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Survey: Resources Scarce for NC Parents of Young Kids

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A team of community-based organizations across North Carolina recently interviewed dozens of parents of young children for their views about the state's social-emotional health ecosystem. (Adobe Stock)
A team of community-based organizations across North Carolina recently interviewed dozens of parents of young children for their views about the state's social-emotional health ecosystem. (Adobe Stock)
 By Nadia Ramlagan - Producer, Contact
April 12, 2021

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A new survey of more than 200 North Carolina parents of young children finds a lot of concern - and at times, panic and even despair - about finding the services their children have needed during the pandemic.

The survey, of mostly low-income and Spanish-speaking families, found barriers like racial bias and cultural differences can prevent them from getting help.

Banu Valladares, executive director of the Charlotte Bilingual Preschool, said even when services are available, some families may be afraid to access them.

"For example, if they are applying for citizenship, they think that if they access a service, like a mental-health service that the community offers, it's going to kick them out of the citizenship pathway," Valladares explained.

In the survey, parents said they either don't have access to, or feel there should be more, community-based play-and-learn programs for young kids, child care, resources for families who don't speak English, and mental-health counseling for parents and caregivers.

The survey was conducted by the Early Well Initiative, a partnership of NC Child and the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation.

Jovonia Lewis, founder and executive director of Empowering Parents in Community in Durham, said the data show many Black families have concerns about their children being labeled or stereotyped when seeking therapy or counseling for mental-health issues.

"So sometimes, that stigmatization of mental-health services creates a barrier for access," Lewis remarked.

Valladares noted historically, policymakers have made decisions about services without input from the families most likely to need them. She pointed to inflexible work schedules as an example of the disconnect that happens when families' voices aren't heard.

"The other challenge that we hear is the hours of services: 'I'm supposed to be working to support my children and family, but I'm also supposed to be receiving the service at this time, and I don't work a job that allows me to take time off,'" Valladares outlined.

She added other barriers that prevent families from accessing services include not feeling comfortable seeking help, or already being stretched too thinly to take advantage of them, as well as struggles with mental health, addiction, domestic violence, COVID-19 and family economic security.

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