Health Programs

Family Support Programs

Early Care & Education Programs

Literacy Programs

Health Programs

The Challenge: Poor health can hinder a young child’s growth, education and development, thereby preventing them from achieving their full potential when they enter school.

How We Help: Smart Start funds health programs to reduce health risks, educate parents on prevention, identify children with unmet health concerns, and help young children obtain the services they need to be successful.

Guiding Parents to Services

Guiding Parents To Services

Guiding Parents to Services (GPS) supports children and their families as they transition from the Children’s Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) at age 3 to potential programming with the Charlotte Mecklenberg Schools Exceptional Children’s program, which targets children in need of special education support. GPS provides navigation, educational, and emotional support during this pivotal time. The goal is to empower families to get the services their child needs.

Sound Beginnings and APPLE A Day

Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center provides an evidence-based, early language intervention program for preschoolers focused on building their skills in early communication, emerging receptive and expressive language. Participating preschools include: The Learning Collaborative, Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, Howard Levine Child Development Center, and selected Bethlehem Center-Early Head Start classrooms

Family Support Programs

The Challenge: All families want their children to succeed, but given the inequities in our society, some families lack the necessary knowledge or resources to optimally raise their young children. Teen parents, adults with poor English literacy, families in poverty, and parents with their own trauma are some who may need additional support and information to help them prepare their children for future success. Just as each family is unique, each familiy’s need is unique and so Smart Start partners with a wide range of programs, so that all children turn five ready to thrive.

How We Help: We recognize that the responsibility for a family’s success does not rest solely with the family; it is shared with the systems within the community and culture that either help or hinder a family’s ability to succeed. And so Smart Start invests strategically at all levels – through our partnerships with local agencies and early childhood experts, through our convening work within the community, and on a systems level, by identifying and calling out the gaps and barriers that exist with our networks of support, and advocating for change and additional resources.

Child Adult Relationship Enhancement

Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) is a form of intervention that utilizes live coaching of adult caregivers and their children. CARE is skill-based intervention to enhance the adult-child relationship. Skills are taught by live coaching and caregivers practicing skills in pairs and small groups while trainers observe and coach. CARE is developed to be used by non-clinical professionals working with traumatized children and their adult caregivers to provide a whole trauma-informed environment.

Family Education Services

Thompson Child & Family Focus provides a series of parent education classes, parent and grandparent support groups, and community referrals for parents of children ages birth to five referred from the Department of Social Services. Thompson uses three evidence-based models, Nurturing Skills for Families, Incredible Years: BASIC Parent Training Program, and the Circle of Parents Family Support. Thompson is also a Triple P provider. Parents participate in role-playing/group discussion and practice activities within sessions and at home to learn additional approaches to support positive parenting outcomes

Nurse-Family Partnership

The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is designed for low-income mothers and their children. It includes one-on-one home visits by a trained public health registered nurse to participating clients. The visits begin early in the woman’s pregnancy (with program enrollment no later than the 28th week of gestation) and conclude when the woman’s child turns 2 years old. During visits, nurses work to reinforce maternal behaviors that are consistent with program goals and that encourage positive behaviors and accomplishments. Topics of the visits include prenatal care; caring for an infant; and encouraging the emotional, physical, and cognitive development of young children.

Safe Journey’s Parents as Teachers

The goal of the Parents as Teachers (PAT) program is to provide parents with child development knowledge and parenting support. The PAT model includes one-on-one home visits, monthly group meetings, developmental screenings, and a resource network for families. PAT may serve families from pregnancy to kindergarten entry.

YMCA Parents as Teachers

The goal of the YMCA Parents as Teachers (PAT) program is to provide Hispanic parents with child development knowledge and parenting support. The PAT model includes one-on-one home visits, monthly group meetings, developmental screenings, and a resource network for families. PAT may serve families from pregnancy to kindergarten entry.

The Basics Mecklenburg

The Basics is a public education campaign built on five evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles important for healthy brain development for children from birth to age three. Eighty percent of brain growth happens in the first three years of life, and every child from every bacground can benefit from routinely engaging in these fun, simple, and powerful learning experiences. The Basics brain development campaign is working through a variety of local partners to ensure that every parent and caregiver is fully supported by family, friends, and the community to use ‘The Basics’ practices in everyday life.

Early Care & Education Programs

The Challenge: Most preschool-age children and infants in Mecklenburg County live in families where all parents or care givers work outside the home. These families are struggling to afford quality early education due to rising costs of inflation rates per child. Without it, parents can’t work.

How We Help: Therefore, over 80% of Smart Start’s funding is invested in early childhood education, assisting working parents who can’t afford high-quality care and special services for at-risk children. Other programs improve the quality of child care in our county through teacher education.

Charlotte Bilingual Preschool

A 5-star program that provides high-quality preschool education to low-income, at-risk Hispanic/Latino children, ages 3-5. Charlotte Bilingual Preschool prepares students for a successful transition to kindergarten and offers parent training and engagement.

Child Care Health Consultants

Through consultation, health education and technical assistance, nurses and health educators work with individual child care facilities to help create environments that best support the healthy growth and development of young children.

Child Care Resources

Helps low-income families pay for quality care in 4 and 5 star child care centers, which allows them to work or attend school. The program is administered through Child Care Resources Inc.

Early Childhood Teacher Professional Development

Offers courses designed to prepare early care and education teachers to work in their field. Activity supports a coach/recruiter and a variety of classes for early childhood professionals.


MECK Pre-K is a Mecklenburg County-funded program that offers a high-quality Pre-K experience to ensure children are academically and developmentally prepared for kindergarten. Classrooms are located in 4 and 5 star child care centers and children attend a 6.5 hour school day program.

North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten
(NC Pre-K)

Offers a high-quality pre-k option for at-risk children and prepares them for success in school. Children attend a 6.5 hour school day program following the CMS schedule. Classrooms are located in 4 and 5 star child care centers and Head Start programs.

The Learning Collaborative

Serves preschool children from at-risk families through a 5 star, tuition-free program with literacy-rich activities that address their educational and social needs. A Family Support Specialist builds and nurtures relationships with parents to lay the foundation for on-going involvement in their child’s education.

The Polliwog Project

This program provides behavior support and developmental therapies to children experiencing challenging behavior in their early childhood school setting and prevents expulsion. A behavior specialist works with the teacher, parent, child, and other professionals to support success for the child.


The Child Care WAGE$® Program provides education-based salary supplements to qualifying teachers, directors and family child care providers working with children between the ages of birth to five. The program is designed to provide preschool children more stable relationships with better-educated teachers by rewarding teacher education and continuity of care.

Literacy Programs

Developing language and literacy skills begins at birth through everyday loving interactions, such as sharing books, telling stories, singing songs and talking to one another. Parents, grandparents and teachers play a very important role in preparing young children for future school success and helping them become self-confident and motivated learners.

Dolly Parton Imagination Library

Provides books, free of charge, to children living in Mecklenburg County until their 5th birthday. Enrolled children receive one age-appropriate book in the mail each month until their 5th birthday.

Raising a Reader

Promotes literacy between parents and children by providing rotating bags of high quality books to children enrolled in child care centers and by offering onsite early literacy workshops.


A research-based text-messaging program for parents with young children. Each week, you will receive age-appropriate facts, tips and opportunities to boost your child age birth to five’s learning by building on existing family routines.

Make a Difference


Turn Five Ready to Thrive

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County
(704) 377-6588
601 E. 5th Street, Suite 500
Charlotte, NC 28202