Grantees Announced for Promising Models in Early Care and Education

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is excited to announce that five organizations have received multi-year funding, as part of a recent open opportunity to address racial inequities in early care and education suspensions and expulsions. Grantees were selected in collaboration with North Carolina A&T State University, which is partnering with the Foundation to provide a statewide leadership role on this issue.

“Suspensions, expulsions, and other exclusionary practices deprive children, particularly Black children, with the opportunity to receive the early care and education that can get them off to a great start. We believe this effort will generate tangible solutions that will reduce racial disparities in exclusionary practices and the overall use of those practices,” says Rob Thompson, Director, Early Childhood, Blue Cross NC Foundation.

In North Carolina, Black children make up 53 percent of suspensions and expulsions in publicly funded pre-kindergarten classrooms, despite making up only 29 percent of enrollment. The causes and conditions for exclusionary practices include culturally unresponsive classrooms, implicit bias, manifestations of trauma in teachers and students, an overstressed and under-resourced workforce, and poor relationships between teachers and parents.

Each organization will receive $300,000 grants over three years to create, test, and/or evaluate promising models for addressing suspension, expulsion, and exclusion practices in early care and education in North Carolina. The primary goal of model implementation is to learn about potential practices that could be scaled across the state to have system-wide impact on the problem.

“All grantees share an in-depth understanding of how systemic racism perpetuates inequities within the early care and education system and a commitment to include educators, families, and community partners authentically and intentionally in their promising models. There is great promise that each grantee’s model will help to not only address suspensions, expulsions, and exclusionary practices in early care and education in their local communities but provide information for prevention and elimination of these practices for a broader impact in the early childhood profession,” says Dr. Valerie Jarvis McMillian, Associate Professor and Interim FCS Department Chair at North Carolina A&T State University.

The organizations selected to receive funding include:


  • Educational Equity Institute (EEI) EEI will partner with the Hertford-Northampton Smart Start to co-design a model with community partners, including educators, administrators, and parents. The project will begin with intensive training for Smart Start staff to ensure their work is grounded in a deep understanding of racism, bias, and systems change. EEI and Hertford-Northampton Smart Start will then work to recruit a strategic planning team of community advisors that will inform the development of a specific model that will then be implemented in local child care centers with support from Smart Start technical assistants. Learn more at
  • Empowered Parents in Community (EPiC) EPiC is partnering with “we are,” a Durham-based organization specializing in anti-racist curriculum development in early childhood education, to develop a new curriculum that is culturally affirming and humanizing for Black children in ECE settings. EPiC, “we are,” Black parent leaders, and early childhood educators will build upon this existing project and implement a community-based, collective engagement model that supports the navigation and disruption of key dynamics and biases that can lead to suspensions, expulsions, and other exclusionary practices. Learn more at
  • Truth Education Foundation: Truth Education Foundation was founded by two women who have deep professional experience in early care and education and whose Black sons were both subjected to exclusionary discipline in preschool. Truth Education Foundation plans to test a model grounded in anti-bias framework at a pilot site in Durham County. They will deliver a series of workshops to child care center staff with an anti-bias design for the adult learning experience. This will be followed by coaching, classroom observation, and data collection to measure effectiveness and fidelity in the classroom.
  • Village of Wisdom (VoW): VoW will utilize the Black Genius framework, a model grounded in more than 150 listening sessions with Black families and shown to improve learning outcomes, to build culturally affirming classrooms. VoW will begin by strengthening partnerships between parents and educators using the wisdom and experience of Black parents to inform instructional decisions.  VoW’s Black Genius framework will equip educators with the tools they need to create culturally affirming learning spaces and to be less reliant on stress-induced responses that lead to exclusionary practices. VoW will implement this project in a small number of child care centers in the Triangle. Learn more at .
  • YWCA of Asheville (YWCA): The YWCA of Asheville is on a mission to eliminate racism and empower women and as such, will implement a number of strategies to address suspension, expulsion, and exclusionary practices that fuel a preschool-to-prison pipeline. These strategies include increasing staff and educator racial justice acumen, implementing trauma-informed practices, approaches, and strategies, reconfiguring staffing to provide educators with greater support, and slowing enrollment to decrease the teacher/student ratio; these pilots are intended to reduce suspensions and expulsions of black students in child care. The YWCA will engage the most directly impacted part of our community, the families of all childcare students, by developing and engaging a parent advisory board, creating more avenues for parent/teacher engagement, and offering free, community racial justice workshops. The YWCA will track data on professional development, teacher competencies, and exclusionary practices in order to quantify the impact of this work. Learn more at




About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is a private, charitable foundation established as an independent entity by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina in 2000. Over the past two decades, the organization has worked with - and supported - nonprofit organizations, government entities, and community partnerships across the state, investing $190 million into North Carolina through nearly 1,300 grants. Within its focus areas of early childhood, healthy communities, healthy food, and oral health, the Foundation strives to address the key drivers of health, taking a flexible approach designed to meet identified needs in partnership with the community. Learn more at