Partner Spotlight: Parents as Teachers Guilford County

Parents as Teachers logo with text reading Partner SpotlightBy Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Parents as Teachers Guilford County (PATGC) believes all parents can be empowered to interact with their children in a way that encourages healthy well-rounded development, while enjoying their parenting journey.

“We work with families who are expecting children or have children up through their child’s entry into kindergarten or turn age six,” said Patti Learman, director of Parents as Teachers Guilford County. “Our work is built around the relationship that develops between the parent educator and the family. It’s a partnership for the parenting journey – these relationships are the ‘secret sauce’ that really make a difference.”

Learman explains that Parents as Teachers has four components to its program. Personal visits offer one-on-one time with a parent educator who shares child development information and activities. Regular screenings help parents make sure their child or children are healthy, safe, and developing on track. Group connections provide opportunities for families to share experiences, discuss challenges, and learn with other parents, and community resources are matched with families by parent educators to address parents’ concerns and needs.

From startup conversations to participating in the first cohort of the Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Parents as Teachers has been collaborating with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) for years.

“During the CQI process, we focused on bringing parent voice to our board,” Learman said. “We also did a lot of trauma-informed work with our parent educators so they understand how many families have experienced trauma and how we can best interact with them. Now it’s part of our policies and procedures and part of our regular work.”

Generally, the organization works with 60-75 families each year. The COVID-19 pandemic did affect the numbers slightly, but Learman and her team were delighted that switching to virtual visits was welcomed by their families. “We actually saw an increase in our visit numbers because families were so anxious for interaction,” she said. “We also gave tablets with a wi-fi hotspot to more than a dozen families who didn’t have internet access, thanks to funding provided through Smart Start.”

Like Ready Ready, Parents as Teachers supports school readiness for Guilford County children. Helping children arrive at school with the knowledge, skills, and physical and emotional health needed is one of the focus areas for the organization. Creating strong families is another – recognizing that each family member’s experiences or actions affect the whole unit.

“Family well-being is one of our focus areas,” Learman said. “So, if a parent needs a GED or employment or housing, we’ll get them connected with those resources. At the same time, we help parents understand their child’s stages of development and how they can best nurture them. We also believe strongly in helping parents connect with other families to build a support network and social outlets – when they realize their two-year-old isn’t the only one acting a certain way, they can normalize the parenting struggles and share in the triumphs together. All these areas work together in a complete system.”

N.C. invests in early childhood development

For immediate release
Media contact: Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications stephanies@getreadyguilford.org or 336.579.2977 ext. 2015

N.C. budget includes funding for Ready for School, Ready for Life

(November 22, 2021 — GREENSBORO, N.C.) The newly-signed North Carolina budget includes $1.2 million in funding for Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and its mission to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families.

“Every child deserves a great start,” said Ready Ready CEO Charrise Hart. “North Carolina’s investment in early childhood development is critical and we welcome the General Assembly’s confidence in Ready Ready. When we support children’s earliest years, infants grow into healthy, confident, and empathetic kids who are ready for school and life. That makes our communities, workforce, and economy stronger too.”

The science is clear that prenatal to age three is critical for lifelong health and development. That’s when a million new neural connections form in the brain every second. The social, emotional, physical, and cognitive capacities built in the first three years are important for success in school, the workplace, and the larger community. Early support prepares children for kindergarten and success in school by third grade – the best predictor of high school graduation and lifelong learning.

“Investing in early childhood shows the greatest returns in a community,” said Ryan Blackledge, chair of Ready Ready’s Legislative Action Subcommittee. This group worked with the High Point and Greensboro Chambers of Commerce to educate N.C. General Assembly members about the need for early childhood development in Guilford County. “Working with the Chambers of Commerce and our Guilford County delegation to educate other lawmakers on this legislation was so rewarding. The legislature’s support for Ready Ready’s mission to create population-level change will make a difference in thousands of children’s lives.”

As a backbone organization, Ready Ready works with proven programs and community partners to ensure Guilford County families get the resources and support they need for healthy child development. Starting prenatally, dedicated family advocates that we call Navigators, meet with families to understand their strengths, needs, and goals. Then we work together to make secure connections to services, resources, or support, eliminating gaps and providing a seamless experience for families.

About Ready for School, Ready for Life
Ready for School, Ready for Life is a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our focus is ensuring all children in Guilford County and their families get the resources they need for healthy development. We want every child born in Guilford County from 2021 and beyond to enter kindergarten developmentally on track. Learn more about our work and mission at www.getreadyguilford.org.

Partner Spotlight: Housing Authority of the City of High Point

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

The mission of the Housing Authority of the City of High Point (HPHA) is to provide affordable housing to low-income to moderate-income families. What you may not know is that the organization also offers housing counseling services to the public. These services include financial budgeting, preparing for a home purchase, and financial literacy. HPHA also offers post-purchase education for home buyers, and courses in credit counseling, rental education, and more.

It’s a mission CEO Angela McGill takes to heart.

“I grew up in public housing in High Point in what was formerly Clara Cox Homes,” McGill said. “In one of the units, we had a Head Start program which I participated in. I believe the early education Head Start provides sets a foundation for academic growth.”

McGill left High Point for a stint in the U.S. Army before earning her B.S. and MBA degrees from High Point University. She began her career with HPHA in 2003, and in 2010 became the first female to head the agency since its formation in 1940.

“There’s nothing more exciting than being able to go back to the community which impacted you the most,” McGill said. “Living in public housing can come with stereotyping and stigmas. It’s incredibly important to have the academic resources to set the foundation for children. Having resources for parents gives them tools to better understand child development and the knowledge on how to encourage their children to thrive. That’s why our partnership with Ready for School, Ready for Life has been so beneficial.”

The HPHA and Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) have teamed up to provide early childhood resources to HPHA’s Public Housing community members by way of the Interactive Learning Center located at the J.C. Morgan Community Center. Two rooms have been transformed for families with young children themed around The Basics Guilford.

One of the rooms is for families with children ages 0-3 with soft play mats, age-appropriate toys, and beanbag chairs. The second is designed for families with children ages 3-5 and offers comfortable children’s furniture, books, and fun manipulatives.

“Creating an environment to help families with young children is critical to their emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. It supports our mission and Ready Ready has been a dynamic partner.”

HPHA and Ready Ready are working together to connect with local organizations to provide programming on child development, literacy, parenting, and more. HPHA’s families will be able to sign up for these learning opportunities through the HPHA’s Resident Services Department.

New resource for High Point families with young children

Ready for School, Ready for Life and the Housing Authority of the City of High Point open
a new interactive learning center.

(October 20, 2021 — GREENSBORO, N.C.) Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) has partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of High Point (HPHA) to provide early childhood development resources to its residents. The Interactive Learning Center located at J.C. Morgan Community Center will open on Tuesday, October 26, 2021. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 1 p.m.

The Interactive Learning Center within the HPHA’s J.C. Morgan public housing community offers information on The Basics Guilford, five fun, free, science-based concepts that parents and caregivers can use to help their child’s healthy development.

“Working with the HPHA, we have transformed two rooms for families with young children themed around The Basics Guilford,” said Megan LeFaivre, Ready Ready’s literacy coordinator. “One of the rooms is for families with children ages 0-3, with soft play mats, age-appropriate toys, and beanbag chairs. The second is designed for families with children ages 3-5 and offers comfortable children’s furniture, books, and fun manipulatives.

Both rooms have meeting space for educational programs. Local organizations will provide programming on child development, literacy, parenting, and more. Families will be able to sign up for these learning opportunities through the HPHA’s Resident Services Department.

“We are excited to open the Interactive Learning Center to families at J.C. Morgan Courts,” said Angela McGill, HPHA’s CEO. “Creating an environment to help families with young children is critical to their emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being. It supports our mission and Ready Ready has been a dynamic partner!”

“We are thankful for the partnership with Ready Ready and their assistance with creating a designated area for families to be able to interact with their children. The future is bright, and this learning center will be an early aid in our youth’s development,” said Charity Bunting, HPHA’s board chair.

Want to go?

What:               HPHA’s Interactive Learning Center ribbon-cutting
Where:             J.C. Morgan Community Center
501 Anaheim Street, High Point, N.C., 27260

Date:                Tuesday, October 26, 2021
Time:               1:00 p.m.

The media is invited to attend the ribbon-cutting and tour the new center.

Partner Spotlight: Every Baby Guilford

“Our mission is to ignite and mobilize Guilford County through partnerships and unified strategies to eliminate racial disparities and prevent infant deaths,” said Jean Workman, executive director of Every Baby Guilford.

The infant mortality rate in Guilford County is one of the highest in North Carolina. Of the 6,045 babies born in Guilford County in 2019, 56 did not make it to their first birthday.

Every Baby Guilford is a 30-year public-private partnership with the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services. As part of its 30th anniversary, the organization – formerly the Coalition on Infant Mortality – launched with a new name and a five-year strategic plan.

“When we started this organization in 1991, the disparity gap or the black infant mortality rate was 14.6 per 1,000 births. Today, our most recent 2019 stats show the same figure,” Workman said. “The Black infant mortality rate hasn’t changed substantially in 30 years.”

Workman points out that the organization historically created programs that focused on changing a pregnant person’s health and behavior, such as blood pressure monitoring, nutrition, and access to prenatal care. But the data shows that the Black infant mortality rate hasn’t dropped. A new approach was needed.

“We are still focused on mothers, but now we want to change the systems they encounter, particularly for Black moms,” Workman said. “In many respects, we are aligned so closely with Ready for School, Ready for Life. Together we are working on population-level change.”

Inspired by Ready Ready’s system-building approach, the Every Baby Guilford team, along with community members, health care professionals, policymakers, faith-based organizations, and partner organizations, worked together to relaunch with a collective action framework. The goal is to bring mortality rates down by 50 percent over the next five years.

“We want to eliminate systemic racism that exists in our medical practices through implicit bias, ensure safe and well-equipped areas for exercise, and address food insecurity for families. All these are a system change approach,” Workman said. “Eliminating structural racism will make the system more approachable, more resourceful, and more accessible.”

Every Baby Guilford names four key injustices that have negatively impacted Black mothers and young children through structural or institutional racism. They are unequal access to resources, housing discrimination, breastfeeding, and mistrust of health care institutions.

According to its website, the organization believes that understanding past events will allow Guilford County to better understand the cause of infant disparities and identify solutions that move towards an equitable future.

“We must change the policies, practices, and procedures that occur within the system so that families can more easily navigate those resources,” Workman said. “Having willing partners at the table ready to take part will help us make this transformation.”

Workman kicks off the strategy with a storytelling project she calls “Giving Voice to Mothers.” She said collecting the maternal health narratives, particularly of women of color in our community, will paint the picture of what’s needed in Guilford County for improvement and change.

We are ready to address systemic inequities in Guilford County

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) has outlined our equity statement. The creation of this statement was the work of our Equity Strategies Committee of the Board of Directors. They sought the input of many stakeholders, including our parent leaders, staff, equity consultants, and the Board. We have posted this statement as approved by our Board of Directors on our website. Please read our statement below and join us in this important system-building work.

Equity statement
Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) promotes equity, justice, diversity, and inclusion, which are woven through our mission, values, and principles. We stand against racism in all of its forms. Ready Ready will work with our community to address the structural inequities that drive disparate child and family outcomes and work towards an environment where equity, justice, diversity, and inclusion are core values. When we are working to address these structural inequities, Ready Ready will be bold in our actions.

When Guilford County Black and Indigenous children and families of color (BIPOC) feel welcomed, heard, respected, safe, supported, and valued, all of our community and our society benefit.

Ready Ready partners with Guilford Parent Academy for three-part series on early education

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing and Communications

It’s never too early to start making the brain connections children need for their healthy development. In the first three years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed every second. That makes early childhood a critical time for learning.

To help families prepare their preschoolers for school and for life, Guilford Parent Academy (GPA) and Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) have teamed up for three virtual literacy workshops. Ready Ready’s Family Literacy Coordinator Megan LeFaivre will guide attendees through The Basics Guilford — five science-based, easy and powerful strategies to help ensure every child has a great start to life.

This early learning is experienced in a give and take or “serve and return” relationship between a child and their parents or caregivers. You can use The Basics at home, while running errands, or on a walk — wherever you happen to be.

The three-part series will be held online.

  • The Basics Guilford: Attendees will take a tour through the Guilford Basics tools and learn how to support brain development growth from birth.
    • September 8, 2021 — noon to 1 p.m.
  • Living the Basics: This session provides different ways families can use the Basics, such as in the grocery store, at the laundromat, and even just walking down the street.
    • September 15, 2021 — 6 – 7 p.m.
  • The ABCs of Active Reading: Active Reading is a simple tool to make reading fun and interactive for children. The shared reading experience of Active Reading helps children’s minds expand beyond the pages of the books and help them in all academic areas.
    • September 22 — 6 – 7 p.m.

To register for any or all sessions, visit https://bit.ly/3gwp0Nx. A link to join the virtual sessions will be sent via email after registration. To learn more about this series or other GPA offerings, visit www.gcsnc.com, email parentacademy@gcsnc.com or call 336.279.4924.

To learn more about The Basics Guilford, please contact Ready Ready Family Literacy Coordinator Megan LeFaivre at meganl@getreadyguilford.org.

11 Parent Leaders graduate from COFI Phase 2 training

By Stephanie Skordas, Director of Marketing & Communications

Eleven parent leaders have graduated from Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) Phase 2 training. The COFI model makes positive changes in parents’ lives by using their strengths and commitment to their children and their neighborhoods. These Guilford Parent Leader Network (GPLN) members first engaged with the program through COFI Phase 1 last fall.

The COFI model focuses on self, family, community, and policy and systems in the various training levels. Phase 1 focuses on creating supportive parent teams, setting goals, and establishing plans. In Phase 2, the training focuses on creating community-based agendas that start with common concerns parents raise.

“COFI presents a platform for parent leaders to fulfill their desired roles in their respective communities,” said Harrison Spencer, a GPLN member who recently graduated from the COFI Phase 2 training. “In addition, COFI offers key training, resources, services, and compensation for participants and members that may be otherwise overlooked or not offered by other organizations. COFI encourages parents to become involved, engaged, and active leaders.”

COFI uses a “train the trainers” approach to delivering its model to communities like Guilford County. In April, three parent leaders were trained on the Phase 2 model and led the five training sessions for the 11 new graduates over the summer.

“As a recent social work graduate, one of the primary issues I had with the structure was the top-down and lack of autonomy that were/are rampant in our practice, support, and approaches,” Spencer said. “This is where COFI is unique in its approach and geared towards revealing some insight or new perspectives to others.”

According to its website, the COFI way has trained more than 4,724 parents in 44 communities like Guilford County. “About 50 percent of Phase 1 participants go on to Phase 2 within about six months, according to COFI,” said Heather Adams, Ready Ready’s Director of Engagement and Literacy Initiatives. “In November, we had 15 parent leaders graduate from COFI Phase 1, so 93 percent of our graduates have now gone through Phase 2. These parents will be the change they want to see in their communities.”

Adams says additional COFI Phase 1 sessions are in the works. Families with children involved in Early Head Start and Head Start through Guilford Child Development will be trained this fall. Plans are underway for families with children at Falkener Elementary to be the next cohort, and a High Point-focused series will be held in spring 2022.  “This training creates a powerful space for connection,” she said.

Spencer says he would recommend COFI to other parents and caregivers in Guilford County. “COFI not only creates a platform for others but a possibility for additional support and friends that could be considered family and commonalities from the group and organizational bonding.

For more information about the Guilford Parent Leader Network, please contact Heather Adams, Director of Engagement and Literacy Initiatives. Meetings are held on the third Monday of the month from 7-8:30 p.m. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings are being held via Zoom.

Partner Spotlight: Greater High Point Food Alliance

The Greater High Point Food Alliance (GHPFA) is a grassroots organization formed to address food insecurity. When it started in 2014, the Greensboro-High Point Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) was number two in the nation in food hardship. The following year, it moved to number one. Since that time, it has moved to number 14, according to GHPFA’s website.

“We take a collaborative approach and work with four neighborhoods. We asked them how they would solve food insecurity, and then we work alongside them to help them achieve those goals,” said Carl Vierling, the organization’s executive director. “We work behind the scenes at a higher level to connect resources to each of the groups we work with.”

The High Point neighborhoods working with GHPFA are Burns Hill, Washington Street, Highland Mills, and West End. Representatives from each area are board members, along with a wide variety of community leaders. Recently, the organization held a “Walk to the Store” to demonstrate what it would take for a person in the Highland Mills neighborhood without transportation to walk to the closest store, the Walmart on South Main Street. The route has no sidewalks and crosses Business 85.

“Many of the people that we work with are one car repair bill away from walking,” Vierling explained. “When you have to walk to the store, you have a limit on how much food you can carry, so that means multiple trips each week.”

GHPFA built an app with information about food pantries, backpack programs, community gardens, hot meals, and feeding sites at Guilford County Schools. “The app is location-based, so it will not only show you the food pantry closest to you, but the hours that it is open, and what requirements might be needed,” Vierling said. “We also have emergency assistance, financial assistance, and shelters as resources on the app.”

According to Feeding America, before the COVID-19 pandemic began, food insecurity in the United States was at its lowest rate in more than 20 years. When it measured food insecurity in Guilford County, the overall rate was 13.1 percent in 2019. As a result of the pandemic, the organization projects that number has risen to 15.1 percent in 2021.

Vierling said he’s seeing benefits like the earned income tax credit, expanded child tax payments, and pandemic EBT (P-EBT) making a difference for High Point families, along with the work GHPFA is doing. The organization has work teams that take on the food insecurity issue such as food access, education, nutrition, urban agriculture, seniors, and policy.

Like Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready), GHPFA focuses on connecting programs, resources, and community members to break down silos and solve problems. “Our work overlaps with Ready Ready and we’re happy to be partners. We recently had some conversations about the work Ready Ready is doing with pediatric offices. It’s so important to recognize the impact of food insecurity on health,” Vierling said. “One of the things I love about Ready Ready is that it’s trying to wrap these services around people, around young children, and get them ready for school and ready for life.”

Vierling says GHPFA’s approach can be summed up in three words: empower, unify, and sustain. “We give people a voice who’ve never had one. We bring people together and give them the tools they need to solve problems,” he said. “We create sustainability through food education, urban agriculture, and leadership programs.”

Partner Spotlight: Reach Out and Read

Reach Out and Read believes all families should have access to books and the meaningful moments created by shared reading with children. Reach Out and Read is a two-generation intervention unique for its unparalleled access to children through the medical home, supporting families through the trusted voice of their medical provider.

The research-based model has three parts:

  • Medical providers prescribe books during well-child visits while teaching and training caregivers about how to share books and why it’s important
  • Each child is given a new, culturally and developmentally appropriate book to take home.
  • Clinic environments support literacy-rich messaging and resources for families.

“Spending time with a loving adult provides exceptional benefits for young children,” said Pam Bacot, Program Manager with Reach Out and Read North Carolina. “The simple act of reading aloud together helps create a lasting emotional connection, stimulates a child’s cognitive development, and lays the groundwork for a lifelong love of reading and learning.”

Guilford County has been a part of Reach Out and Read since 1998. Originally designed for children 6 months to age five, Bacot shared that Reach Out and Read has committed as an organization to shifting this model to begin at the earliest visit after birth. Across North Carolina, including Guilford County, Reach Out and Read will support parents and caregivers from the very beginning.

“Brains are built over time, from the bottom up. We know that 80 percent of a child’s brain develops by age three,” said Bacot, “Advances in our understanding of early childhood development over the last 25 years have shown us it’s essential that parents engage with their children from birth. While someone with a newborn may not be thinking about kindergarten readiness, this is the time for the foundation to be set.”

This extension adds four additional Reach Out and Read visits – newborn, one-month, two-month, and four-month well visits — for every child.

According to Bacot, Reach Out and Read serves more than 10,000 children in Guilford County in a typical year. During the pandemic in 2020, Reach Out and Read served more than 9700 children at ten participating sites and distributed nearly 16,000 books in our county. “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we were so pleased to move forward with our mission,” Bacot said.

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) partners with Reach Out and Read, HealthySteps, Family Connects, and Nurse-Family Partnership through our Navigation system. Navigation ensures every pregnant person and their family has information and support as their family grows. Starting prenatally, dedicated Navigators meet with families to understand their strengths, needs, and goals. Then we work together to make secure connections to services, resources, or support that will make a difference, eliminating gaps and providing a seamless experience.

“We’re also pleased to partner with Ready Ready for The Basics Guilford, offering easy ways for parents and caregivers to enhance their serve-and-return relationships with their youngest children,” Bacot said. “This give and take model helps foster learning. Together, we guide high-quality implementation and integration of these programs in medical home settings, hospital systems, and other community locations serving pregnant persons and families with young children.”

Reach Out and Read is the only national pediatric literacy model endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The organization trains, supports, and engages medical providers. Because they work closely with infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families, they have a particular vantage point and understand how social determinants of health like poverty, literacy, housing, food insecurity, and access to parenting resources affect a child’s healthy development.

Reach Out and Read’s research shows that having a strong, loving bond with an adult can even undo some of the harm created by adverse childhood experiences – experiences that include the negative impacts of poverty and racism, abuse, a divorce, or an illness in the family.

“We like to say a book is a powerful tool. In the hands of a child, it can be a portal to a world of imagination. For a parent, it can be the catalyst that brings the family together, creating meaningful moments that forge strong bonds,” said Bacot.