LAURINBURG — Early education is critical to a child’s development, according to Wendy O’Brien, director of early care and education with the Scotland County Partnership for Children and Families.
“Studies continue to show that the early years are critical years in a child’s brain development. When young children receive the highest quality of care and early education, they are better prepared for success in school and life,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien added that research shows that the child care teaching staff’s level of education is linked to the quality of care. Since 2001, the number of child care providers with degrees in Scotland County has more than quadrupled, from 5 percent to 48 percent.
O’Brien was one of several speakers at the Partnership’s 11th annual Rise and Shine Breakfast. The event was held recently at the Cooperative Extension Building and brought together Partnership staff and board, state legislators, county commissioners, city council members along with community members to discuss the state of the county’s children.
A panel of affiliates that reported to the group also included the Scotland County Department of Social Services, Scotland County Schools and Southeastern Community and Family Community Services.
Entertainment was provided by the children of Laurinburg Presbyterian Church where they sang song “You are my Sunshine.”
Barbara Adams with the Scotland County Schools presented information on the pre-K program in the county.
“The pre-K program in Scotland County began in the 1990’s with funding from Title I,” Adams said. “At that time, a class was established at every elementary school. In 2001, Gov. (Mike) Easley established the More at Four pre-kindergarten program, and since then, Scotland County has blended funds to serve as many four-year-olds as possible.”
Iris Cousar with Southeastern Community and Family Services provided insight to the Head Start Programs. “Head Start is designed to help at-risk children become more successful when they enter kindergarten. The Head Start Program is based on the philosophy that a child can benefit most from a comprehensive program where the child’s entire family, as well as the community, gets involved.
“Head Start is designed to help at-risk children become more successful when they enter kindergarten,” she said. “The Head Start Program is based on the philosophy that a child can benefit most from a comprehensive program where the child’s entire family, as well as the community, gets involved.”
Partnership Interim Executive Director Benny Cox gave a run down on youth programs in the county. They include:
— Scotland County Parks and Recreation serves approximately 1400 children ages five to fifteen
— Scots for Youth is a non-profit agency that has been providing regimented instruction, mentoring and behavior intervention for students since 1984 that include gang intervention/prevention, community service/restitution, sex offender treatment, mental health counseling, mentoring, life skills education, transitional services, structured day programming and parent support groups.
— Scotland County Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention provides services for juvenile at-risk children and youth ages six to twenty-one.
— Richmond Community College/Scotland Center provides adult high school and GED programs to adult and teens in Scotland County. The center has served previously as many as 50 teen students between the ages of 16 and 18 this fiscal year.
— Scotland County Schools Youth Programs served approximately 1600 students through 18 Week Internship, Job Shadowing, Career Readiness Certificate, Workforce Act, and Culinary Arts Programs.
“Even though we are not always visible, as you can see the Partnership over the past 19 years has been one of the major conveners here in Scotland County,” Cox said. “Ensuring that Scotland County most precious resources are ready to enter society as productive citizens and qualified workers. Investing in children is always a sounds investment. They are our Sunshine.”