Child care, education issues voiced

Published 9:16 am Sunday, June 18, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

In Dare County, a “dire need for more options for early child care” exists, said Hannah West to the Dare County Board of Commissioners on June 5, 2023.

“Greater access would allow more people to return to work or remain in the workforce,” she said. With lack of access, she, like others, dropped out of the workforce to care for her family.

She said the average cost of child care across North Carolina is $8,000 per year. Dare County has a financial assistance program, but to access the program the family must have a slot in a licensed childcare program, which all have wait lists.

Get the latest headlines sent to you

She did offer some hope. Across the state new ideas and initiatives are circulating. She hopes Dare County can be the first to model a solution.

At the same meeting, staffers for Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County were scheduled to provide a presentation on early child care and education.

CYP executive director Sara Sampson started the conversation with why early child care is so important: “Research shows that experiences during early childhood literally shape the structure of the brain, creating the foundation for all future learning.”

Jennifer Bradshaw-Garrett is the partnership’s early learning specialist. She helps support licensed child homes, child care centers and after-school programs through training and technical assistance. She helps programs prepare for STAR-rated license assessments.

She told the commissioners “North Carolina is considered a ‘child care desert,’ especially when it comes to infant and toddler care.” The statewide average is more than five families compete for every available licensed child care space.

Bradshaw-Garrett presented these statistics:

Licensed child care programs in Dare County include seven family child care homes; 14 child care centers; five school-age programs.

Places or slots in Dare County for early child care number 550.

The U.S. Census estimate for July 2022 shows 1594 children under the age of 5 in Dare County.

Bradshaw-Garrett listed the challenges facing child care providers:

– A livable wage. Average pay for an early child care teacher is $12 per hour, less than $25,000 a year, with no or limited benefits;

– Available and affordable housing for child care staff;

– Turnover due to better opportunities in service industry;

– Lack of real estate for child care centers and acreage for required outdoor space.

Children and Youth Partnership offers technical assistance to help to become licensed for child care.

Staff member Bonnie Brumbeloe handles resource and referral and higher education programming.

Start-up services are offered. Watch for a program at a Dare County library about opening a family child care home. The partnership also provides support for child care professionals to help enroll in college coursework for early childhood education.

Sampson announced the partnership will host a State of the Child Conference in 2024, something that another speaker asked for.

In May, Children and Youth Partnership hosted its Kids Fest, an annual celebration of young children. The event drew over 1,600 children, families and caregivers to Roanoke Island Festival Park. On-going through June 11, is the Soundside FunFair at the Outer Banks Event Site in Nags Head. For more information, check out

During public comment, other issues related to education was voiced.

Macey Chovaz urged Dare commissioners to “advocate and speak out against the threats to Dare County Schools happening in Raleigh.”

She referred to legislation pending in the General Assembly about private school vouchers or opportunity scholarships; “insulting compensation” for teachers; and curriculum responsibilities shifted to a commission.

“We need your advocacy. We cannot throw dollars at this dismantling of public education and expect our schools to thrive and continue to be high performing,” said Chovaz.