Smart Start North Carolina

Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
  • This strategy can help address educational disparities and promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve these outcomes are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program basics

  • Comprehensive, statewide early childhood initiative providing communities with funding for educational childcare, health care, and family support services
  • Communities have flexibility to design programming to meet specific needs
  • Series of public-private partnerships between the state, counties, and private, independent organizations prioritizing localized control to provide and fund critical services to families

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)


Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the second-highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps

Target population

Preschool-aged children

Program cost

Not available

Implementation locations

  • North Carolina

Dates active


Outcomes and impact

  • Some evidence for improvement of school readiness, particularly for disadvantaged children
  • Children from low-income families experience greater improvements in school readiness than peers who attend other day care centers
  • Children from higher income families do not receive additional benefit compared to other childcare programs
  • Participation linked to higher third-grade test scores in reading and math and decreased likelihood of special education placement
  • Participating children more likely to receive vaccines and have access to regular health care
  • Promotes early literacy and literacy-related outcomes
  • Improved child health through improvements in nutrition, physical activity, and health and safety practices

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This content is under review
  • Fostering trust and collaboration with families is essential to program success. Transparency and clear communication between providers and families strengthens these relationships.
  • Training and oversight helps local organizations and program facilitators meet benchmarks and operate the program more effectively.
  • As communities may have different service needs, flexibility in offerings can increase positive outcomes and strengthen trust

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