What we accomplished together in 2021

As we take stock at the end of the year, here are three things I’m really proud of

By: Michelle Hughes | December 2021

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Throughout a tough year, the stories of North Carolina’s children and families – the hardships they are enduring, and the amazing ways they lean into their own power and resilience – get me up to do this work every day. We have accomplished a lot for kids in 2021. The policy changes have certainly not all been as extensive as the need. But returning constantly to the stories of our kids and families has driven home for me the fact that even the incremental changes can make a huge difference for families.

As we look ahead to 2022, I hope you’ll consider a gift to NC Child to continue this important work and build on our momentum into the new year. Click here to make your year-end contribution.

Health coverage – Christina’s story

“It is huge for our family that the medical costs were covered. If not for Medicaid, we would be bankrupt. We probably would not have a roof over our heads right now.” –Christina, Buncombe County NC

Real people inform NC Child’s work to bring health coverage to North Carolina’s parents and caregivers. Our Story Collection project relies on Parent Advisory Council members, for whom Medicaid and NC Health Choice are essential. This summer, PAC members interviewed Christina, a new mom in Buncombe County. Christina’s story of postpartum Medicaid coverage was featured in this New York Times article about health coverage in the Build Back Better Act while she advocated for change right here in North Carolina.

Christina’s story reminds us that interim steps can still change lives. Our state legislature extended Medicaid to 12 months post-partum, in large part because of advocacy from folks like Christina, and like Cindy McMillan, doula and director of Sistas Caring 4 Sistas in Asheville. Extending post-partum Medicaid has the potential to really make a difference in North Carolina’s high infant mortality rate and the infuriating disparities between Black babies and white babies. It has the potential to save the lives of new moms and result in significantly better health outcomes for babies and young children as well. While we haven’t yet won the full expansion of health coverage that we truly need in our state for parents and caregivers, we’re getting closer all the time.

Your support helped us get closer to Medicaid expansion this year than ever before, and we will keep fighting for it until every parent and caregiver has the health coverage they need. Join us!

Reducing Young Children’s Lead Exposure

I’m also really proud of the work that we have done to strengthen North Carolina’s work in lead poisoning prevention this year. The policy changes we’ve helped to advance ensure that young children in particular are not exposed to toxic lead that can derail their development. Children in low-income households and especially children of color are at elevated risk of lead exposure. Getting the lead out is really important for young children and can have a big impact on their long term success in school, and in life.

Data Advocacy

Many parents have shared with us their stories of struggle to get oral health care for their children. Children in rural North Carolina, children with special health care needs, and children on Medicaid and CHIP often can’t get the care they need – with painful and preventable consequences for their health and learning.

I’m so inspired by the work that our team did with data this year – especially in publicly releasing data about oral health care for the first time in North Carolina. The report, Tooth Dismay, is the first time we’ve been able to look at data about children on Medicaid and NC Health Choice. While these programs cover needed oral health care, so many kids just can’t get access to it.

As of this year, our data releases are available as interactive digital dashboards – making disaggregated, contextualized data about NC’s children so much more accessible to advocates and officials across the state.

Long-term change is possible

The long-term success of our kids and our state depends on elected officials knowing what’s actually going on in their communities – and that’s up to all of us. It has been a long-time vision of NC Child that we would have a statewide network of folks who are closest to communities and to kids and families really driving the agenda and driving the advocacy for kids and families for policy change. That’s happening at every level, from local school board meetings to the halls of Congress.

Watch Guilford CAN Hub leader Ebony Burnett sharing her own story as she testifies for much-needed school funding at the Guilford County Commission last week.

It has been really inspirational to watch the growth of the Child Advocacy Network, the Parent Advisory Council, and the CAN hubs this year. These advocates from across the state are building their skills, building their capacity, speaking up for children with elected officials – and making real change.

In the moment, it can be so frustrating when we see an insufficient response from our leaders to the huge challenges that our kids and families are facing. Policy change can often take a long time – but it only happens because people like you and me continue to speak up. We continue to fight for what’s in the best interests of kids and families. It’s up to all of us to keep working together to be the strongest possible voice for our kids.

Your year-end contribution to NC Child powers our advocacy and keeps us fighting for kids and families every day. Donate before December 31st and your gift will be matched dollar for dollar to let us keep working toward a North Carolina where every child gets a fair shot in life, whatever their race or zip code.