Early Childhood Professionals


Focus Area:
Early Childhood Education

The Challenge

In Mecklenburg County, most infants and young children live in families where all caregivers work outside the home. To have peace of mind, families want conveniently located, high-quality care for their young children, delivered by educated professionals at a price that doesn't break the bank. Yet, too often, families are forced into situations where care is unstable, unaffordable, or of questionable quality

How We Help

Smart Start recognizes the high cost of poor childcare and invests 80% of its funds accordingly to educate families on how to locate good childcare, to increase access to high-quality childcare for low-income families through subsidies and accessible, high quality pre-school, to offer teacher training, and bonus payments for teachers intent on attaining higher education levels, and on supporting the licensure and safety of childcare centers with technical assistance.

Funded Programs Tab

Child Care
Health Consultants

Through consultation, health education and technical assistance, nurses and health educators work with individual child care facilities to help create environments that best support the healthy growth and development of young children.

Quality Everyday

Helps directors and teachers improve each child's experience in the classroom through supportive adult-child interactions and high-quality learning environments. Specialists deliver in-depth training on various topics and on-site coaching to help achieve identified goals. Various tools guide the coaching process, including Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS), North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development, Environment Rating Scales, Program Administration Scale, and Business Administration Scale. QED partners with Central Piedmont Community College to deliver a 2-credit course on making the most of classroom interactions and also engages local wellness experts to support staff resilience. 3-, 4- and 5-star child care centers, family child care homes, and new operating programs with a temporary license in Mecklenburg County are eligible.

Social Emotional
Teacher Coaching

Young children are learning how to deal with strong emotions in themselves and others and can need help understanding the required skills. Yet, preschoolers are expelled at three times the rate of K-12 students. Social Emotional Teacher Coaching (SETC) recognizes this as a gap in adults' capacity to meet this need and strives to 1) improve Mecklenburg licensed child care professionals' knowledge and skills to provide consistent pro-social environments that foster children's social-emotional development and 2) nurture teacher practices that appropriately and constructively address children's behaviors and maintain their child care placements.


The Child Care WAGE$® Program provides education-based salary supplements to qualifying teachers, directors and family child care providers working with children between the ages of birth to five. The program is designed to provide preschool children more stable relationships with better-educated teachers by rewarding teacher education and continuity of care.

Early Childhood Research Tab

Prenatal to Three Study

Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. but ranked as the least economically mobile, with 41% of all young children living in low-income households. The goal of this project was to provide a comprehensive, baseline inventory of family services and supports in Mecklenburg County for families expecting a child or with a child under the age of 3. .Through this research, we sought to identify gaps and opportunities in service access and referral processes, provide recommendations for improving family utilization of relevant services, and support Mecklenburg County efforts to build capacity to address the needs of families with young children, particularly those from underserved and marginalized communities.

Taming the Octopus

Being the parent of a child with special needs is especially difficult. There are more than a dozen different categories of disability, and many children experience developmental delay which may be temporary and not rise to the level of a diagnosis. The commonality among them is that children with special needs require nurturance above and beyond what most families can provide by themselves. Simply put, they desperately need our help.

Autism Guide

Maybe you were the first person to mention the word "autism" about your child. Maybe it was a doctor, therapist, or friend. No matter who said it, this word has now entered your world. Whether your child currently has a diagnosis, is pending a diagnosis, or you have concerns about development and question if your child may have autism, you are entering into a new journey. This guide has been developed to help families navigate the challenging and often confusing journey of parenting a child with autism.

Special Initiatives

Home Visiting Logo

Home Visiting Expansion PLAN

Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is pleased to present the Home Visiting Expansion Plan in Mecklenburg County. The purpose of this project is to develop a sustainable plan that coordinates, enhances, expands and advocates for high-quality home visiting programs to serve expectant and parenting families so that children are safe, healthy and ready to learn. Click the View Resources tab below to learn about home visiting programs available in Mecklenburg County.


This new project recruits individuals who are interested in becoming childcare teachers in Mecklenburg County, provides them access to the required training, and gives them on-the job experience by placing them in participating member centers as substitute teachers. Part of this project includes a substitute and benefits pool for early childhood educators. Our desire is to develop a funding strategy in order to attract and retain quality early childhood teachers in our community.

Parent-child interaction therapy

In 2021, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County partnered with Child & Family Health to bring a unique training opportunity in Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) to Mecklenburg County clinicians. Watch our new video highlighting how this therapy helps local families with young children.


Our work increasing early intervention includes acting as fiscal agent, host and chair for Early Childhood Answers of Charlotte: A Project of the Meck LICC, a consortium of agencies and families working to connect young children with potential developmental delays to resources. 

A2i in MECK Pre-k classrooms

A2i is an evidence-based platform designed to help teachers and instructional coaches make data-informed decisions about how to use their existing curriculum and instructional time to meet each child's individual needs in regards to literacy learning. A2i is designed to support educators to help children across the spectrum from students who are just beginning to build their pre-reading skills to those who are more advanced. A2i is being piloted in ten MECK Pre-K classrooms this school year.

early childhood solutions

Since May 2021, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County has been convening a group of educators, nonprofit administrators, healthcare providers, parents, and other professionals with expertise in the systems of care for children with special healthcare needs. The Early Childhood Solutions volunteers are collaborating with Smart Start staff to implement the strategies in Taming the Octopus. Much of their work over the last year has revolved around creating equity and inclusiveness in local systems serving children under age five with developmental disabilities. To request materials, please contact Jennifer Stamp, Chief Strategy Officer. 

Educator Resources


STRIVE is a North Carolina scholarship for early childhood education students provided in partnership with the Foundation for the Carolinas and Mecklenburg County. The STRIVE scholarship can help you earn your degree to become a child care worker, preschool teacher, or pre-K teacher in North Carolina.

UNC Charlotte

Discover how a child's culture, peers, and education influence their growth. Child and Family Development professionals provide a multifaceted resource for families and children in education, healthcare, early intervention, special education, child advocacy, and community programs that can encourage lifelong positive outcomes.