By Jesse Wood
Dec. 14, 2012. Last year, The Children’s Council’s budget was reduced $200,000 due to a 20 percent cut to Smart Start funding across the state.
Now with uncertainties of the upcoming budget looming, Executive Director Crystal Kelly sent a letter last week to area businesses and individuals requesting support.
“Well, you know with the change in legislature and the governor, it’s hard to know what next year’s budget will look like,” Kelly said on Friday. “We haven’t necessarily cut a lot of services. We are holding on to the bare minimum core of what we do and are trying to diversify funding streams, so we are not affected when some kind of big thing happens in legislature and can continue to move forward with the things we believe in.”
Smart Start represented 70 percent of The Children’s Council’s 2011-12 budget. The past year has been an interesting one fiscally, Kelly said, adding that on top of the Smart Start cuts, the agency lost a “big grant,” which wasn’t renewed at the state level and “drastically reduced” assistance to teen parents in Watauga County.
The agency’s vision statement is “The Children’s Council strives to positively affect every child in Watauga County.” Most of the programs offered by The Children’s Council are geared towards newborns to five year olds.
Here’s just a few ways The Children’s Council impacts the community:
- Using a combination of local, state and federal funds, The Children’s Council helps reduce and/or eliminate the subsidized childcare wait list for kids 0 to 5.
- Its WAGE$ program provides education-based salary supplements to low-paid teachers and directors working with children 0 to 5.
- Partners with Watagua County Schools and ASU to provide yearly Pre-K screenings to determine eligibility for the program
- Provides technical assistance to those wanting to open a childcare center
- Child Care Referral program improves quality and increases availability of child care in Watauga County
- Assistance is given in professional development planning as well as textbook lending library fro childcare provides in Early Childhood Education coursework
- Resource Corner for families and providers that has access to early childhood materials in a welcoming, respectful and inclusive atmosphere
- Drop-Ins and Play Groups such as Babes on Blankets, Toddlers on the Groove and Make it and Take it
- Teen parenting, early literacy and community outreach programs that include kindergarten orientation, special events and a diaper bank
- Partnered with Blue Ridge Pediatrics and the health department to distribute more than 1,400 books to children between January and June of 2012
- And much more
On The Children’s Council’s website is a compilation of “Success Stories” written by those that have been impacted by the agency. One parent wrote, “The program makes me feel that there is somebody who cares about what I do with my kids and they help me do it better. This program is the best help our children can have before going to school.”
In light of past budget cuts and uncertainties in future funding, Kelly said she is maintaining a positive attitude because of the support of the local community and the dedicated staff at The Children’s Council.
She added that a number of volunteers continue to step up. She mentioned the program “Who Needs a Change,” essentially a diaper bank, a program initiated by a volunteer that now gives out 50 to 70 packs of diapers to families in need. She spoke of the local Girl Scout groups and sororities that offer their time and energy to help out, too, and commended all the local organizations that have provided funding to support the children of Watauga County.
“Well, we really have a solid staff working here and everybody is very committed to the work that we do, and we have awesome community relationships,” Kelly said. “We do a lot of collaboration, and if we can’t service someone, we know someone else that can.”
The work The Children’s Council does is so meaningful not only because the impact that quality care and education have during the most important early childhood years but also because of the tough economic situations families are facing these days.
Kelly added that in addition to financial support, people can get involved in other ways such as holding diaper drives, book drives, donating gently used baby and children’s items, donating their time and talents, etc.
For example, the diaper program has given out 25,000 diapers to low-income families in our community since April 2012. Even still, the agency has to turn away folks needing diapers because of low supply and high demand.
For more information about The Children’s Council, click to www.thechildrenscouncil.org or call 828-264-8008.