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.

Prenatal and early childhood years are the foundation for the rest of our lives, with ripple effects on health, education, economic outcomes, even life expectancy. High-quality early care and education has been shown to reduce school-readiness gaps and has significant potential to open doors to increased health, educational, and economic opportunity as children grow to become adults.

Despite the significant benefit of these programs, North Carolina’s early care and education system is experiencing a number of challenges to meeting the needs of those who rely upon it. A lack of access, barriers to home-based care, low wages for the sector’s workforce, and exclusionary discipline practices – among other factors – are making it more difficult for parents and caregivers to find accessible, affordable, and high-quality care. Focusing in on these challenges will benefit not only children and families, but also the state’s employers and others who also depend on a robust early care and education system.

At this time, our work is focused on supporting efforts to transform the early care and education system in North Carolina so that it meets the needs of all children and families, including:

  • Identifying and supporting work to strengthen the early care and education workforce particularly as it relates to home-based care.
  • Support the development of a broad coalition working toward an early childhood system that benefits all.
  • Identifying and supporting work to address racial inequities in preschool suspensions, expulsions, and other exclusionary practices.

Examples of our Work in this Area

  • We recently expanded our support of home-based child care networks, the setting where the majority of North Carolina children receive care.
  • We supported research by the NC Chamber Foundation to better understand the economic challenges and impact of the child care crisis on the state’s workforce. The survey found that 26% of parents left the workforce because they couldn’t afford child care and 60% had to miss work because of a child care problem. It also revealed broad support to address the problem, including publicly funded solutions.
  • We have several collaborations and grants aimed at better understanding and building solutions around disparities in early care and education suspensions and expulsion practices. This includes working in partnership with NC A&T State University and five local sites implementing new models and practices related to this issue, as well as funding data-collection in five counties through a collaboration between the University of North Carolina and local Smart Start agencies.

In More Detail


Spotlight: Home-Based Child Care

There is a part of our child care ecosystem that has potential to meet the needs of more families – home-based child care. With this in mind, investing in opportunities to grow and strengthen home-based child care has become an emerging focus of the Blue Cross NC Foundation. Learn more.


Parent and Provider Voices on Early Care and Education in North Carolina

In partnership with the Hunt Institute, researchers from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University developed 4 research briefs highlighting parent and provider perspectives about the needs, strengths and challenges of the early care and education system. Learn more.