The state-funded Richmond County Partnership for Children celebrated its “Week of the Young Child” amid a hostile budget situation this year.
Thursday, children from daycare centers and after-school programs from around the county visited the agency’s office on Lawrence Street in Rockingham to enjoy arts and crafts, ice cream and face painting.
The Partnership works with child care facilities to ensure quality, and offers a Smart Start after-school program.
Unfortunately, as Partnership Executive Director Martha Vance Brown said, state budget cuts have the agency scaling back the services it offers.
It has already lost 6 percent of its funding, and expects to lose more.
“Our funding has been cut two years in a row, and we’re expecting a 10 percent cut (during the North Carolina General Assembly’s upcoming session),” Brown said.
In 2008-09, the agency’s budget was $1.1 million, and they expect about $110,000 to be lopped off from their upcoming budget.
“Unfortunately, we’ll have to cut our grant program, especially when the state is always increasing the demands on child care centers,” Brown said. “So, it’s a challenging time, but we do a great deal with what we have.”
The agency’s grant program is used to offer professional development to daycare operators, as well as physical upgrades in certain instances.
Kidz First Daycare owner Monica York is one of those who has received guidance from the Partnership.
“The Partnership has totally helped my facility,” York said. “It has gone from a one-star to a five-star facility since they’ve been working with me. Without their help, I wouldn’t have gotten as far as I have.”
A five-star rating is the highest rating the state awards for a child care facility.
She explained she’s been the recipient of a grant through the Partnership, and has also taken courses on child care through the agency.
In the agency’s annual report, Brown and Partnership Board Chair Wiley Mabe explained the 2008-09 budget was used to expand health, family support and early care and education programs like the one York took part in.
The agency also earned a clean audit for the budget year.
“We are very pleased with our results,” Mabe said. “We have worked hard to use every tax dollar wisely to help our children and our county thrive, and this audit shows we have done just that.”
Precious Hands Daycare owner Debra Davis also said she’s received help running her daycare from the agency, and had the children from her daycare at the office to partake in Week of the Young Child festivities.
Quama Liles of Kidz First explained the after-school program “is cool.”
“You get more time to learn,” Liles said, saying he also enjoyed the festivities Thursday at the Partnership.
“The Week of the Young Child is a time to recognize that children’s opportunities are our responsibilities, and to recommit ourselves to ensuring that each and every child experiences the type of early environment - at home, at child care, at school and in the community - that will promote their early learning,” Brown said.
Thursday, she explained that as part of the week of celebration, the agency delivered healthy snacks to all More at Four classrooms and daycare facilities in the county, in addition to having them to their office that day.
“Our mission is to make sure that when it’s time for these children to start school, they are prepared,” Brown said.
She said that all staff members at the partnership have at least an associate’s degree in early childhood education, and are available to help child care professionals in the county.
The Richmond County Partnership for Children can be reached at 997-3773.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.