Posted: November 1, 2022
By Sharon Hirsch, Prevent Child Abuse NC President & CEO
Transylvania County, population 35,000, is an amazing place just southwest of Asheville. Its largest town is Brevard, anchored by Brevard College. And it is a community deeply committed to supporting children, youth and families.
I had the privilege of visiting with leaders in Transylvania County in late October, where I learned more about the incredible investments they are making. They understand that children thrive when supported by strong families and communities. During my visit I learned about three major initiatives in Transylvania County focused on strengthening families so children can thrive:
Get Set Transylvania is a collaborative comprised of several local government and nonprofit partners who provide a wide range of services for families with young children. Together, they have created a safety net of critical resources that ensure all young children are supported and receive the help they need. Their mission is to promote lifelong learning, health, and resilience in all young children in Transylvania County.
Sesame Street in Communities collaborates and provides resources and support. Thanks to this unique and valuable collaboration, they have access to Sesame Street resources that include videos, storybooks and training that help children navigate through challenges large and small. Additionally, professional development resources for providers are available to better understand age-appropriate lessons on literacy, numeracy and more.
As it says on their website: “This is truly a grass-roots effort where there is no official Get Set organization or membership roster. Organizations and individuals show up and participate as their capacity allows — or sometimes doesn’t, but they show up anyway. They show up because we all know, in the tight knit yet diverse communities within Transylvania County, we are able to serve more families and children when we can coordinate each other’s resources and leverage connections.”
Community Prevention Action Plan – Kids Matter formed in 2018, after Transylvania County hosted a Community Café and Resilience Screening – reaching over 100 community members – and the Community Child Protection Team (CCPT) watched a child abuse and neglect presentation.
Their CPAP team has been trained in the Protective Factors Framework and identified Child Protective Services reports by zip code to begin creating their Community Prevention Action Plan (CPAP). They also aligned their work with the State’s Early Childhood Action Plan. The Kids Matter CPAP is focused on raising awareness of what individuals can do and are doing to prevent child abuse through a social norms campaign; educating the community on the Protective Factors Framework; and identifying service gaps and creating opportunities to address them. They also coordinate with Get Set Transylvania and are both committed to alignment and working collaboratively.
TC Strong was inspired by community concerns around mental health distress among youth in 2022 and building on existing efforts of the Transylvania Youth Support Collaborative workgroups. It was formed to create a broad coalition of youth, school and community-based leaders to develop and implement a strategic plan to address these concerns in a collaborative way.
Their short-term vision is for “every youth in Transylvania County feels heard and supported.” Their long-term vision is that “every youth in Transylvania County feels confident and secure in connection, purpose and hope. They are particularly committed to engaging with youth to identify concerns and needs and develop plans together with the young people in their community.
Most inspiring during the visit was hearing directly from local leaders like Elaine Russell, Health Director; Page Lemel, former County Commissioner and child advocate; Erin Drew, Executive Director of The Family Place family resource center; Deborah Tibbetts, Executive Director of Smart Start of Transylvania County; and Susan Huter, who led the development of their CPAP.
Each one of these leaders has a deep commitment to moving their systems and investments upstream to support and strengthen children and families. In Transylvania County they are nurturing positive childhoods and are fast becoming a model for how to bring smaller communities together to address the needs of families.
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