KidsReadyNC Selects Counties for a New Initiative to Improve Early Childhood Outcomes
The Institute for Emerging Issues (IEI) at NC State University today announced the selection of Catawba, Chowan, Randolph, and Rockingham Counties for participation in KidsReadyNC, a new 18-month initiative designed to help selected Tier 1 or Tier 2 communities strengthen leadership capacity within their local early childhood development systems. Laura Louison and Oscar Fleming, experts in implementation science and practice from the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute (FPG), are among the specialists supporting the initiative.
Funded in part by grants from The Belk Foundation and The Duke Endowment, participating KidsReadyNC communities will receive tools and technical assistance and will participate in a peer-learning process, all designed to boost capacity and improve outcomes for children and families.
“Thanks to a lot of hard work by early childhood experts, there’s tremendous energy and awareness in North Carolina about the importance of early childhood investments for our state’s economic future, but under-resourced communities need to find new strategies if they are going to do everything they can for our children,” said IEI Director Leslie Boney. “Through this partnership of IEI with investors, state and national experts and communities, we think we will find solutions and approaches that can help Tier 1 and 2 counties across the state.”
In partnership with FPG, the initiative builds upon the “kidonomics” theme featured at the 2018 Emerging Issues Forum.
“The Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute is committed to supporting transdisciplinary research and implementation of evidence-based evaluations and interventions that will strengthen our children, families, and communities,” said FPG Director Ayse Belger. “We are excited to forge new partnerships with multisectorial stakeholders and organizations, including projects like KidsReadyNC that extend across universities and bridge to communities.”
KidsReadyNC pilots an early childhood system capacity-building model, delivering state-of-the-art technical assistance with a more modest funding commitment from the community and outside funders. This lower-cost model is designed to produce positive outcomes for the participating communities while creating strategies and successes that other similar communities can draw upon in the future. Each site will identify one of seven “measures of success” identified by NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading stakeholders as priorities for action.
“The expertise and engagement of specialists like Laura Louison [left] and Oscar Fleming [right] from the FPG National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) will strengthen the capacity of communities to deploy best practices,” Belger said. “By bringing a wide range of experts under a collaborative partnership, the KidsReadyNC will leverage innovative and effective approaches implemented by FPG scientists to evaluate needs, identify implementation priorities, develop strategies to strengthen infrastructure, and use data for improvement of educational program selection and implementation to meet the individual needs of communities.”
Louison said NIRN was excited to have the opportunity to partner with the Institute for Emerging Issues on the initiative.
“We have learned in our work throughout the United States that effective implementation in rural communities is challenging,” Louison explained. “Implementation science can provide useful tools and strategies for low-resource and rural or frontier communities working to strengthen their early childhood systems. In partnership with the KidsReadyNC technical assistance group, NIRN will work with the selected communities to build their capacity to use the best of implementation science to help improve outcomes for children and families.”
Technical assistance providers will work with each KidsReadyNC community on key focus areas, including a community-specific planning process, support for initial implementation efforts, and cross-community gatherings to focus learning and build supportive relationships.
In addition to FPG’s Louison and Fleming, KidsReadyNC technical assistance providers include Janice Gruendel, Research Professor in the College of Health and Human Services at University of North Carolina Charlotte, as well as The Forum for Youth Investment’s Elizabeth Gaines and Alicia Wilson-Ahlstrom.
“The Forum for Youth Investment is excited to dig in and support innovative strategies in lower-resourced North Carolina communities that bring leaders together to improve early childhood outcomes,” said Gaines, Senior Fellow at The Forum for Youth Investment.
“All of the applicant communities presented compelling opportunities,” said IEI Assistant Director Patrick Cronin. “The four KidsReadyNC communities were chosen because each has the right mix of assets and is fully committed to a community-driven leadership approach to improving early childhood development outcomes.”