CHARLOTTE, N.C. — As part of their orientation for kindergarten throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, every student and family is invited to watch a video on a day in the life of a kindergartner.
The video, which the N.C. Department of Public Instruction also has distributed to school districts throughout the state, was developed through a series of partnerships spearheaded by Child Care Resources Inc., a Charlotte nonprofit that has a broad mission and impact.
Formed in 1982 to “ensure that all families in need have access to high-quality early care and education and to school-age child care,” the agency serves children and programs “across the economic spectrum,” in Mecklenburg, Cabarrus and Union counties, says Janet Singerman, its president.
The video, which also has been purchased for use in schools in at least six other states and recently won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, represents the kind of collaborative approach Child Care Resources has developed to address the region’s growing child-care needs.
Organized as a pioneering effort to privatize the delivery of human services in Mecklenburg that local government had provided, the agency operates with an annual budget of nearly $7.5 million and roughly 100 employees.
In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2009, Child Care Resources provided child-care referrals to nearly 6,800 families for over 10,000 children, administered a total of $46.8 million in child-care subsidies to families, and provided 2,160 hours of best-practices training to nearly 10,500 child-care workers.
And at the same time that it was cutting seven jobs, freezing salaries and reducing benefits to cope with revenue shortfalls in the face of the economic downturn, the agency last year launched a new initiative.
The new effort, funded by Smart Start of Mecklenburg County, aims to improve the quality of programs for infants and toddlers by providing classes, mentoring and technical assistance for teachers and other practitioners.
Child Care Resources generates most of its revenue through contracts and funding for specific programs, and mainly has focused on maintaining existing services in the face of its revenue shortfall and growing demand, Singerman says.
In the last year alone, for example, the number of eligible children on its waiting list for publicly-funded child-care subsidies that flow through the agency has ranged from 4,821 to 7,751.
So the agency continually looks for ways to collaborate, Singerman says.
“Making the Move to Kindergarten,” the video it developed for kids entering kindergarten and their families, for example, represents a partnership with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools that grew out of the schools’ efforts to develop a plan to ease the transition to kindergarten, as well as an opportunity to seek federal funds to support school readiness.
The video project, which eventually expanded to a four-disc series that also won a CINE Golden Eagle Award, was coordinated by Carolyn Hazeldine, who since has been named the agency’s senior vice president for institutional advancement.
It has been distributed to all branches of the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and is available to local health-care providers and faith-based groups that serve children through age five and their families.
A priority for the agency, Singerman says, is working to ensure that affordable, high-quality services are available to families and providers alike.
“Child Care Resources works to leverage a variety of resources,” she says, “to help programs improve and sustain their services without passing on the cost of Child Care Resources’ services to families.”