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Early Bird

Voting, protecting children from guns

'One thing we know will make a difference and that many can agree on'

Early Bird readers, hello again. Newcomers, welcome! If you were forwarded this email, you can sign up here to receive it every two weeks, and join our conversation on issues facing North Carolina’s young children and those who support them. If you’re already a subscriber, please help us reach more people by sharing this with your friends and co-workers interested in early childhood education.

Liz Bell/EducationNC

Election Day is this Tuesday. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and remain open until 7:30 p.m. Find your designated voting location here, and the basics of what you need to know here. The results of the election will shape policies that affect the critical early years of children’s lives.

In case you missed it, I wrote about how candidates running for state and federal office responded to questions on education challenges — including early care and education.

What 2022 candidates have to say about early childhood and K-12 education

As we anticipate our state’s post-election reality, EdNC is starting to cover issues that will pop up during the state legislature’s long session, which starts in January.

Last week, the Child Fatality Task Force recommended the legislature fund a firearm safety initiative focused on educating adults on the importance of safe storage. Though gun violence has been particularly pressing on the minds of North Carolinians lately, the group has supported this recommendation every year since 2018 in light of increased firearm related deaths and troubling youth suicide increases. The effort made it into legislation last year that passed the House but wasn’t taken up by the Senate.

Firearm-related deaths in children younger than 17 have nearly doubled since 2019. More than 40% of adults in North Carolina have a firearm in or around the home, and more than half of loaded guns are also unlocked, said Kella Hatcher, executive director of the task force.

Task force on child fatality requests legislative funds for gun safety effort: ‘Adults need to lock up those firearms’

This is an issue that tragically affects the youngest children too. Just last month, a 2-year-old in Benson died from a gunshot wound while playing with a loaded handgun.

Detectives said the toddler “climbed into his dad’s pickup truck through an open door, and was playing with a loaded handgun that was inside the vehicle,” CBS17 reported.

“Although it’s going to take multiple prevention strategies to really make a difference here, one thing we know will make a difference and that many can agree on, and that this task force has agreed on repeatedly, is getting gun owners to safely store their guns,” Hatcher said.

We’ll be following this issue and many others affecting young children and their learning in the coming months. Stay in touch with your questions and ideas. As always, thank you for reading.

Early Bird reads: What we’re writing

From securing jobs to offering child care, Sandhills Community College is helping people find their way

As we travel to all 58 community colleges, we’re asking about early childhood teacher preparation, on-site child care, and other efforts to support students’ and communities’ child care needs.

On one of my recent visits, to Sandhills Community College, I learned about a unique partnership between the college and the local Boys and Girls Club to provide child care for elementary-age children for students and others.

“(The organization) really helps the moms and dads in our community, and hopefully, this will help the moms and dads on this campus,” said SCC President John Dempsey.

Thirty-eight children are being served in after-school care, with plans to serve more in structured drop-in services in the evening.

Task force on child fatality requests legislative funds for gun safety effort: ‘Adults need to lock up those firearms’

The recommendation, which the group has supported since 2018, would fund state-level positions that provide technical assistance to communities to launch local initiatives aimed at safe storage. The group is requesting $250,000 over two years from the legislature this session to go to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Injury and Violence Prevention Branch.

Your take, for goodness sake: EdNC perspectives

Perspective | Extending the reach of the CTC and TANF could do much more for American families and young children

“Often when the U.S. or state governments offer an allowance, tax credit, or assistance program, it comes with many strict requirements, restrictions, or layers to the process of applying and receiving such resources,” writes Lindsay Saunders, marketing and communications director at the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation.

“The outcome: families with the most needs don’t receive the supports that can help lift them out of poverty.”

Saunders explains how cash assistance programs like the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work in our state, and barriers that keep them from reaching those who need it most.

Perspective | Ending childhood lead poisoning in North Carolina

“Whether you’re a parent, child care provider, pediatrician, or an elected official, you have a role to play in ending childhood lead poisoning in North Carolina,” writes Fawn Pattison, communications director and senior campaign advisor at NC Child.

“During pregnancy, and when babies and toddlers are crawling and exploring their environments, lead exposure poses the greatest long-term risks to health and development.”

Pattinson shares helpful resources for parents and clinicians, as well as recent policies that ensure testing and lead removal from child care centers and schools.

In other early learning news: What I’m reading

Research & Resources: Let's talk healthy environments for infants and toddlers

Early Bird spends most of its time covering early care and education environments like formal child care and preschool. But we know learning happens everywhere, and factors other than formal learning experiences affect children’s healthy development.

A new brief from Zero to Three and Child Trends examines data from the 2022 State of Babies Yearbook and lifts up policies that can make a difference in each of the Social Determinants of Health: economic stability, education access and quality, health care access and quality, neighborhood and built environment, and social and community context.

“As a nation, if we can improve the drivers of health at the earliest possible moment, we can improve the long-term outlook for health and well-being and prevent many problems along the way,” the brief reads.

The brief finds “Black, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native babies and those in families with low income experience disparities in resources and outcomes that raise significant concerns about the near-term development and long-term health of young children.”

These are the policy areas the brief says are most important in reducing disparities and moving families with young children forward.

  •  “Access to integrated, affordable maternal, pediatric, and family health care, including Medicaid expansion, postpartum extension of Medicaid, and embedding developmental specialists in primary care  
  • Sufficient income to ensure and maintain a stable environment and lead to self-sufficiency, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits reform and tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)   
  • Time to bond and form healthy relationships with one’s babies, including paid family and medical leave  • Strong social-emotional and mental health, through the expansion of Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health (IECMH) services 
  • Comprehensive early care and learning opportunities, including high-quality child care and expanded Early Head Start (EHS) 
  • Cross-cutting approaches and systems building, including home visiting, child development specialists in pediatric care, family resource centers, and community systems to strengthen families.”
Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.