Life can be pretty challenging at times, and as adults we tend to rely on friends, colleagues, or even a therapist to help us navigate the course when waters get rough. We have the resources and maturity to either seek help or work through our problems. Now imagine you’re a six year-old kid…or even a teenager…would you know how to overcome these obstacles by yourself?
What makes us human is that all of us can benefit from the positive guidance and support from others. For kids, this kind of assistance is especially critical in the years when their self-esteem and character are in the building process.
Mentoring is the key.
In Mecklenburg County alone, almost 1 in 3 children live in a single-parent household (mainly comprised of a female head) where financial stress reigns. Couple that with a myriad of other issues struggling families face and the impact on the children becomes evident in their schoolwork, behavior, etc. Programs that work to provide structured mentoring to kids can change these scenarios and ultimate outcomes.
When a child is connected to a dedicated mentor, studies have indicated that their self-esteem and confidence grows, they learn how to set goals for themselves and establish the work ethic to achieve them. Their attitudes improve, behavior is modified, and relationships get better. Seeking healthy interactions becomes the new normal. Mentoring can do that!
Thompson Child & Family Focus recognized this at the onset and as a solutions-driven organization, Thompson worked to bring a forward thinking mentoring model to North Carolina. The Friends of the Children program is not only highly effective, but unique in that it pairs children at the highest level of risk with a professional mentor for 12 1/2 years–from elementary school through high school.
The outcomes from this program are astounding, and the youth who were once ruled a statistic are re-writing their stories by graduating from school, avoiding the juvenile judicial system, and seeking positive and healthy relationships.
While some mentoring programs are designed for kids who have experienced trauma or more difficult family situations, others are ideal for children who may be experiencing bullying in school or who simply need a role model to look up to. Or maybe a child just needs math or science tutoring after school to encourage them and ignite that spark of academic achievement.
No matter the socio-economic status, ethnicity, or gender, kids can benefit tremendously from adults who genuinely care and have a desire to inspire and shape a mind. Whether it’s Friends of the Children you child or a family member may need–or perhaps it’s the Reading Buddies program–Thompson is passionate about providing help, access, and resources to our most valuable assets…our children.
If you want to learn more about the benefits of mentoring, becoming a volunteer or have questions about our programs, visit www.Thompsoncff.org.
Here’s some exciting news… this month, Thompson joined Mecklenburg County in their initiative to clear the child care subsidy waiting list and provide universal Pre-K to 100% of 4-year-olds. The counties most recent census has shown that there are 22,107 children under age five who are eligible for a child care subsidy. Did you know that of those children, only 19 percent of income-eligible children receive assistance? This means that over two-thirds of future students, residents, taxpayers, and employees in this city are operating at a deficit upon entering their 12-year educational journey.
The CDC has long broadcasted the statistic that kids achieve 90% of their adult brain volume by age 6. But in Charlotte, a little less than half (40% to be exact) of third-graders can read at grade level. Outside of reports, presentations, and task forces, these statistics have faces. They are mainly the faces of the low-wealth children who, without access to the fundamental foundations to education, will only continue to carry on the cycle of generational poverty as they continue to struggle against the gaping economic gap in our city. A gap that hides behind the headlines of luxury apartment buildings colonizing areas once considered affordable. At Thompson, we believe that Early Childhood Education (ECE) will be the great equalizer.
ECE has been cited as one of the most beneficial aspects of increasing social capital for the economically disadvantaged according to the CDC. Fundamentally, it minimizes the gaps in school preparedness. From there, once a child has access to a Pre-K program, it can begin to address the adverse childhood experiences common for children in low-income families. These early interventions can avoid or reduce the developmental delays that compromise a child’s healthy development ultimately inhibiting school readiness.
Mecklenburg County is all in for increasing ECE opportunities. Six-million-dollars-and-then-some-all-in. Thompson has answered the call for assistance, and we want to empower other childcare agencies in the area to do the same.
We’ve developed partnerships with both CMS and NC Pre-K to open up slots in our 5-Star Child Development Center to children who fall under the subsidy and children who are at risk of developmental delays.
In total, we’ve begun by serving 36 children on our expertly developed curriculum, which started this September. We opened 3 new classrooms at the center and brought on four additional staff to maintain our 1:9 child to teacher ratio. We utilize the Creative Curriculum for Infant, Toddlers & Twos, and Preschool, a research-based program that fosters skills like language, social-emotional, cognitive and literacy all focused on kindergarten readiness.
In addition, we’re providing bussing for children within a six-mile radius of our facility, which is located in the West Boulevard Corridor. To accommodate for working families the center also operates on extended hours opening up 6:30 am and closing at 6 pm. These additions to the center were made specifically with increasing economic mobility in mind. Special attention is paid to ensure parents feel just as supported and empowered as the children.
Overall, this growth model we’re creating is projected to continue serving all the children who fall under this subsidy, or in other words need the Pre-K but simply can’t afford it. And we’ve seen results. Our outcomes from last year showed an increase- 85% of children reaching their developmental expectations. We also have a significant effort in place to continue the progress of our children after they graduate. Thompson’s strength as an organization is that our services operate on a continuum. When a child enters Thompson (either at our child development center, in foster care, or residential services) they become wrapped in all we have to offer. We can and do continue to serve these children through outpatient therapy, family education, and most recently Friends of the Children.
We’re excited to take that momentum into this school year and even on to the next. We’re preparing to grow even more as Mecklenburg continues to expand its programs. All of the information regarding program openings and updates can be found on our website (www.thompsoncff.org) and you can contact us using a form built into the site to schedule a tour of the center or put your child on our list to be considered for admission. We also offer mentorship to childcare agencies in need of support.
As we roll into 2019 the time for planning is passed. Our city is growing and we have identified the largest faults in the foundation. At Thompson, we are now holding ourselves accountable for delivering results. As teachers, parents, donors, and residents, we deserve action!