Needs Assessment Draws on Family and Provider Voices to Enhance Birth-5 Services in North Carolina

Date Published: 04/06/2020

The North Carolina Statewide Birth-5 Needs Assessment Final Report, released in April 2020, sought the perspectives of family members and early childhood care providers to outline the strengths and challenges of the state's early childhood care and education (ECCE) services and to lay the foundation for the way forward.

The North Carolina Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE), part of the state's Department of Health and Human Services, funded the statewide needs assessment as part of an initial federal requirement of the Preschool Development Grant (PDG).

Lessons from existing data and reports, listening sessions with families from key target populations in the state, and a statewide survey of providers who serve young children and their families about available services and barriers largely shape the needs assessment, which will be used as a roadmap for enhanced ECCE services in the future.

Mother holding an infant in her armsKristi Snuggs, EdD, Interim Director at DCDEE, says that by seeking input directly from families and providers of services for young children for the needs assessment, DCDEE has the data it needs to show what works best for families and what kinds of supports are still needed to ensure quality education for young children. The needs assessment will inform the next phase of the PDG, which is to develop and implement a Birth-to-Five (B-5) Strategic Plan, outlining what DCDEE will do to improve the state's early education system over the next three years.

"North Carolina has a history of strong leadership and innovation in early childhood care and education and we are committed to continue that tradition," said Snuggs. "We heard from parents and providers that more affordable, high-quality services are needed and will use the information from this needs assessment to develop solutions. At the same time, we will continue to gather input from families and providers as we chart North Carolina's course to ensuring children flourish. We are excited about how information from the needs assessment can support our Birth-to-Five Strategic Plan, as well as other statewide efforts aimed at young children and families such as the North Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan."

The needs assessment focuses on four areas: providing high-quality ECCE, ensuring that children are on track for school success, fostering social-emotional resilience, and creating conditions for supportive and supported families.

The assessment identified current strengths in the state's ECCE systems, including the overall high quality in the services provided and a demonstrated commitment to consistent improvement through optimized data systems, increased access to home visits, and customized approaches for children from specific populations, such as those with housing insecurity and different age groups.

In order to improve the ECCE landscape, the needs assessment suggested expansion of services and improved access to those services for families who experience barriers such as availability and cost. The state should continue to seek input from families about their experiences and provide support in ways that are culturally and linguistically relevant and easy to understand for all families. Maintaining and increasing high quality ECCE services will require a well-supported ECCE workforce to improve service delivery and help children maintain their developmental growth as they progress through the ECCE system.

The division charged a group from the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute to perform the needs assessment in light of the Institute's longtime expertise in early childhood development research and systems. Ximena Franco, PhD, advanced research scientist, was the project's principal investigator, with co-principal investigators Doré R. LaForett, PhD, and Noreen M. Yazejian, PhD, and a team of research scientists and technical assistance specialists from FPG.

"Research has made it very clear that when we support children and their families in children's early years through effective policies, systems, and services, we set them on a path for success," says Franco. "Engaging families and providers in this needs assessment and truly listening to their experiences within these systems gives us important data for the state to use as they work to develop and implement plans for enhancing early childhood care and education services."

Read the full report: North Carolina Statewide Birth-5 Needs Assessment Final Report