Ask any parent on a playground in Durham about Welcome Baby and their eyes light up with recognition.
They may have visited the Giving Closet, which provides free clothing for children ages birth to 5 for families in need, or purchased a discounted car seat while learning how to safely use it. They may even be gathered at the park with parents they met in a Positive Parenting Program class.
What they may not know about this Durham institution that casts a wide net around child- and parent-centered services is that it is made possible largely by Durham’s Partnership for Children.
“The Partnership is really the catalyst for these programs,” said Melva Henry, program coordinator for Welcome Baby. “That is how we are able to implement these programs.”
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Our job is to be sure every child is healthy and ready for school.
Laura Benson, executive director of Durham’s Partnership for Children
Welcome Baby is among the many organizations that fit the Partnership’s mission of serving the 23,000 young children in Durham with evidence-based programs that prepare them for school. If a program attends to the well-being of children in Durham, the Partnership is likely involved, said Laura Benson, executive director of the Partnership.
“No other agency in Durham is looking after health and wellness and education, basically all aspects of early childhood,” says Benson. “Our job is to be sure every child is healthy and ready for school.”
Benson says school readiness goes beyond academics to include physical and emotional health, nutrition and safety.
Each year, Welcome Baby’s programs serve about 2,500 families, most of whom enter through the Giving Closet but stay for the parenting, nutrition and safety programs.
Henry says that programs such as the Triple P, or Positive Parenting Program, help parents create home environments and relationships that are conducive to greater success in school.
“Through parenting groups or even one-on-one, we help parents with their own literacy or help them implement bedtime routines or help them figure out how to make healthy, cost-effective meals,” Henry said.
The Partnership is also charged with administering the state-funded NC Pre-K program that serves 464 children in 34 classrooms in public, private and Head Start centers in Durham. NC Pre-K prepares eligible 4-year-olds for school in both public and private settings.
One NC Pre-K classroom at Christian Prep Academy in Durham serves 18 4-year-olds in a bright classroom with a 9-to-1 teacher-student ratio. This is the kind of high-quality setting that Benson says helps children in need enter school ready.
“We really don’t want to see them behind in kindergarten,” said pre-K teacher Ashley Eatmon. On that morning, the children transitioned easily from breakfast to circle time to centers, a skill Eatmon says will benefit them in kindergarten.
There are about 1,200 applicants for NC Pre-K annually, said Elaine Erteschik, communications manager for the Partnership. When the publicly funded spots are gone, the Partnership turns to financial support from the community to fill in the gaps.
“Our Transition to Kindergarten program is our greatest opportunity for individuals get involved with direct contributions or volunteer time,” Benson said. The program connects rising kindergartners and their families with their schools. Benson said that volunteers most often help with events such as popsicles on the playground or kindergarten kick-offs.
Benson says that part of the Partnership’s role is to help coordinate services. For instance, their sponsorship of reading program Readers as Leaders pairs volunteer readers with child-care sites in Durham.
“We were able to pair members of an over-55 community with a local elementary school,” she said. “It’s really about knowing and connecting those dots in the community for our children.”
Durham’s Partnership for Children
1201 S. Briggs Ave., Suite 210
Durham, NC 27703
Contact: Elaine Erteschik, 919-403-6960, ext. 221
Description: Durham’s Partnership for Children leads community strategies for children birth through age 5 and their families to ensure that every child in Durham enters school healthy and ready to succeed. The Partnership administers the Smart Start, NC Pre-K and Early Head Start Initiatives, as well as other community-based initiatives. Partnership programs promote healthy development and enhance access to high quality care, reaching 5,000 children each year. As a convener and facilitator, the Partnership also identifies emerging and emergency needs, builds strategies to address gaps, and trains and supports professionals working with young children and families. The Partnership mobilizes collaborative partners to implement evidence-based programs to enhance school readiness and positively impact all 23,000 young children in Durham. There is a particular focus on the one out of every four young children who live in poverty in Durham.
Donations needed: The Partnership is in need of financial donations to help us support ongoing needs of children and families in Durham.
Volunteers needed: The Partnership sponsors Readers as Leaders, a reading program in which volunteers are matched with a child care center in Durham County to help promote a love of reading at an early age. The Partnership also needs groups of volunteers to assemble Blast Off to Kindergarten kits with school readiness materials for rising kindergartners in Durham. Throughout the spring, volunteers are needed to support our Transition to Kindergarten events at schools throughout Durham County. These events help prepare children, families, and schools for the milestone of entering kindergarten. The Partnership and Durham Public Schools host an annual Kindergarten Registration Week in March during which hundreds of volunteers are needed.
$10 would buy: A Blast Off to Kindergarten kit filled with school readiness materials for parents to use with their children at home to get ready for kindergarten.
$20 would buy: Books for volunteers in our Readers as Leaders program to enhance early literacy efforts.
$50 would buy: A crib, providing a safe place to sleep for a newborn.
Give a book
Visit Barnes & Noble at the Streets at Southpoint through Dec. 31 to buy a book for a young child. Durham’s Partnership for Children will collect and distribute the books throughout the community. The Partnership collects up to 4,000 books each year and distributes 100 to 200 to each of its partners, said Elaine Erteschik, communications manager for the Partnership.