Partner Spotlight: Child First

Child First helps families build strong, nurturing relationships that heal and protect young children from the devasting impact of trauma and chronic stress. The program uses a two-generation approach, providing mental health services to parents and children through home visits and connecting them with resources, information, and support to make healthy child development possible.

“We use a team approach to help caregivers and their children ages 0-5. The caregiver isn’t always a biological parent, and sometimes it’s multiple caregivers,” said Anita Faulkner, LCMHCS and Family Solutions owner. “In many cases, there are kinship care placements. Many of the children we serve have parents who are incarcerated or may not be available due to substance abuse or other factors, and they have many different housing situations.”

Family Solutions is one of two host agencies in Guilford County for Child First. The other is Family Service of the Piedmont. Each agency has four teams of clinicians and a supervisor, so there are 18 new staff members focused on this issue, according to Faulkner. “Our teams have trained together since we began the program in June 2022. I think it’s an excellent example of community collaboration and how Ready for School, Ready for Life is bringing local organizations together to meet these gaps in services,” Faulkner said.

Science clearly shows that the early childhood years lay the foundation for later economic productivity, responsible citizenship, sound mental health, cognitive development, and physical health. According to the Child First website, high-risk environments of extreme poverty, maternal depression, domestic violence, substance abuse, homelessness, and other factors lead to toxic levels of stress that are harmful to young brains.

Because Child First focuses on two generations, the program begins with a series of assessments for the child and caregiver. “We help them understand their own trauma histories and their own stressors. It gives them insight into what they have been through and helps us set strategies to address behavior issues and deepen the relationships between a child and caregiver,” Faulkner said.

The program has two aims: to decrease the stress the family experiences by connecting them to the resources, support, and information they need and to provide parent-child psychotherapy to repair the impact of trauma on the child and strengthen the caregiving relationship.

“Because we are a home-visiting program, we realize it’s something big to let someone into your home and open up about issues your family faces,” Faulkner said. “We are helping families get to a place where they can make a positive change. Our resources partners help us with housing, furniture, food, clothing, and child care, for example. The resources are always changing, and we work together to ensure families have what they need.”

Hart joins inaugural 2023 Rockwood Fellowship

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) Chief Executive Officer Charrise Hart has been named to the inaugural class of the Rockwood 2023 Prenatal-to-3 Leaders Fellows. The fellowship cohort was selected in partnership with Pritzker Children’s Initiative and features leaders working in the prenatal to age 3 field.

The fellowship brings together cross-sector, local, and state early childhood leaders. These professionals play an integral role in maintaining the overall health and wellness of our young children, families, and communities, according to the organization’s website.

“I’m excited to join leaders working at the national, state, and local levels on issues that affect families deeply,” said CEO Charrise Hart. “We cannot expect a flourishing society and economy without investing in babies and toddlers and creating an equitable system of care to ensure they are ready for kindergarten and academically on track in third grade. That’s the number one indicator of high school graduation and later success in life.”

The Fellowship includes rigorous leadership retreats, coaching, and community-building for this inaugural cohort. Learn more about the cohort members on the Rockwood Leadership Institute website.

Partner Spotlight: GuilfordWorks

GuilfordWorks is a public-private organization that helps businesses with various workforce needs, such as locating, screening, selecting, or training workers. In turn, enabling job seekers and employees to gain employment and the skills they need to earn a living wage. Executive Director Dr. Danielle Harrison explains that while the City of Greensboro is technically her employer, the organization offers services throughout Guilford County.

“We offer various services to career seekers and employers,” Harrison said. “Our career centers help connect the workforce with career and educational opportunities, offer career advice and candidate resources, including free resume feedback and makeovers. For employers, we provide talent engagement services, employer training, and incentives for that training. It’s a workforce ecosystem.”

GuilfordWorks recognizes that creating skilled and successful workers starts early. In 2022, the organization launched the NCWorks Emerging Workforce Career Center in downtown Greensboro. “This center is designed for 16- to 24-year-olds,” Harrison said. “We all know that people, especially our younger populations, learn based on experiences. If we expose our young adults to career information and teach them the life skills they need, they will be more successful when they enter the workforce.”

Harrison said COVID-19 impacted these younger workers – due to the isolation, anxieties, and other stresses the pandemic imposed. “We are focused on their social-emotional development and health,” she said.

GuilfordWorks has many community partners, such as Guilford County Schools, Guilford Technical Community College, and the Department of Health and Human Services, to name just a few, to support workers holistically.

“For us to understand the workforce and be impactful, we have to connect the dots,” Harrison said. “Some career seekers may need help with child care, so we can link them with the Department of Social Services to provide vouchers. We can connect them to the United Way of Greater Greensboro’s Family Success Center, which offers job education assistance and child care. We do a lot of barrier elimination work to help people find employment and create their own success.”

GuilfordWorks is a member of Ready Ready’s Continuous Quality Improvement Cohort II. Learn more.

Maximize Love, Manage Stress – Basics Guilford tips from the heart

Ready Ready’s Literacy Coordinator Megan LeFaivre shared science-based tips about the Basic Guilford’s Maximize Love, Manage Stress for Valentine’s Day. She was interviewed on Fox 8 WGHP.

The Basics Guilford are five easy, science-based concepts born at Harvard that any adult can do to boost baby and toddler brain growth. Science shows us that 80 percent of brain growth happens up to age three, so these are critical years. Infants and toddlers thrive when their world seems loving, safe, and predictable. When we as parents or caregivers express love and respond to their needs, children learn they can count on their grownups.

How do we maximize love and manage stress for babies?
· Showing and responding to love helps children learn to manage their feelings and behavior.
· For infants, it’s as simple as holding them. Hold, kiss, and cuddle your infant – there is no worry about spoiling them or holding back on sharing your love.
· Respond to them: Your infant depends on you to meet their needs. Watch and listen for clues about how they feel and what they need, and respond to what you notice. It helps them learn that you care.
· For toddlers – cuddle them! Hugging and cuddling your toddler helps them feel safe and loved – boys need just as much love as girls do.
· Talk about feelings – teaching your toddler to name their feelings can help them understand and express their emotions. You can say things like “It looks like you’re scared because you fell. Falling can be scary! But now you’re OK” Naming the emotions is important. These are just a few of the tips we offer through the Basics Guilford.

We’ve talked about maximizing love – what about managing stress? Why is that important?
· We all face stress. It’s normal. But too much stress is bad for a baby or toddler’s developing brain and has a lifelong impact.
· Some things that cause stress for infants are loud noises, adults who seem angry or upset, or adults who don’t respond to their needs.
· It’s important to have strategies for coping when your life gets stressful – talk to friends, family, or your doctor about ways to deal with stress.
· If you can think about situations that tend to be stressful, you can plan ahead of time for how to improve or avoid them. For example, try to avoid trips to the store right before your child’s nap time.
· Go easy on yourself – life can feel overwhelming, and we all make mistakes. Focus on the big picture and ask for help. All parents need help.

You can learn more about The Basics Guilford including how to receive weekly emails or no-cost twice weekly text messages by clicking on the image below or scanning the QR code with your smartphone.

Staff profile: Jacqueline McCracken

Vice President of Strategic Impact Jacqueline McCracken joined Ready for School, Ready for Life(Ready Ready) in February 2022 and has recently celebrated her first anniversary. In her role, she oversees and manages Ready Ready’s priority areas of data and performance, integrateddata system and the network. The latter is comprised of navigation, prenatal to three strategies, continuous quality improvement and community alignment.

“I collaborate with community stakeholders and leaders to advance building the system of care for young children and families,” McCracken said. “Even before I began working at Ready Ready, I was interested in how this work creates short and long-term impacts for individuals and our community. My family has also personally benefited from the expansion of the evidence-based programs Ready Ready has supported as a backbone organization.”

McCracken said Ready Ready’s role as a backbone organization is underscored by its structure as a startup nonprofit. “Being part of the building phase is an area where I think I can contribute the most,” she said. “Everything is brand new, and nothing like this exists yet. It’s exciting to put processes, protocols, and measures in place, building momentum and energizing people about a vision.”

Jacqueline McCracken and her son walk down a street. We see them from behind.McCracken said the startup energy she enjoys at work reminds her of a giant puzzle and making all the pieces fit. That may be one of the reasons she’s turned to detective stories in her spare time.

“Adding non-work related reading back into my normal routine has been fun. I’ve been working my way through Michael Connolly’s Lincoln Lawyer series,” McCracken said. Additionally, she likes reading to her four-year-old son and being physically active.

“My number one priority is family. I also prioritize my health. I like to lift weights and walk outdoors,” she said. “I typically try to get a walk in every day. Just thirty minutes works wonders for my energy and mental clarity.“

Ready for School, Ready for Life receives Pritzker Children’s Initiative Grant

(Greensboro, N.C., January 27, 2023) – Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) has received a $50,000 grant from Pritzker Children’s Initiative. The grant will create a plan to share Ready Ready’s core approaches, strategies, and lessons learned with other North Carolina communities and states developing a comprehensive prenatal-to-three system.

“While Ready Ready is building a system of care for young children and their families in Guilford County, we have always planned to share our unique work and impact across North Carolina. It’s a population-level change movement that started in Guilford County but won’t end here,” Ready Ready CEO Charrise Hart said. “We are so grateful that Pritzker Children’s Initiative will enable more communities to create a comprehensive and high-quality prenatal-to-three system.”

Research shows that 80 percent of a child’s brain grows during their first three years of life, with a million neural connections forming every second. Creating a strong brain foundation in the first 2,000 days of a child’s life — from birth to kindergarten — is critical to emotional, physical, and cognitive well-being.

“Every child deserves a great start in life, but not every child starts from the same place,” Hart said. “Ready Ready wants every child born in Guilford County 2023 and beyond to have the resources their families need to thrive.”

By partnering with families through the critical early stages of childhood, Ready Ready and its community partners seek to understand and address the systemic challenges that impact families in our community, supporting young children’s early cognitive, emotional, and behavioral development.

These resources supplement the care provided by medical practitioners, address gaps in healthy childhood environments, and add support beyond the love and attention of primary caregivers.

Media contact: Director of Communications Stephanie Skordas —

Staff profile: Sanaa Sharrieff

“It felt like a support system at a time when I had no local support system,” said Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) Parent Liaison Sanaa Sharrieff about the Guilford Parent Leader Network – her first connection to the organization. “When I moved to High Point, I didn’t know anyone. Learning about volunteer efforts, parent support efforts, and agencies in the community helped me realize the concept of parent voice. And it also developed into a career pathway.”

As a Parent Liaison, Sharrieff creates and sustains bridges between parent leader voices in the GPLN and community support. She joined Ready Ready as a staff member in 2022 after several years in leadership roles in the GPLN and a seat on the national Parent Leader Network steering committee.

“Now I connect with the parent leaders in the GPLN from a different perspective, in a way that said ‘Well, hey, there’s more for you here. Let me bring you along into this space of empowerment.’ Parents already have power, but now I can help show them how they can use their power even more from an organizational perspective,” Sharrieff said.

Photo of Sanaa Sharrief and family membersMentoring parents into leadership is an aspect of her role at Ready Ready that really resonates with Sharrieff. She is a Community Organizing and Family Issues (COFI) facilitator and peer parent trainer. She has guided parent leaders through COFI Phase I (self, family & team building) and COFI Phase II (community outreach and action) phases. The COFI way develops leaders and helps parents build organizations that make a real difference in the community, according to the organization.

Sharrieff is also the parent of eight-year-old twins, a 19-year-old, and a 22-year-old. “My older children have left the nest and are creating lives of their own,” Sharrieff said. “My twins are these robust, rambunctious, highly energetic, very intelligent children who keep me on my toes.”

In between her parent leadership role at work, and parenting at home, Sharrieff has a variety of other interests and hobbies. “As Queen Sanaa, I’m a singer, a spoken word artist, and a rap artist with music on all streaming platforms. I’m also a fashion designer with a clothing line,” she said.

Sharrieff has also ventured into podcasting. “Because I was part of the national Parent Leadership Network, I became a co-host of season two of The New Neighborhood Podcast from the Center for the Study of Social Policy,” she said. Sharrieff enjoyed the experience so much that she started her own podcast.

“We discuss topics like the psychology of abuse, the Five Love Languages, or the eight different types of love,” Sharrieff said.

Partner Spotlight: Thriving at Three

Thriving at Three, a program of the Center for New North Carolinians, assures that Latino/Hispanic immigrant children in Greensboro have a positive and strong foundation from birth to age three.

“We want to assure that these families have the help and support they need to help their children develop healthy and positively,” said Thriving at Three Coordinator Grecia Navarro. “We offer home visits, case management, parent education, and group meetings, and we can also refer families to other programs and organizations as needed.”

Three children playing in a daycare settingThriving at Three works with about 40 families each year, assessing their children’s developmental status with the Ages & Stages Questionnaire. Some parents receive the Crianza con Cariño Curriculum to increase their knowledge of child development and parent-child interaction.

“We recognize that if we provide developmental, emotional, and social support early in a child’s life, it will create a long impact to help the child do well in school and in life,” Navarro said.

Thriving at Three is part of Ready for School, Ready for Life’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II. Navarro and another team member began the work with Ready Ready in fall 2022.

“CQI has definitely helped me visualize the changes and improvements I’m able to make for our program to ensure that we are providing the best quality and work for our participating families. Having the time to reflect and evaluate our program helps us recognize our strengths and weaknesses,” Navarro said.

Navarro said another takeaway from the CQI process is examining how Thriving at Three collects data and what kind of data it needs in order to grow and improve. “It’s definitely very impactful and beneficial.”

Partner Spotlight: Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro

The Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro’s mission is to promote women’s self-reliance by assessing needs, providing services, and acting as a gateway to community resources.

“When we started our agency in 1995, we wanted to help women in our community connect to the plethora of resources we have in Greensboro and Guilford County. There are so many options that people don’t know about, or if they are eligible for services, or even what the services are,” said Ashley Brooks, executive director.

Currently, the Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro offers programs such as free legal advice in consultation with an attorney, job searching and networking services, community resource counseling, and education workshops on topics such as budgeting, credit repair, emotional well-being, first-time homebuying, and applying for social security.

“We also do landlord-tenant rights, health care, and planning for all stages of life,” Brooks said. “With just six staff members, we partner with professionals in our community who volunteer their time and talents with women seeking financial literacy, legal advice, resume assistance, and more!”

During the pandemic, the center offered its services virtually, with meetings via zoom and other resources. Now it has returned to in-person consultations and workshops. “It’s so different when we can sit down and talk to a woman and help her map out a plan,” said Brooks. “Nothing beats having somebody sit with you and figure out why you need assistance, how to get it, and even how to make it better for your family next month.”

The Women’s Resource Center of Greensboro is part of Ready for School, Ready for Life’s Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) Cohort II. It’s a team-based process of collecting, analyzing, and using data to improve service quality.

“We’ve been excited to have this opportunity,” Brooks said. “We’re learning how far we are already in the process and how much of this work we’ve been doing without the right language to explain it.”

Brooks said that the CQI process is helping their staff better measure their outcomes, figure out better ways to attract clients and volunteers, and understand how the women they serve use their services or which barriers they may face so the organization can overcome them.

“There are many changes we’re making. They’re good changes and timely ones,” Brooks said. “And ultimately, everyone on our staff is on board and understanding it. CQI has been so helpful.”

Staff profile: Coretta Walker

Coretta Walker joined Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) as Project Manager: Ages 3-5 in May 2022. In her role, she’s responsible for building the infrastructure and processes for the next stage of Ready Ready’s work to shift outcomes for Guilford County children and their families.

“It’s an exciting time to be at Ready Ready,” Walker said. “Enormous work has been done to establish the foundation for Guilford County families with children prenatal to age three. Now we are building on that progress to make sure children born beginning January 1, 2023, have the services in place to be prepared for kindergarten.”

Walker explains her work at Ready Ready as removing barriers to ensure every child in Guilford County is ready for kindergarten and on target to read proficiently in third grade.

“This is deeply personal for me. I’m a mother of two daughters who are three and eight,” Walker said. “I’m passionate about Guilford County and serving my community to ensure we all have access to the best life.”

Walker volunteers in the community through organizations like the Junior League of Greensboro, McLeansville Elementary’s PTO, and Mt. Zion Baptist Church. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta, a historically Black sorority. 

With two children active in the arts community and volunteer work on her calendar, Walker still makes time for other important interests.

Coretta Walker and daughter on a carousel“I love monograms and football with the same amount of passion and fervor,” Walker shared. “I love watching Carolina football – that’s University of National Champions, by the way. I’m also a Carolina Panthers fan, which has been a hard road for the past couple of years. I watch football at our house from Thursday to Monday with my husband and daughters. It’s an institution.”

Walker has been a dancer for 18 years and has performed at all levels: competition, college, and as a teacher. She brings that energy and enthusiasm to her work and personal life, along with an appreciation for staying hydrated. It might be why her tumbler collection is a longtime passion. 

“I have more than 50 Starbucks cups in all sizes and colors. I use one to two every day for water and iced coffee. If I’m feeling fancy, they match my outfit, and they also help create seasonal spirit,” she said. “I am the person who believes in all things bright – bright energy, bright color.”