Early Childhood

Our goal within this focus area is that every young child (ages 0-5) has the opportunity and resources to be healthy and well-prepared for success in school, work, and life.

Overall Perspective

Prenatal and early childhood years are the foundation for the rest of our lives, with ripple effects on health, education, and even economic outcomes. Positive experiences can have a constructive effect on brain development, while excessive stress can increase the likelihood of disease and impact socio-emotional and cognitive functions. Investing in early child development has long-term benefits to both individuals and society, in the form of better health, higher graduation rates, lower incarceration rates, and a stronger ability to find and keep employment. In short, early childhood is one of the best investments we can make.

Strategic Approach and Current Focus 

We have been investing in early child development since our formation, with an initial focus on preventing and reducing obesity among children. These days we’re broadening our approach to include the myriad factors that contribute to a positive early childhood experience. We’re starting by looking at how we can support conditions for systemic change across multiple issue areas, including building local and state capacity for advocacy and investing in the development of an equitable vision for North Carolina’s early childhood education system.

The early education system faces unprecedented challenges in the COVID-19 era with child care centers struggling to stay open due to loss of demand and costs of increased health and safety standards. At the same time, North Carolina must reckon with the profound and pervasive role systemic racism plays in the health of communities. The confluence of these two factors demands that early childhood stakeholders, including philanthropy, rethink and rebuild systems and programs in a way that reflects the post-COVID world and centers racial and ethnic equity.

These realities require a focus on large-scale policy and system-level interventions, including:

  • Enhancing the advocacy capacity of statewide early childhood organizations and networks to promote anti-racist early childhood systems.
  • Supporting community engagement and quantitative research to help the field determine how the early childhood education system must adapt and rebuild moving forward.
  • Providing resources to organizations to broaden the role of parents and local communities in the development and implementation of early childhood strategies.
  • Supporting the establishment of a sustainable business model for the child care sector.

More on this Issue

Contact Us

Rob Thompson
Director, Early Childhood



Our Blog Posts Related to Early Childhood

  • Spotlight on Early Childhood Education
  • Confronting Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Childhood

Foundation Supports COVID-19 Child Care Relief Fund

The CCSA COVID-19 Relief Fund received a $100,000 contribution from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to support North Carolina’s child care programs. The Fund is a collaborative effort of Child Care Services Association (CCSA), the statewide Smart Start network, and CCR&Rs. Every dollar donated goes directly back into child care programs and families in our community.

New York Times Op-ed: Say Hello to That New Spin Studio and Goodbye to Your Child Care

We’ve long failed to fund the child care sector like the public good that it is. Now it’s on the brink of collapse.
By Lauren Birchfield Kennedy and Katie Mayshak