June 15, 2022

Amy Fulk

Program of the Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina. NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center Participates in public health practices that improve child care throughout North Carolina by training and supporting Child Care Counselors (CCHCs). CCHC are healthcare professionals who work with programs to assess, plan, implement and evaluate strategies to create a high quality, safe and healthy childcare environment.

The North Carolina Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center provides resources that can provide safe, high-quality child care.

The North Carolina Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center provides resources that can provide safe, high-quality child care.

“Because North Carolina does not have a school nurse system for child care, CCHCs are health professionals who support safe and healthy child care visits for children,” says Jackie Simmons, MScPH, Resource Center Project Director.

Typically, CCHCs serve childcare facilities in their county or region and prioritize based on needs, such as those serving children with special health needs, those serving infants and toddlers, and those serving children. with an increased risk of poor health outcomes. General training topics include safe sleep, medication, and emergency preparedness and response. CCHC also evaluates classrooms and facilities and develops quality improvement plans with staff. These quality improvement plans include best practice recommendations, on-site training and technical assistance to help businesses build their capacity using a strengths-based approach.

“My favorite part of my job is doing early childhood education (ECE) assessments,” says Cindy Smith, CCHC, Albemarle Children and Families Alliance. A registered nurse with over 25 years of experience who completed her CCHC training at UNC in 2009, she serves nearly 70 childcare facilities in Northeast North Carolina.

“My job involves using the Health and Safety Assessment Tool, which allows me to comply with recommended government regulations and national standards. If risks are identified, I work in collaboration and partnership with principal and teachers to promote best practices and their knowledge and autonomy in recognizing health and safety issues,” says Smith. “I am passionate about small children and see every [health and safety] appreciation as an opportunity to support them. I work to help early childhood education (ECE) educators not only understand what needs to be done to create a safe and healthy environment for children, but also understand why Why it needs to be done. Why is so important.

Until recently, about 40% of North Carolina’s counties, many of which were traditionally underserved by health services, did not have access to child care counseling services. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed that.

As the pandemic spread across all counties, state leaders realized that access to CCHC services in all counties is critical to ensure that childcare facilities can safely remain open during the pandemic and reached out to the NC Child Health and Safety Resource Center for more help. NC Resource Center staff, including CCHC trainers, have adjusted their scope of work to provide local COVID support to all counties that did not have a local CCHC. CCHC has been answering calls day and night, providing ongoing advice on everything from proper mask wearing, understanding when to close, and explaining quarantine and isolation times.

The CCHC trainers not only expanded the scope of their activities, but also helped to compile and revise Child Care Strong NC Public Health Toolkit and has consistently provided expertise in preventing the spread of infectious diseases in childcare settings to caregivers, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services leadership, colleagues, and partners in the field.

This new focus on CCHC has led the North Carolina Department of Child Development and Early Education, in partnership with the North Carolina Partnership for Children, to commit to funding up to 24 new CCHC positions statewide. In addition, the NC Resource Center received funding to hire two CCHCs to support the 12 counties that were unable to hire local CCHCs, so NC is now close to full CCHC coverage.

Dr. Tamar Ringel-Kulka

Dr. Tamar Ringel-Kulka

“All staff at the Center demonstrate a strong commitment and commitment to the well-being of children in preschool,” says Tamar Ringel-Kulka, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Maternal and Child Health, Principal Investigator and Director of NC Resource. Center. “Our services and partnerships with government and state-sponsored agencies enable the school to connect with and understand the needs of communities across North Carolina’s regions and counties. This provides an opportunity for educators and students to contribute, learn from and explore the health and safety of children in preschool and, most importantly, help close inequalities.”

Smith says she finds the Resource Center’s quarterly webinars and additional resources really valuable to her work as a CCHC. The center also provides CCHC with health and safety training, continuing professional development, and support and connections with local, regional, and national partners in child health and care.

“Center staff play a key role in what happens at the state level and share with us current knowledge and information,” says Smith. “They give us everything we need to work.”

Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at [email protected]

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