Home VisitingJuly 2022
Last year, the U.S. Treasury Department allocated $215 million in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) funds to Mecklenburg County to support the County's COVID-19 Strategic Recovery Plan. The plan focuses on key priority areas designed to improve the quality of life for Mecklenburg County residents impacted by the pandemic.
Because children ages prenatal to five and their families are amongst those impacted by the pandemic, Mecklenburg County Commissioners have awarded $342,500 to Smart Start of Mecklenburg County (SSMC) to implement Smart Start's home visiting expansion plan, "Home Visiting: Equitable Evaluation, Growth, and Expansion of Services in Mecklenburg County."
To launch the home visiting expansion plan, SSMC created a new position, and is proud to welcome Veronica Kirkland as the new Home Visiting Expansion Coordinator. In this role, Veronica will 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.
Parents struggling to figure out how to pay the bills, buy food, and afford medicine are under incredible pressure. Such high-stress demands can make the challenging task of parenting even more difficult and overwhelming--putting children at greater risk for learning disabilities, behavior problems, developmental delays, and health problems.
Home visiting programs are designed to mitigate those risks. They pair families with trained professionals who provide parenting information, resources and support throughout their child's first few years. Research has shown that high quality home visiting programs can increase children's school readiness, improve child health and development, reduce child abuse and neglect, and enhance parents' abilities to support their children's overall development. For example, according to the North Carolina Partnership for Children, programs like the Nurse- Family Partnership have shown a:
48% reduction in child abuse and neglect
56% reduction in emergency room visits for accidents and poisonings
67% reduction in behavioral and intellectual problems at child age six
These programs provide a range of home-based services to expectant or new parents. Home visitors may be professionals such as nurses or social workers or they may be trained outreach workers. Services vary by program and may include providing prenatal support, educating parents about child development, promoting positive parenting practices, encouraging and supporting parents; ensuring families have a medical provider, and connecting parents with services for their children and themselves.
Current Smart Start-funded home visiting programs include Nurse-Family Partnership, Safe Journey's Parents as Teachers, YMCA Parents as Teachers, and Children's Home Society Child First.
Stay tuned to future Smart Start stories related to the next phases of "Home Visiting: Equitable Evaluation, Growth, and Expansion of Services in Mecklenburg County."
About Veronica Kirkland
Veronica Kirkland is a passionate, progressive, and innovative leader with extensive experience in early childhood education, family engagement, and family self-sufficiency programs. She received her undergraduate degree in Child Development & Family Relations from Indiana University of PA and currently is completing her Master's degree in Organizational Leadership, with a graduation date of December 2022.
Veronica has spent the last 20 plus years dedicated to providing advocacy, leadership, and inspiration to those she serves to assist with breaking down barriers that attempt to keep families bound to systemic dependence and poverty. Her philosophy is to be, "she who waters and plants seeds in the lives around her, in anticipation of producing growth and positive change." It is this same philosophy that has motivated her to become and evolve to be the woman that she is today exercising this same concept in her work of empowering others.
As a recipient and facilitator of home-based services, Veronica's extensive work in the home visitation sector has enabled her to work with several programming features giving her exclusive knowledge of what benefits families, barriers encountered, and resources needed for families to be successful. She has had the privilege to learn from and impact a diverse group of families having worked with teen parents, parents experiencing homelessness, ESL families, and non-traditional families. The outcomes produced from her involvement with her families demonstrate how sowing one small seed truly yields great results.
Veronica is a Pittsburgh native and avid Steelers football fan. She enjoys traveling, great music, dancing, and spending time with her children, Alyssa, Mark, Josiah, and Zephaniah.