We have established the Child Care Provider COVID-19 Relief Fund in order to offer assistance to licensed centers and homes actively serving children or working to reopen.

Centers throughout the county will have the opportunity to apply for one-time grant funds to assist with COVID-19 related expenses incurred. While we know the funding we provide will not meet all of the needs faced by centers, we are hopeful that funds will be helpful during this critical time.
Applications will be accepted through July 20th, or until funds are expended. Please note that centers are eligible for only one funding grant; multiple applications will not be accepted. Please be prepared to submit your form W9 along with the application.
This opportunity to assist our local child care centers is made possible by the generosity of our partners at Vanguard through the Strong Start for Kids Program . We are extremely grateful for their support and their willingness to assist our community during this crisis.

If you need additional information, or would like to contribute to this relief effort, you may contact Jake House, CEO, JHouse@smartstartofmeck.org .

Thank you for your support of Smart Start, and for the incredible work you do in our community.

News Worth Sharing
We are focused on bringing awareness to increased levels of stress for families with young children as a result of the social, health and economic impacts of COVID-19.
Calls regarding domestic violence are up, although calls to child protective services (locally and across the country) are down (40% in Mecklenburg). With children not in school or child care, and families more isolated, those who might be most likely to report (mainly educators) are not interacting with children in ways they normally would. 
According to Sharon Hirsch, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse NC, “The biggest risk factors for child abuse and neglect are economic stressors and social isolation – we’ve got both of those things happening right now.”
In order to bring these issues to light, along with providing resources for those effected, Prevent Child Abuse NC started the #BeAConnection campaign.
Scientific research shows that preventative measures such as hand washing and wearing cloth coverings over the nose and mouth are effective ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities by lowering risk of exposure to COVID-19. 
That’s why on June 24,  Governor Roy Cooper announced  that coverings over their nose and mouth must be worn when people are in both indoor and outdoor public spaces. This step, in addition to encouraging people to stay six feet apart, wash hands, and stay home when ill, will help us protect our families, friends and neighbors from getting seriously ill while restoring our economy by getting people back to work and get our children back to school.

How you can help prevent and protect against COVID-19?
11 Things Special Needs Parents Need to Survive and Thrive
Complete the Census in only about 10 minutes
When you're the parent of a child with  special needs , every aspect of parenting is magnified.

Play dates become complex projects requiring diplomacy, support, and vast quantities of time and patience. Trips to the doctor are frequent, expensive, difficult, and fraught with worry. Ordinary shopping excursions are strewn with potential disasters and pitfalls.

With so much more to think about, worry about, plan for, and manage, special needs parents really do have special needs.
The census is really important for Mecklenburg County.

The census count helps bring valuable resources to our community, such as federal funding for things like healthcare, education and transportation. It also impacts our representation in government and our ability to plan for the future.

The census is convenient, safe, required and important. Complete it today in about 10 minutes
Resources for Supporting Children’s Emotional Well-being during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Racism and Violence: Using Your Power as a Parent to Support Children Aged Two to Five
Click below for guidance, recommendations, and resources which are provided by child trauma experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts.

The Center is housed at the University of Massachusetts with Child Trends as the lead evaluating agency, with funding from SAMHSA and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network and additional support from HRSA.
This resource provides thoughts and guidelines for talking about the complex issues of racism and equality in age-appropriate ways with children aged two to five years of age.
Helpful Programs
80% of brain development happens during the first three years of life. During these years, infants and toddlers absorb massive amounts of information from interacting with other people. Early brain growth becomes the foundation for all future learning. The Basics Mecklenburg are five fun, simple, and powerful ways that every family can give every child a great start in life.
Big News! Thanks to your requests, our partner  Penguin Random House  went the extra mile so everyone can enjoy the entire "Goodnight with Dolly" video series through August 31.
Coming Up
Since schools closed in March due to COVID-19, over 1.2 billion children have been displaced from classrooms globally. From a local perspective, this means many Mecklenburg County families have struggled to help their children adjust to distance learning. These difficulties include but certainly are not limited to transitioning to web-based learning, lack of one-on-one interaction, and of course, the general void of routines, classmates, teachers and materials.

Research suggests that online learning has been shown to increase retention of information, and takes less time, meaning the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay. But whether distance learning is a short or long-term scenario, one thing is clear: circumstances may change daily, but together we can remain strong for our county’s most vulnerable children.

Now you may be asking yourself “What does this mean for our Pre-K students?”
For early childhood educators who promote play- or open-ended-based approaches to learning, going remote can be a particularly unnerving task for many reasons. Pre-K educators often act as facilitators, building upon children’s natural curiosities. To inspire play, educators create spaces with resources that provoke children’s engagement with each other and their surroundings.

That’s where you come in.

By providing resources that meet young children’s most basic distance learning needs, together we can help them thrive from home. Because we consider families as partners, they are important allies in supporting children’s distance learning. However, parents need access to materials that may not be available within every home. These tangible resources are included in MECK Pre-K’s  Student Toolkit Wish List , such as child-size scissors, paper, pencils, crayons, markers, etc.

To support local families between July 12-19, Charlotteans are encouraged to  Shop for GOOD  and donate items from MECK Pre-K’s  Student Toolkit Wish List  on Amazon. The best part is these items will be shipped directly to MECK Pre-K’s door, so you know exactly where your donations are going.

Not all access is created equally, so we kindly ask that you consider the needs of our youngest learners during this year’s  Shop for GOOD  opportunity.
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