Leaning in and listening to families’ voices

New report highlights what families say their young children need most

By: Mandy Ableidinger | April 2021

Post Author

Babies and young children need age-appropriate social, emotional, and mental health support in order to stay on track as they continue to develop. Families are often at the center of thesupports offered, but many are not getting their needs met.

Lean In & Listen Up: How can we strengthen North Carolina’s early intervention, early childhood, and mental health services? Listen to families, a new report by NC Child and the NC Early Childhood Foundation, provides a window into what families need and want from North Carolina’s social-emotional health ecosystem for babies and young children.

Read the report here.

The report includes ideas, recommendations, and personal stories from more than 200 interviews and surveys with NC parents of young children. It is intended to be a guide for advocates, policymakers, clinicians, funders, and others interested in improving the systems of care that address social-emotional well-being for babies and young children, from birth to age eight.

What matters the most for families?

Key themes from the report include:

  • Healthy, well-adjusted parents are the most important resource for young children’s social-emotional health and development.
  • The people surrounding families with young children are also important resources.
  • There is a wide variety of services and programs that families either do not currently have access to, or that they feel there should be more of.
  • What families value most in providers are good people skills and compassion.
  • Families are very concerned – at times panicked and even despairing – about being able to access the services their children need.
  • Families had much less to say about the quality and reliability of services, though those themes did come up, as did family choice of services.
  • Additional barriers, like social drivers of health, also prevent families from accessing services.
  • Respondents of all races reported incidents where they felt they had been treated differently because of their race.

There were variations by race/ethnicity, income, and gender in families’ experiences with the programs and services, what families most value, and the biggest concerns and barriers reported.

Why document family voices?

These surveys and interviews conducted with parents and caregivers of young children who have interacted with North Carolina’s social-emotional health system highlight what families need and expect from the systems and providers that they and their children interact with. Immersing ourselves in the voices of parents and caregivers helps us better understand families’ experiences and illuminates our own blind spots. We hope advocates, policymakers, clinicians, funders and others will be guided by these data as we work to strengthen the early childhood social-emotional health ecosystem in North Carolina.

Who will you hear from in this report?

A team of community-based organizations interviewed and/or surveyed more than 200 North Carolina families from 28 NC counties for this project. Each of the families has or has recently had young children (birth through age eight) involved in the social-emotional health ecosystem. The project over-sampled Latinx, Spanish-speaking, and low-income families, as well as women.

Want more? Check out the full report!

Readers can explore three versions of the report, depending on how deeply they want to engage:

  • A short Executive Summary (6 pages) shares the themes and a few illustrative quotes from families.
  • A longer Overview of Findings report (30 pages) includes more quotes from families, disaggregated where possible by race, ethnicity, income and gender. It also includes more about the methodology and who was interviewed and surveyed.
  • The full Family Voice report (120 pages) includes charts showing the quantitative analysis of the disaggregated family survey data, the survey and interview protocols, and quotes from families on various themes in each of twelve specific sectors of the social-emotional health ecosystem. This section of the full-length report may be especially interesting to providers, advocates, and policymakers who are working to improve policy and practice in those specific sectors. The sectors include:
        • Perinatal supports
        • Home visiting and other in-home supports
        • Parenting education and community-based supports
        • IDEA Part C/Early Intervention
        • IDEA Part B/Exceptional Children
        • Care management
        • Medical home
        • Health insurers
        • Evidence-based programs
        • Early education (child care, preschool and K-3 elementary school)
        • Foster care
        • Ecosystem supports

This report was developed as a part of the EarlyWell Initiative led by NC Child and the NC Early Childhood Foundation.