August 23, 2023

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Division of Child Development and Early Education has awarded the NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center $500,000 for the ‘23-‘24 fiscal year, with the option to renew for two additional years, to provide child care health consultation services to counties that would otherwise not have access to these resources.

A program of the Department of Maternal and Child Health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, the NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center trains and supports Child Care Health Consultants (CCHCs), who work with child care programs and early educators across North Carolina to ensure healthy and safe child care environments.

Unlike most K-12 schools, child care programs often do not have access to a trained health professional who can respond to complex child health needs, support injury prevention strategies, help manage the spread of infectious disease, and support staff health and wellness. CCHCs bridge this gap by providing guidance and training on early childhood health and safety topics to child care providers and families.

Jacquie Simmons

Jacquie Simmons

“The traditional child care health consultation model is a community-based model where CCHCs primarily serve one county, with a few serving more if the counties are rural and have few child care facilities,” explained Jacqueline Simmons, MScPH, MCHES, who is project director for the NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center. “This funding will support the development of a new regional model of service, where four CCHCs will be hired to provide health and safety consultation, training and technical assistance to approximately 28 counties representing more than 1,000 child care programs.”

The NC Resource Center currently provides local CCHC support to approximately 510 programs in 12 counties: Alexander, Bladen, Brunswick, Burke, Cleveland, Columbus, Davidson, Davie, Duplin, Iredell, Onslow and Sampson. The remaining counties support local CCHC programs through multiple funding models, including local Partnerships for Children (such as Smart Start), health departments and some private funding sources. While funding for CCHC services comes from multiple sources that ebb and flow over time, the practice of child care health consultation has been present for more than 27 years in N.C.

Simmons says that because CCHC services are a limited resource, the NC Resource Center is developing a plan for prioritization in order to make the services available to those who need them most.

“In the current CCHC Service Model, prioritization is determined by identifying the facilities that require more support,” she explained. “This includes those who serve children with special health care needs, who are at risk of or exposed to maltreatment, or living with toxic stress. It also includes facilities that have a 1-5 star-rated license or that have a history of sanitation or health and safety violations, immunization reporting noncompliance, or history of communicable disease outbreaks.”

According to Simmons, recommended best practice standards, set forth by the National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education: Caring for Our Children, state that child care facilities serving infants and toddlers should be visited at least once monthly, and those serving children three to five years of age should be visited at least four times a year.

“While current resources limit our ability to meet these goals, it is a standard we will continue to work towards meeting.”

The first step with the newly awarded funds will be to hire four health professionals to work as CCHCs. If they have not already completed the UNC-based NC CCHC Course, they will complete the course while working together on developing a plan for implementation of services. Working closely with partners at the NC Partnership for Children and the NC Division of Child and Family Well-Being, the four regional CCHCs work will be guided by conducting on-site health and safety observations using the NC Health and Safety Assessment and Encounter Tool – an observational assessment tool developed in collaboration with UNC’s Sheps Center.

An assessment process includes a pre-assessment; development of a quality improvement plan; implementation that includes technical assistance, coaching, training and referral; and a follow-up assessment. Regional CCHCs will also work toward developing a system for referral so that licensing consultants, environmental health specialists and other technical assistance providers have a process for referring facilities to the CCHC services. In addition, CCHCs will develop a communication plan to share with the communities they serve.

“This will be an opportunity to identify and begin to develop relationships with partners,” Simmons said, “and to begin the process of establishing their services in the local community.”

More information about CCHCs, the CCHC program and the health and safety resources developed and provided by CCHCs is available on the NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center website.

About CCHCs

CCHC Program Manual

Child care health and safety resources

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