The Treasury Department allocated $215 million in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to Mecklenburg County. ARPA funds will support the County’s COVID-19 Strategic Recovery Plan. The plan focuses on key priority areas designed to improve the quality of life for Mecklenburg County residents impacted by the pandemic.  

Because children ages prenatal to five and their families are amongst those impacted by the pandemic, Mecklenburg County Commissioners have awarded $342,500 to Smart Start of Mecklenburg County. Funds will be used to implement Smart Start’s home visiting plan, “Home Visiting: Equitable Evaluation, Growth, and Expansion of Services in Mecklenburg County.”

Early childhood home visiting and parenting education programs (HVPE) strengthen the relationship between parents and children, increasing parenting skills and building confidence. By supporting families, these programs ensure children are ready to learn, improve child health and keep children safe.

Well-trained professionals deliver HVPE programs throughout Mecklenburg to support parents and caregivers, promote healthy child development, and strengthen family relationships. These programs create a support system for families and ensure children are ready to learn. Home visiting – one end of the HVPE continuum – provides intensive, personalized support that improves prenatal health and birth outcomes, increases parent protective factors, and reduces incidents of maltreatment and neglect.

Home visiting programs are significant to Smart Start because we serve as the innovative hub, community convener, and leading organization regarding prenatal-to-five issues and initiatives in Mecklenburg County.

As a next step to successfully execute Smart Start’s home visiting plan and apply the awarded funding, the work will occur in three phases: planning, marketing, and implementation.

The planning phase includes hiring a program lead position, assessing the current home visiting landscape through a discovery process, and conducting a gap analysis of programs and coverage. Marketing includes publishing the findings, convening community stakeholders, and communicating needs for existing or new programs. The final implementation phase will include recruiting new home visiting models to fill gaps in services, develop a cohort of home visiting constituents, and expand existing and new services.

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County seeks to fulfill its mandate and lead the way for the prenatal to five community. Thus, the ultimate goal of Smart Start’s home visiting plan is to increase access to affordable, quality childcare and education for children and families and help all children turn five ready to thrive.