Consider a Head Start program that provides opportunities right at one of its Head Start centers for parents to pursue a GED, receive job readiness training, enhance interviewing skills, and attend computer training classes right at one of its Head Start sites, all funded by the local United Way. A Head Start program that uses the arts to stimulate early math, science and technology skills by partnering with a natural science center, a local dramatic arts organization and the PNC Bank. Conceptualize an organization that has creatively aligned its nationally acclaimed Nurse-Family Partnership home visitation program with its Early Head Start/Head Start (HS/EHS) program to provide a continuum of quality services beginning with pre-natal care and ending with transition to kindergarten.
Guilford Child Development (GCD), a HS/EHS program in Guilford County, North Carolina, is that program. All of GCD’s child development centers hold five stars and all are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (save one new center awaiting its NAEYC review). GCD’s kitchen serves over 1500 hot meals a day to its twelve (HS/EHS) child development centers and to other centers in the county.
Its four year old program is 100% aligned with the state’s NC Pre-K Program, which provides substantial funding to help pay Head Start teachers at state public schools rates to ensure high quality classrooms. GCD also has a “Transition to Kindergarten” staff person, a former employee of the Guilford County Schools (GCS), who collaborates intensively with GCS principals and staff to facilitate a smooth transition for Head Start children. In addition to the public schools, GCD partners with over 30 community agencies to make referrals and to leverage services for its children and families. Triad Adult & Pediatric Medicine has just established a medical clinic in a building GCD owns across the street from its Elm Street HS/EHS Center, to provide primary care services for GCD’s children and families and other families in the neighborhood.
GCD’s Family Success Center, mentioned above, employs Career Counselors to help families design a career path of job readiness, skill training and job placement. Incentives are provided to families to address barriers to participation including gas cards (or bus passes), meals after each session, and an educational savings account for each child when quarterly benchmarks are met.
Robin Britt, GCD’s Executive Director, is a former Member of Congress and served as Secretary of what is now the NC Department of Health and Human Services under Governor Jim Hunt. While Secretary, Britt launched Governor Hunt’s nationally recognized Smart Start early childhood program. Later, Britt served as Chairman of Governor Beverly Perdue’s Early Childhood Advisory Council which received a $70 million federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Grant. Out of 35 states applying (and nine receiving grants), North Carolina had the highest score.
GCD’s goals are to strive for excellence; provide the very best environment for early learning and development for children; and to offer customer-focused services for families leading to self-sufficiency. It is well on its way toward meeting those goals.