Prenatal to Three Strategic Plan
Prenatal to 3 health affects future learning and development.
Children’s health and well-being prenatally and during the first three years of life affects all future learning, behavior and health. This time period is the most sensitive for a child’s developing brain and body, yet many families face substantial challenges during these years.
Decades of research have shown that babies and toddlers thrive when they have loving, responsive interactions in their earliest years. Positive interactions with caregivers produce long-term benefits not only for families, but also for society.
However, parents need sufficient resources and skills to create and sustain the environments that set children up for success. The absence of such conditions can compromise a child’s ability to learn and grow throughout life.
A comprehensive system to support infants and toddlers and their families helps to ensure that:
Parents have what they need to be healthy and create nurturing environments for their children
Children are born healthy and receive assistance early if problems should occur
When children are not with their parents, they are in safe and engaging care environments
Locally, many children and families face barriers that inhibit their ability to thrive during the prenatal-to-three period.
- Access: Many families have challenges accessing needed services
- Coordination/Navigation: Families are sometimes unaware of services and where to access them
- Family Voice & Trust: Families do not always feel heard or know what kinds of support is available
- Racial Disparities/Economic Opportunities: A historical legacy of racial and economic disparities has led to disproportionate outcomes and unequal access to services
- Needs of Dual Language Learners: There are unmet needs in some homes where English isn't spoken
- Data & Information: Families and service providers do not always have access to updated data and information
The Mecklenburg County Early Childhood Executive Committee was composed of racially and ethnically diverse County leaders with wide-ranging subject-matter expertise in prenatal, maternal health, early childhood development, health care and other family support services.
Despite years of experience and expertise in their respective fields, Committee members did not want to unilaterally speak for all residents. From the beginning, they identified the need to engage with members of the community to better understand the lived experiences of families and service providers.
This was done through extensive outreach and discussion - in partnership with local community organizations - and conducted through focus groups and interviews. These engagements covered a diverse range of participants (race, ethnicity, family structure, background, experience, etc.) and were conducted in English and Spanish.
All children are born healthy, and their families have equitable access to high-quality resources and supports to help them achieve their optimal development.
Young children have the best opportunity to thrive when the community respects, and is responsive to, their unique family structures, backgrounds, cultures and identities.
Being intentional about eliminating disparities in early childhood development across demographic groups is the most effective way to advance equity.
Families know their children and communities and must be engaged as partners in building an ecosystem that allows parents, caregivers and infants/toddlers to flourish.
Young children develop in many different settings, requiring healthy homes, high-quality early learning environments and safe community spaces.
Families with infants and toddlers must have tangible, meaningful access to services and community supports that are designed and implemented through a trauma-informed lens.
With infants and toddlers developing along several dimensions, an impactful ecosystem needs to have interconnected services and partnerships so families can build broad systems of support within their communities.
As the Executive Committee attempted to outline recommendations, it became clear that many proposed ideas did not neatly fit within the three priority goal areas.
As such, the Committee took a systems-building approach, focusing on developing a set of integrated recommendations that would support a functioning ecosystem.
Improve data collection and sharing to better evaluate community-level outcomes and adjust programming proactively to community needs
Work with community partners and families to provide greater access to health and child development screenings
Improve navigation and referral processes to better connect families to needed prenatal to age 3 services
Partner with community organizations and local service providers to expand access to high-quality prenatal to age 3 services
Support community organizations in leading engagement efforts to capture family and provider voice