Think Babies NC: Legislative Agenda and Fact Sheets

Brains are built, not born. It’s time for our public policy to catch up with science.

During the first years of life, babies’ experiences are built into their bodies – shaping brain development and building the foundation for all future learning, behavior and health.

North Carolina needs policies and programs that ensure healthy beginnings at birth, support families with young children, and make high-quality child care and learning environments more accessible and affordable to all parents who want them. When we support them in their earliest years, we prepare our babies to grow, learn and succeed—and our communities, workforce and economy become stronger and more productive.

Learn about the Think Babies NC legislative agenda and the facts behind the asks.

Ready Ready November/December Update

The update is focused on the Get Ready Guilford Initiative (the work funded by The Duke Endowment and Blue Meridian Partners) and our other key priorities that are critical to the system building work.

Here’s what’s been happening in November/December.

  • Expand and integrate evidence-based programs to meet community need.
    • Progress continues on the intentional expansion of Nurse-Family Partnership, HealthySteps, and Family Connects. Ready Ready and partners have analyzed Medicaid data for all Guilford County pediatric practices, and non-Medicaid data for the six largest practices to determine next steps for HealthySteps expansion with an eye on sustainability and HealthySteps Specialists access to electronic health records.
  • Build a culture of continuous quality improvement (CQI) within Guilford.
    • Each of the 13 programs participating in the CQI Cohort has started working with a Root Cause coach, and are developing initial priorities for their Capacity Improvement Plans.
    • On October 30, the CQI Cohort had its official launch. Twelve of the 13 programs met together to learn about the key role they’ll play in the Get Ready Guilford Initiative and to begin planning areas of focus as a Community of Practice.
    • CQI Cohort participants heard results of family listening sessions held in High Point and Greensboro about quality of services families receive today, as well as barriers to accessing and using services. They also heard preliminary survey results from 40+ organizations that serve young children and families. Results from the listening sessions and the survey will be shared with participants and made available on the Ready Ready website in December.
    • The CQI Working Group will meet in December develop a plan for the community-wide technical assistance model that will be critical to building a culture of CQI in Guilford.
  • Build a system of navigation so families are connected to what they need, when they need it.
    • A Navigation Steering Committee has been formed to help guide the process of creating a system in which all families are assessed for need at five key points, connected with needed resources, and supported between touchpoints. The committee includes representatives from Ready Ready, The Duke Endowment, Duke University, Guilford DHHS, Nurse Family Partnership and Zero to Three.
  • Build an integrated data system (IDS) to support navigation and data-driven decision making.
    • We expect the Get Ready Guilford IDS Project Manager to be in place on January 1, 2019.
    • Ready Ready and United Way of Greater Greensboro are jointly convening an Advisory Committee for the development of a Guilford County Integrated Data System(s) that will meet community needs. The Advisory Committee will meet in late November/early December, and will host a meeting with Salesforce for a technology demonstration.
    • Through work with Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy (AISP), the Ready Ready team attended 3-day AISP seminar in Baltimore, and developed a 12-month project plan for the data warehouse.
  • Conduct rigorous evaluation process and build sustainability strategies for components of system-building work.
    • Frank Porter Graham (FPG) and the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work are serving as developmental evaluators for the Get Ready Guilford Initiative. The scope and work and budget has been finalized, and work has already started in support of the backbone organization.
    • Ready Ready connected with seven of eight PHPs that bid for NC Medicaid managed care contracts; language supporting GRGI was incorporated into five of the applications. Ready Ready will continue to work with the PHPs with an eye on sustaining GRGI efforts.
  • Build responsiveness to family voice. The Family Action Learning Team reconvened on October 15th at Westside Chapel following a summer hiatus. New families with children age five and under were recruited from CQI family listening sessions to join existing team members. The families participated in an Active Reading parent workshop.
  • Leverage and expand early literacy resources.
    • Active Reading Parent Workshops November and December workshops are being held at Archer Elementary School and Foust Elementary. Workshops are being planned in High Point in collaboration with Macedonia Early Head Start/Head Start, Family Success Center with others being added for January; working on scheduling workshops at Fairview Elementary and Northwood Elementary.
    • Active Reading Coaching Workshops have been provided to Summit Rotary Club; they start volunteering at the Rice Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Health in January 2019. Ready Ready will partner with YWCA of High Point to train staff from various providers in January. Coordinating with Northwood Elementary to train HPU student tutors. Ready Ready will train Active Reading the staff members of the HP Library.
    • Planning continues with Guilford County Schools (GCS) for the submission of joint application for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading which will provide additional tools for kindergarten readiness, summer learning and addressing absenteeism; one goal is increased participation at ESL summer kindergarten program at elementary schools in High Point and Greensboro.
    • Backpack Beginnings is leading a book distribution process with bookshelves placed at the beginning of 2019 at Guilford County Department for Health and Human Services WIC Office, Rice Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Health, Warnersville Recreation Center and the Family Success Center in High Point. Additional sites will follow.
  • Improve transitions, including PreK to K.
    • A design team will be re-launched to address key barriers in Guilford around PreK to K transition. An initial planning meeting was held with the Partnership for Children of Guilford County staff. Suggested team members include: school principals of NC PreK sites, unlicensed/private child care facilities, GCD; NC PreK committee, GCS leadership.
    • The Partnership for Children will administer a pilot for standardizing transition plans for two NC PreK classrooms. Contractors will receive more details in January.
  • Make high-quality care affordable and accessible to all children. A strategic plan developed by a variety of key stakeholders has been developed for addressing how to attract, engage and retain early childhood teachers in Guilford County. Nine strategies are being explored with action plans developed. Additional funding and partnerships will be needed to ensure implementation of the plan. More details soon.
  • Build public will for early childhood priorities. The public will-building team has developed plans to communicate with several key audiences with the goal of increasing knowledge about the importance of brain development prenatally through age three.

Application Period Closed: Integrated Data Systems Project Manager for Get Ready Guilford Initiative (GRGI)

Please learn about this role by reviewing the description below or click here to see the PDF.

Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) is seeking a high-energy, relationship-oriented Integrated Data Systems (IDS) Project Manager to lead cutting-edge work as we build an innovative and connected early childhood system in Guilford County, NC. The IDS Project Manager will have a significant role in implementing the community vision to assess what families want and need, connect them with the right services at the right time, use data to drive improved services, and positively impact the lives of young children and their families.


The IDS Project Manager will coordinate the development, implementation and governance for an integrated data system with two components: (1) a shared case management technology to support coordination of early childhood services in Guilford County, and (2) a data warehouse system to support evaluation and research from a variety of data sources. (Read more below).

The Project Manager will be responsible for the day-to-day management of IDS development and implementation efforts, including stakeholder engagement, communication, oversight of the data license request process, and management of formal governance committees and review processes. The successful candidate will be skilled in developing relationships and have an understanding of social science research approaches and content. He/she will have support from established technical assistance providers, consultants, and peer networks. In the future, the Project Manager may be responsible for building a larger team to support the IDS.


  • Lead development of case management technology to support coordination of care. The successful candidate will work with numerous partner agencies/organizations to identify needs and capacities for the shared case management system. He/she will have the ability to develop and maintain relationships with existing and potential partners, and lead a cross-organizational team to develop a governance structure and tools to ensure data security, an equity approach, and family control of how data is shared.
  • Lead development of a data warehouse to support analysis and evaluation. The Project Manager will be responsible for ensuring the data warehouse meets the needs of the Get Ready Guilford Initiative evaluation team. He/she will develop and maintain legal data sharing agreements with existing and potential data partners (governmental agencies and non-profit organizations); generate interest among existing and potential community partners; identify and execute IDS goals; work with others to develop IDS governance policies, processes and supporting documents; and stay up-to-date on literature and best practices surrounding integrated data systems and data use.
  • Lead IDS implementation efforts. The Project Manager will work side-by-side with the selected vendor(s). He/she will develop training materials and procedures for the new technology system to ensure high data quality and security; monitor and maintain participation by community partners; and anticipate risks and mitigate them through proactive policies. The successful candidate will coordinate data management and research for the data warehouse; launch and support activities of a Data Oversight Committee; coordinate data license requests; develop/maintain a codebook; and work with national technical assistance providers (e.g., AISP and Third Sector), peer networks and consultants to support implementation of both systems.


  • A Bachelor’s degree with a minimum of three years’ work experience
  • Strong organizational, analytical and communication skills (oral, written, interpersonal)
  • Program management experience
  • Experience in facilitating meetings with diverse stakeholders
  • Ability to work independently with minimal direct supervision
  • Demonstrated ability to maintain confidentiality while working with administrative records

Desired (but not required) skills include:

  • Experience coordinating and managing social science research projects, data collection and management, statistical analysis, and reporting
  • Experience with large databases at the national, state and local levels
  • Proficiency in R, Python, SQL, SPSS, SAS, or STATA
  • Knowledge of federal laws pertaining to individual data usage (HIPAA, FERPA)


  1. Case management technology: Multiple community-based programs (both public and non-profit) will participate in the system, and it is envisioned that a shared technology will support shared data, effective referral processes, and coordination of services in the interest of providing seamless services to families. Data sharing will be driven by family-centered consent processes and governed by agreements between programs to ensure data security and to protect the privacy of families.
  2. Data warehouse system: The data warehouse will link and aggregate de-identified data (i.e., data that excludes any identifiable information) from a variety of sources, including administrative data from state and county databases, service data from local programs and, where possible, other systems, such as healthcare and education.


Ready for School, Ready for Life offers a competitive compensation package, including comprehensive health benefits.


This position is located in Guilford County, NC (Greensboro/High Point metro area).

Please submit a resume and cover letter via email at and include “IDS Project Manager (Hiring Manager)” in the subject line. We anticipate holding interviews in early November 2018 with a start date in early January 2019.

Ready for School, Ready for Life celebrates, supports and thrives on difference with the understanding that it benefits our team and our community. We are proud to be an equal opportunity workplace where all can flourish. Learn more about our work at

Ready Ready September Update

You’ve asked and we’re delivering. Each month, we’ll post an update about the work of Ready Ready. The update is focused on the Get Ready Guilford Initiative (the work funded by The Duke Endowment and Blue Meridian Partners) and our other key priorities that are critical to the system building work.

Here’s what’s been happening in September.

Get Ready Guilford Initiative (GRGI)

  • Conduct needs assessment pilot in OB/GYN practices. The universal prenatal screening pilot will begin on 9/18. MOUs with the County and Cone Health are in place; staff and partners trained the clinical and administrative staff at our pilot practice sites where the screenings will be completed; and we held a final meeting with partners at the Health Department and Partnership for Community Care (P4CC) on 9/11 to review processes one last time.
  • Expand and integrate evidence-based programs to meet community need.
    • Expansion of Family Connects, HealthySteps, and Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) to meet community need is progressing. Expansion plans will be finalized in October 2018.
    • Engagement with potential future HealthySteps sites continues; new engagement materials have been developed and were tested at a practice on 8/29.
    • A new charter has been drafted to guide the process for EBP integration, which will begin this fall.
  • Build a culture of continuous quality improvement (CQI) within Guilford.
    • The 13 CQI cohort programs will complete an assessment the week of 9/24 to inform the development of individual Capacity Improvement Plans (CIP). Each program’s CIP will focus on the areas each program agrees it wants to strengthen: accessibility, family engagement, use of evidence, referral process, trauma-informed practice.
    •  The Community of Practice kick off will be held 10/30; participating programs will engage and network with fellow cohort members and work one-on-one with Root Cause coaches.
    • The Guilford Nonprofit Consortium will send a survey to member organizations the week of 9/17 to collect information about how the community-wide CQI technical assistance (TA) model can best serve local nonprofits/organizations. The survey will also be used to build a Guilford County landscape map of family/child services (prenatal to age 8).
    • The CQI Working Group will meet in October with new members representing a cross-section of community organizations. The group will develop the community-wide TA model and shape the strategy for developing a culture of continuous improvement within Guilford.
    • Family listening sessions are being held with Guilford Child Development, Macedonia Resource Center, YWCA of High Point and Hunter Elementary School to understand family wants/needs related to quality and data.
  • Launch community navigation and integrated data system (IDS) Design Team. Staff developed a draft navigation design and implementation structure with input from the developmental evaluation team at UNC. The team charter has been revised to coordinate with the EBP integration process. We are finalizing plans to launch a Design Team this fall.
  • Conduct rigorous evaluation process and build sustainability strategies for components of system-building work.
    • The Empowering Families NC Design Team is building an outcomes-oriented contracting demonstration project to improve child and parent outcomes among women experiencing substance use disorder during pregnancy. The team (15 people from 13 organizations meeting 2x/month) will share recommendations with 30-member advisory council on 9/28.
    • Staff has met with private insurers responding to the state’s Medicaid managed-care RFP to explore how Get Ready Guilford Initiative components might be reimbursable with Medicaid dollars in the future and to build collaborative data sharing agreements.
    • Staff worked with the external evaluation team from the Frank Porter Graham Institute (UNC-CH) to determine how the developmental evaluation process can best inform and support Phase 1 GRGI work.

Additional Key Priorities

  • Build responsiveness to family voice. Following a summer hiatus, the Family Action Learning Team will reconvene in October (delayed by a month due to Hurricane Florence). New members — families with children age five and under — are welcome to join this decision-making body that is critical to building a responsive early childhood system in Guilford.
  • Leverage and expand early literacy resources.
    • Our partners at Read Charlotte have launched a Home Reading Helper tool, which is geared toward families who are supporting early literacy with children from PreK (age 4) to third grade. Ready Ready is promoting these FREE tools with families and family-serving organizations throughout Guilford County in support of our Active Reading approach, which aligns with Read Charlotte’s approach.
    • Ready Ready has started recruiting Active Reading volunteers to work with young children and their parents.
    • Ready Ready is conducting Active Reading training for two audiences: (1) direct service providers and (2) families. Several trainings have been scheduled as a prototype so we can learn and adapt the approach as needed. Full launch will happen in January 2019.
  • Improve transitions, including PreK to K. A design team will be re-launched to address key barriers in Guilford around PreK to K transition. An initial planning meeting will be held with the Partnership for Children of Guilford County staff on 9/17.
  • Make high-quality care affordable and accessible to all children. The draft strategic plan has been delivered by the design team process facilitators. Next steps will be shared in October.
  • Build public will for early childhood priorities.
    • The Public Will Building Team is developing a strategy and supporting materials for the early childhood system building efforts. The group will meet in late October.
    • Staff is participating on the NC Think Babies Leadership Team to build a common policy agenda for prenatal to age three (PN-3) that will be supported by 20+ child/family serving policy organizations across NS. This work is supported by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative.
    • Think Babies Advocacy Academy will be held in Greensboro on 9/20. Staff will participate.

Other Important Information

  • Build the early childhood talent pipeline in Guilford. Staff and HealthySteps will serve as guest lecturers about early childhood system-building and social emotional development for an 80-student class in the Human Development and Family Studies program at UNCG on 9/27.
  • Collaboration and learning with Tulsa’s BEST team. Staff and co-chairs will work with the Tulsa BEST team (also funded by Blue Meridian Partners) in Charlotte on 9/25.

The Get Ready Guilford Initiative Strategy Announcement

Read about the Get Ready Guilford Initiative Strategy

On behalf of Ready for School, Ready for Lifes Board of Directors and staff, we are pleased to announce that through our collective efforts and our partnership with The Duke Endowment, Guilford County has been selected for a multi-year investment from Blue Meridian Partners to pilot and grow an initiative to improve outcomes for children. Blue Meridian is a national partnership of impact-driven philanthropists seeking to transform life trajectories of America’s children and youth by making large investments in promising solutions.

This marks an exciting new phase of the work that started in 2014 when a broad cross-section of community leaders, families and organizations began to develop and implement a vision to ensure every child in Guilford County enters Kindergarten ready for school and ready for life.

The Blue Meridian investment totals $32.5 million and will fund key priorities to plan, design and implement a system that, in time, will seamlessly connect a wide range of services for the 6,000 children born in Guilford County each year.  We currently refer to this work as the Get Ready Guilford Initiative.  Priorities include:

  • Expanding three existing and proven programs that serve families prenatally through age 3 (Guilford Family Connects, HealthySteps and Nurse-Family Partnership).
  • Developing a navigation system to connect families with effective services prenatally through age 3.
  • Working with local programs in a Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) effort to build capacity for using data in service delivery and decision-making.
  • Building supporting technologies to facilitate coordination among child- and family-serving agencies and organizations.
  • Conducting rigorous evaluation for learning and impact to understand what works for families.
  • Strengthening the backbone organization that will continue to manage and execute this growing initiative.

Milestones to be achieved over the next three years have been developed in each priority area, with the potential for additional investments in subsequent phases of our work.

We are thankful for the efforts from so many individuals to help secure the Blue Meridian investment, including the Ready for School, Ready for Life staff and our partner The Duke Endowment. The Duke Endowment is a regional funding partner in Blue Meridian and is investing significant resources to help us catalyze change in our community, evolve our organization to welcome more partners and develop strategies to test, refine and scale our work.

Through collaboration with other partners, Ready for School, Ready for Life will continue its work on multiple fronts that are critical to achieving better child outcomes, such as implementing the county-wide early literacy strategic plan, improving transitions from Pre-K to Kindergarten and making high quality, affordable childcare available to all families.

All of this work is driven by our knowledge that 85 percent of brain development takes place from birth to age 3. Ensuring children are prepared to enter Kindergarten directly influences their ability to read on grade level in third grade. That benchmark is the number one indicator if a child will graduate from high school, which drastically increases the odds of gainful employment, continuing education, leading a healthy lifestyle and overall life success.

We look forward to embarking on this critical next phase. Everyone has an important role to play as we work together to create and sustain an innovative system of care that matches families with effective interventions and resources, improves child and family outcomes and reduces disparities that currently begin at birth.

Please feel free to share this news within your organizations and stay tuned for future updates.


Ed Kitchen & Susan Schwartz

Co-Chairs, Ready for School, Ready for Life

13 Local Early Childhood Programs to Participate in Continuous Quality Improvement Cohort

Thirteen programs serving Guilford County young children and families will participate in a two-year continuous quality improvement (CQI) effort in partnership with Ready for School, Ready for Life (Ready Ready) and Root Cause.  Each participating program will receive technical assistance to strengthen capacity around collecting, analyzing and using data in programmatic decision-making.

Together, the cohort serves more than 23,000 children prenatally to age five. The programs in the first cohort include:

  • Adolescent Parenting Program, YWCA High Point
  • Adopt-a-Mom, Guilford County Coalition on Infant Mortality
  • Bringing Out the Best, UNC-Greensboro, The Center for Youth, Family and Community Partnerships
  • Care Coordination for Children (CC4C), Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Early Head Start, Guilford Child Development
  • Family Connects, Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Healthy Start, Family Service of the Piedmont
  • NC Infant Toddler Program: Children’s Developmental Services Agency, NC Department of Health and Human Services
  • Parents as Teachers Guilford
  • Pregnancy Care Management, Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Teen Parent Mentor Program, YWCA Greensboro
  • WIC, Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services
  • Wise Guys, Children’s Home Society

“Guilford has built a vision for a stronger and more connected system of care to improve outcomes for families and our youngest children,” said Mary Herbenick, executive director of Ready Ready. “This continuous quality improvement effort helps programs invest in their own development, get focused on outcomes they will deliver individually and together, and to make data-driven decisions that will positively impact Guilford County’s infants, toddlers, preschoolers, their families, and our community.”

A CQI Task Force advised the cohort selection process. CQI Task Force members include representatives from Cone Health Foundation, Guilford Education Alliance, Nehemiah–The Leadership Group, Partnership for Children of Guilford County, The Foundation for a Healthy High Point, United Way of Greater Greensboro and United Way of Greater High Point.

Each provider will work with a Root Cause coach, a national leader in helping organizations achieve better outcomes to assess strengths and opportunities, develop a capacity improvement plan, and work together to strengthen capacity. This work is funded by The Duke Endowment as part of a multi-year effort to improve outcomes for Guilford’s youngest children and their families.

“Ultimately, we want to build a culture of continuous quality improvement across the entire early childhood program landscape”, said Susan Schwartz, Co-Chair of Ready Ready’s Board of Directors and Executive Director of the Cemala Foundation.

In addition to the cohort, early childhood programs that are not participating in the first cohort can take advantage of community-wide CQI technical assistance offerings designed with Root Cause that will begin by early 2019. As the first cohort launches, Ready Ready will evaluate timing for the launch of a second cohort.

For more information, contact: Michelle Chapin, Project Manager

Ready for School, Ready for Life

Cell: (407) 733-4573; Email:

Ready for School, Ready for Life is a collaborative effort to build a connected, innovative system of care for Guilford County’s youngest children and their families. Its vision is that every child born in Guilford County will enter Kindergarten developmentally on track in five key areas: Physical development, Language and communication, Social-emotional development, Cognitive development and Approaches to play and learning.

This is important because 80% of brain development occurs by the time a child reaches age three.  About 45% of children in Guilford County arrive at Kindergarten developmentally with a strong likelihood that they will not read at grade level in the third grade.  Kindergarten readiness is the number one indicator of whether a child will read at grade level in the third grade.  Reading at grade level in the third grade is the number one indicator of whether a child will graduate from high school able to enjoy a successful life.

To achieve this vision, our community is transforming the early childhood system to focus on ten key priorities: Create a system of navigation so families can access right resources at right times; Scale and integrate evidence-based programs to build Prenatal to 3 continuum; Build a culture of continuous quality improvement so families are connected to high-quality programs/services; Develop an integrated data system to support navigation, effective referrals, and data-driven decision making; Leverage and expand early literacy resources from birth to age five; Make high-quality early care and education available to all families; Improve key transitions for children and families, especially the PreK to Kindergarten transition; Build responsiveness to family voice into every aspect of the system-building work; Build public will for early childhood priorities through effective community messaging and rigorous evaluation; Strengthen the backbone organization to coordinate the work.

Root Cause is a purpose-driven consulting firm whose work aims to improve the lives of more people and families. We partner with foundations, local government agencies such as school districts, and nonprofits to help create the conditions that enable fellow citizens to thrive and progress along a pathway from a healthy birth, to a quality education, to a well-paying job. Over the past 15 years, we have worked with more than 150 clients and partners to coordinate services, build capacity to measure and improve organizational and program performance, and plan for sustainable growth, with a strong focus on reducing disparities based on race, class, gender, and geography. Learn more at

Guilford County one of 29 communities selected for initiative giving infants and toddlers a better start



GUILFORD COUNTY — Guilford and Watauga counties are among 29 communities from across the nation selected to work with leading national organizations to focus on child development from birth to age 3.

Research shows investments in the first three years of life, when a child’s brain develops faster than at any other time period, are most critical in helping children become more confident, empathetic, contributing members of their communities.

Guilford County will launch an initiative in partnership with the national Center for the Study of Social Policy in support of the effort to support families with infants and toddlers. Ready for School, Ready for Life has been working with community partners across Guilford for the past three years to build a well-coordinated early childhood system that is supportive of families and creates better outcomes for children, said Mary Herbenick, executive director of Ready for School, Ready for Life.

“While Guilford County has many innovative and effective programs serving families with young children, we haven’t had the opportunity as a community to take a step back to build a more connected, coordinated system of care,” Herbenick said. “Families tell us that they can’t always get what they need to support their children at this critical stage of development.”

The National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, National Institute for Children’s Health Quality and StriveTogether also selected community partners that are committed to ensuring children have a strong start in life. The partnership is funded by the Pritzker Children’s Initiative (PCI), a project of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation.

“This announcement marks an unprecedented moment in our nation’s commitment to our youngest learners,” said Janet Froetscher, president of the J.B. and M.K. Pritzker Family Foundation. “For the first time, communities across the country will work together to take action to increase high-quality services for children from birth to age 3 toward a common goal of kindergarten readiness. The communities will support a strong start for babies and toddlers through local solutions: giving children a healthy start at birth, strengthening support for families with infants and toddlers and expanding high-quality care and learning environments.”

Partner organizations will equip communities with tools to strengthen early childhood systems and share best practices with other cities, counties and states. In turn, communities will share resources that will drive policies and make the case for public and private investment in core services for infants and toddlers.

“The Pritzker Children’s Initiative gives us the opportunity to learn what other communities are doing in the prenatal through age 3 space — the time when brain development occurs most rapidly,” Herbenick said. “In addition to gathering feedback from families, learning what works and what doesn’t, will help our community make better decisions about how to serve Guilford families most effectively.”

The needs of infants and toddlers cannot all be addressed with a one-size-fits-all approach. As part of this joint initiative, local leaders will pursue a variety of interlocking strategies in the child care, health, early childhood education and human services domains that promote and work toward the well-being of young children. These integrated approaches will build on promising existing community-driven efforts and work to address new challenges as they aim to provide parents with unique tools, information and guidance at a time when many feel most overwhelmed.

“These communities will be at the forefront of developing public policy and practice that embraces the new knowledge we have about brain science,” said Rachel Schumacher, director of PCI. “We now know that waiting to invest in our children — our nation’s future — until kindergarten or even pre-K is too late. By bringing communities together around shared goals and outcome measures, we can move the needle to set our nation’s babies and toddlers up for success.”

Research shows investments in children and their families in the earliest years help communities create better education, health, social and economic outcomes that increase revenue and reduce the need for costly, less effective interventions later in life. With an estimated 3 million of the nation’s youngest children at risk of reaching kindergarten not ready to learn, this Initiative seeks a dramatic investment in improving kindergarten readiness.

Ten Early Childhood Learning and Innovation Network for Communities (EC-LINC) will be participating in the Pritzker Children’s Initiative, a specialized effort to make sure young children are developmentally on track for school by age 3, said Frank Farrow, president, Center for the Study of Social Policy. “EC-LINC has made significant strides in advancing early childhood systems by promoting peer learning, innovation, results-based action and equity for all,” Farrow said. “Thanks to generous support from PCI, participating communities will tackle the toughest challenges related to maternal and child health, family support and early care and education. They will develop models for how communities across the country can work to create brighter futures for the youngest children and their families.”

In addition to the economic benefits, high-quality early childhood development programs can reduce chronic disease and health care costs, and can result in better education outcomes and higher incomes as adults. Early childhood development lays the foundation for school readiness with social-emotional skills that children need to do well both in and out of school, including attentiveness, persistence, impulse control and sociability.

“Our vision is that all families with young children will be able to connect seamlessly with services they need, when they need it,” Herbenick said. “We’re honored to have support from Pritzker Children’s Initiative to help make this vision a reality.”

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What’s Happening This Month

Ready/Ready and our partners have been hard at work making progress on our priorities in the Get Ready Guilford Initiative and our supporting priorities. We continue to be immensely grateful for the partnership of agencies, organizations, programs, and individuals both inside and outside of our community who are dedicated to the cause of getting each child in Guilford County ready for kindergarten success.

Check out some of the things happening in our community here!

Support for Families to Boost Children’s Early Learning

Ready/Ready is celebrating along with families the first LENA Start programs in Guilford County. One of the programs, presented by Parents as Teachers Guilford County, recently graduated all its families.

LENA Start helps a parent develop interactive talking habits with their child and provides parents with powerful resources. Weekly group sessions teach parents why talk matters and how conversation or “serve and return” can help build babies brains. Parents also share at the session what’s happening at home with their child, complete developmental surveys, and learn how they can positively impact behavior.

The early literacy strategic plan for Guilford County includes strategies aimed at increasing the confidence of families in their ability to prepare children for literacy success. The plan also supports building parents’ skills to promote literacy at home. The LENA Start program aligns with both aims as well as promotion of shared or “Active Reading.”

Technology plays a big part in the LENA Start program. A digital recorder, or “fit bit” for talking is placed into a vest worn by babies and toddlers to record a full day’s worth of talking between parent and child each week.

That data is used to generate a report that provides information on the number of words that the child is exposed to as well as amount of turn-taking interaction, or “serve and return”.

The recorder does not track what words parents and children are saying or hearing. Instead, it captures conversational turns between child and adult, electronic or other noise versus human talk, and how often the child attempts to communicate.

Shared or “active reading” is a focus in the program. The families in the Parents as Teachers LENA Start program reported reading over one and a half times as much with their children at graduation compared with the start of the program. Other positive outcomes for the group were captured in the developmental survey taken by parents throughout the program. The children whose parents participated in the PATGC program reported gains of over 2 months of developmental skill every month as well as increased awareness about child development and stronger sense of community engagement.

Research shows that the more words children hear in the first three years of life builds the brain structure that will be needed later to support reading and thinking skills. Those early language skills can also lead to continued academic success later in life. LENA Start outcomes show an increase of as much as 5 months of language development during the 13-week program.

Reading Connections and Greensboro Housing Authority are two other partners hosting LENA Start programs. We look forward to continuing to expand this work throughout Guilford County this year.

For more information about how your organization can host a LENA Start program or refer a family, contact Michelle Chapin, Ready/Ready project manager, at

What’s Ahead in 2018

Happy New Year from your Ready/Ready team!

The holidays gave us the opportunity to reflect on 2017 — the triumphs and the tribulations, the small wins and the fast fails that are all important parts of Guilford County’s early childhood system-building work. As a learning organization, we relish the opportunity to look back as we prepare for an exciting 2018.

Get Ready Guilford Initiative. Last year was one of immense growth and change. The relationship with The Duke Endowment evolved into a true partnership through their significant and intentional investments of time, talent, and resources in service of building a more responsive, innovative early childhood system in Guilford County. Together, we built a Theory of Change(TOC) for the Get Ready Guilford Initiative that will guide our work over the next ten years. The TOC explains the desired population-level outcomes, how the effort will be evaluated, and how families with young children will be connected to resources for healthy child development starting with the prenatal period through age three (and beyond). Eight workgroups, each with local team members, are moving this work forward quickly and with great intention. Read more about Get Ready Guilford here.

Early Literacy Strategic Plan. A 25-member design team from 20 Guilford County organizations developed an Early Literacy Strategic Plan that will change how families, organizations, decision-makers, and volunteers are engaged in building language and early literacy skills starting at birth. At the invitation of Dr. Contreras, Superintendent of Guilford County Schools, Ready/Ready team members invested a week at the Public Education Leadership Program at Harvard to build upon the work of this design team and develop specific goals for improving literacy outcomes from birth to age eight. This work will continue for the next two years.

Family Engagement & Decision Making. The Family Action Learning Team, made up of families who serve as decision-makers and consultants to our system-building work, continues to thrive and drive our work. Team members have guided decisions about the Get Ready Guilford work, the Early Literacy Strategic Plan, family engagement strategies, and more. One team member presented with our staff at the NC Infant Mental Health Association conference, and the team will teach other communities about how to engage families in a workshop at the 2018 National Smart Start Conference in May.

Other Key Priorities. Teams continue to work on other key priorities, including building public will for Kindergarten readiness, making system-changes that will ensure a smooth transition from preschool to Kindergarten, and tackling the huge issue of how Guilford County can attract, engage, and retain the best talent in early learning child care settings. Read more about the progress these and other teams are making (PDF).

What’s Ahead. In 2018, our focus sharpens. We have significant goals to meet by the end of April to attract national investments that will help scale the Get Ready Guilford Initiative work. Implementation of the Early Literacy Strategic Plan becomes a key focus, as well as expanding family engagement efforts across Guilford. We are also launching Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) coaching with our partners at Root Cause, an effort to strengthen the data capability of programs serving families of young children.

As we gear up, a special thanks to everyone who has contributed to this system-building work over the past three years.

  • To families and our agency/organization partners: How can we thank you enough for the time and talent you put into this effort on top of your regular roles? Together, we’ll continue to build toward the vision YOU developed for young children in our community two years ago. Let’s do this!
  • To the Steering Committee (PDF): Thank you for continuing to show up, support and amplify the system-building work, while creating greater alignment to the community vision within your own organizations. You rock!
  • To our local funders (PDF)Thank you for your continued support, which has laid the foundation for creating real change and additional regional and national opportunities. Your investment matters!

Together, we’re building a community that will be THE place where North Carolina families want to live, work, and raise children who will thrive at every stage of their development.

Are you ready?

– Mary, Rachael, Michelle & Christina