care for families and young children.

Christina’s work with Ready for School, Ready for Life is informed by almost two decades of work in the Guilford County community supporting women and families to attain their goals for health, education, and well-being. In 16 years at the YWCA Greensboro, Christina designed and managed a variety of programs for young parents and their children. Following her work at the YWCA, Christina dedicated a year to United Way of Greater Greensboro, through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, helping to create a community-wide network to support family economic stability. She is committed to addressing systemic barriers so that all children can thrive.

Christina graduated from Harvard University and earned her Master of Education degree from the University of Michigan. She lives in Greensboro with her husband, and they have two grown children.

Child Development Quiz

Answers to Child Development Quiz:

 

Milestone                                                                             Correct Age

Begins smiling at people                                                     2 months

 

Shows curiosity about things and tries to
get things that are out of reach                                          6 months

 

Hands you a book when he/she wants to
hear a story                                                                            1 year

 

Points to things or pictures when they
are named                                                                              2 years

 

Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces                                         3 years

 

 

Track your child’s development from 2 months to 5 years of age.

Print the Milestone Checklist

Partner Spotlight: Healthy Steps

Partner Spotlight: Healthy Steps

 

Science shows that 80% of brain development occurs by age three, making the first few years of a child’s life critical to their health and future well-being. But often times, these years are overwhelming for parents and caregivers as they face challenges integrating a new child into their lives. These challenges have been intensified by the current pandemic.

 

The Children’s Home Society of NC’s (CHS) HealthySteps, a program of ZERO TO THREE, provides parental and family support to help ensure the healthy development and school readiness of babies and toddlers.  This support begins at the first newborn visit when a HealthySteps specialist meets with the family to determine the kinds of support and services they need. CHS has approximately 300 staff and provides services to all 100 countries in NC in some capacity with an emphasis on lower-income communities.

 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed HealthySteps pace toward its goal of serving more than 1 million young children and families by 2032, the agency is proud it was able to quickly adapt to continue providing services to families. “We had to figure out organization-wide how to continue to serve families and keep our staff safe,” says Sebrina Cooke-Davis, Ph.D., Parent Education Program Supervisor for CHS.

 

The HealthySteps staff had already begun working from home before Gov. Cooper issued the statewide mandatory shelter in place order. “Our agency letting us know that our best interest came first allowed us to concentrate on how we could best alter our work to meet the challenges and interests of our families and we were able to figure out very creative ways to stay connected with our families while working remotely,” says Dr. Cooke-Davis.

 

Dr. Cooke-Davis acknowledges HealthySteps has not been able to serve as many families as they were pre-COVID, but both she and HealthySteps Specialist Meghann Wilkens, MSW, stress how important their work has been during the pandemic. “What I’ve seen consistently with families is they are stressed,” says Dr. Cooke-Davis. “We have always serviced a lot of families who have parental stresses, but COVID has exacerbated that a bit. Families are looking for ways to connect and they are feeling a bit of isolation, which on top of the stresses of a pandemic and being at home with children all the time is a bit much for many of them.”

 

“The level of isolation has really increased among families,” Wilkens echoes.” I know many of my families with newborns and little babies don’t feel comfortable even seeing their own parents. They’re worried about keeping everyone safe. They’re frightened to go out and for good reason; COVID is very scary. But it’s also very isolating and I’ve seen an increase in mental health issues for moms.  Their anxiety is through the roof. It’s always been there, but it’s definitely been amplified by COVID.

“Housing insecurity has also gone up and housing resources are definitely needed now more than ever,” continues Wilkens. “Lots of people were laid off due to COVID, and there are very few places hiring for positions that require just a high school diploma. Unemployment has been a new challenge for many of my families.”

In addition to dealing with their families’ increased stresses, the HealthySteps team has also had to cope withtheir own stresses due to COVID. Dr. Cooke-Davis says they meet very often to make sure they are staying connected. Additionally, CHS is offering COVID leave and FMLA leave for staff who may need it. They have also adjusted schedules as needed to make sure they are meeting the individual needs of staff.

 

“CHS has been beyond supportive of its employees and our mental health,” says Wilkens. “There have been plenty of agency-wide meetings just to have that sense of community. This has been very nice because many of us are feeling somewhat isolated just as our parents are feeling. The HealthySteps peers meet multiple times a week as a large group and most of us have also started to meet in smaller cluster groups. It’s really been great to have that camaraderie and to be able to check on everyone, to see if there are any barriers with reaching patients in the practice, and to see how we can support each other.

 

“CHS has also really advocated with us in our practices to help get remote access to medical records for the HealthySteps specialists who did not have this access and would have been limited in their ability to contact families and follow their caseload. This allows us to be more flexible with our families. We’re always around our phones so we have the ability to text families or to answer emails and to be that touchstone for them,” Wilkens continues.

 

“It’s really great to be able to provide this level of support and to be able to answer their questions: The baby spit up; is this normal? or The baby is crying more lately. We weren’t able to provide that level of support when we were in the pediatric office because either we were always running to the next room, or looking for that 5 minutes to just take a breather or write something down.  It wasn’t easy to take a 30 minute or an hour phone call. I’ve really enjoyed being able to do that. Even though our numbers have shifted and they may not be as high in unique visits, I feel that our quality of service has definitely stayed the same, if not increased, for many of our higher-needs families.  Also, by working from home, we’re getting to assist more in the referral process and follow up to make sure families were able to overcome barriers or actively problem solve for them.

.

“Now more than ever, there is resistance to having to seek out services,” adds Wilkens. “For example, with the housing assistance, you can access it once during this time and then not again, so some families are resistant or worried about taking it in case things gets worse later.” Wilkens also notes that due to fear of exposure to COVID, some parents are also hesitant to seek resources from organizations who do not offer contactless assistance.

 

Dr. Cooke-Davis and Wilkens encourage families to talk to other families and ask questions to decrease the likelihood of isolation. “Word of mouth is a great way to learn about resources” Dr. Cooke-Davis says. “If you don’t talk about it and ask other people, you won’t know.”

 

“Also, I would encourage families to be your best advocate and reach out to your support systems, the ones that want to take care of you and want the best for your children,” says Wilkens. “Be honest and say what you need and I’m sure the response will be positive.”

 

Dr. Cooke-Davis says it has been pretty amazing to see how her team has adapted and been able to continue to serve families “in the midst of all the stresses that are going on. Our funders, Get Ready Guilford, and all of our partners have been very supportive in helping us figure out how to best support families during this time,” she says. “It’s been a challenge because we’re not face to face, but we have definitely been able to impact families as we’ve seen from the many success stories we’ve had in connecting families to resources to help them meet their basic needs during this very difficult time.”

 

 

Keep Your Child’s Development on Pace During the Pandemic

KEEP YOUR CHILD’S DEVELOPMENT ON PACE DURING THE PANDEMIC
Benefits of Reading with Your Child

 

 

 

 

While they use different terms, Guilford Basics (Read and Discuss Stories) and Read Charlotte (Active Reading), both offer great tips for engaging your child while reading. Below are a few suggestions from them:

Commit to Read Every Day Try to set aside 15 minutes every day to read with your child. Younger children may not understand for a while, but focus on the pictures, pointing to them and explaining colors, shapes, and what the characters are doing. What is important is that they hear your words, see the pictures and start to develop positive feelings about books. You can read the same book more than once, highlighting different things and asking different questions.

Keep It Simple Try to choose books that are sturdy, short and have simple, colorful pictures.

Snuggle Up Hold your young child in your lap as you read so they can see the pictures and feel cozy.

Speak with Expression Use an exaggerated voice and facial expressions to make it more interesting! Use a different voice for each character.

Actively Involve Them As your baby develops coordination, involve them more in the reading experience. Let them hold the book or turn the pages.

 

Follow Their Lead Let your child guide the reading experience. When they start to lose interest, try another book or stop. Not being forced to keep going will keep them excited about reading!

 

Name That Name and talk about the parts of the pictures that interest your child or that they point at.

 

Warm Up Before you open the book, check out the cover. Read the title. Look at the picture. Ask your child what they think the book might be about.

 

Help Them Follow Along Point to the words and pictures. This helps your child understand how reading works. For example, we read from left to right on the page.

 

Don’t Be Too Serious Make it fun! Your child may want to turn the page before you’ve finished it. If they can’t sit still for the whole book, that’s okay.

 

Act It Out Your child might be inspired to play based on the stories you read. Can they follow the characters’ actions? What toys or objects might be props?

 

Help Them Build Vocabulary Practice saying new words with your child as you read. Point to pictures that relate to the new word. Create a “kid-friendly” definition for the word and ask questions about the word.

 

Ask Questions Ask both basic and open-ended questions. Basic questions are things about the story that won’t change over time. “What is the boy’s name?” “What color are the dog’s spots?” Open-ended questions allow the child to use imagination and apply knowledge. “What do you think will happen next?” or “Why is the girl happy?” Respond to your child’s comments and questions. Show interest in their ideas.

 

Make Connections Help your child make personal connections to the stories you read. For example, “Do you remember when we saw the fire truck? How did it sound?”

 

These tips will help you make reading fun for your child and start them on a path to lifelong reading and learning.

 

For a complete list of tips provided by each organization, visit their websites by clicking on the links below:

 

Guilford Basics Read and Discuss Stories

Read Charlotte Active Reading

 

 

 

Deepti Panjabi, Director of Continuous Quality Improvement

 

Deepti Panjabi, Director of Continuous Quality Improvement

Deepti Panjabi joined the team as the Director of Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI). She leads a team to support the strategy, planning, and implementation of the organization’s CQI efforts.

After more than a decade of focus on program quality and innovation, Deepti gets most excited about designing and reimagining solutions together with communities. She thrives at the intersection of data, design thinking, and leadership development.

Most recently, Deepti led data initiatives and managed a team at Read Charlotte. Her team designed a three-year, leadership program to support nonprofit partners’ use of data and CQI practices in order to increase mastery of children’s literacy skills. Deepti’s team, alongside nonprofit partners, achieved program goals through high-impact training, coaching, and the creation of new digital tools. The team also documented a roadmap for replication of the program.

Deepti is an alumna of AmeriCorps, Education Pioneers, and she served as a League of Creative Interventionists Fellow. She’s also training to become a certified coach. Deepti holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration and a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from UNC-Chapel Hill.