Smart Start working on at-home care options for families | Education


Smart Start of Transylvania County collaborates to increase the number of quality child care options available to families. The pandemic exacerbated the need for quality, affordable child care, and at Smart Start they learned there is not a one size fits all solution, according to a new release. Smart Start is committed to its vision that every young child thrives and has equitable access to quality early education. While local licensed child care centers and part-day centers (known as formal child care) do an excellent job caring for children, 50% of children still do not attend formal child care settings, the release said. The increasing number of children who do not have access to quality child care was not a surprise to the Early Care Capacity Specialist Ansley Harron, but seeing Smart Start’s annual survey of child care capacity made her push forward to find alternative child care options. To help meet the needs of families, Harron is working to enable at-home care options with friends and family.

Smart Start of Transylvania County has begun work towards this goal by creating Family, Friend & Neighbor (FFN) pilots, as well as working in a coaching capacity to establish Family Childcare Homes (FCCHs). In addition, it has created developmental materials, resources for support and safe community spaces where learning through play can be modeled. So far, this work has been supported by local grants. WNC Bridge Foundation, Transylvania Endowment and Lake Toxaway Charities have all played a role in supporting these pilots.

Having completed six pilots with approximately 40 caregivers, Smart Start is not stopping there. Executive Director Deb Tibbetts has found an “incredible opportunity,” according to the release, through Home Grown Child Care to build comprehensive networks of home-based care providers. Home Grown Child Care will provide Smart Stat with the support it needs to see its larger vision come to life, benefiting dozens of Transylvania County children and families. Transylvania County has been selected as one of three national locations to participate in the 2022 cohort of Building Comprehensive Networks, a 2.5-year initiative. Home Grown is a national collaborative of funders committed to improving the quality of and access to home-based child care.

Transylvania County’s small size is its greatest asset as Smart Start strives to create a large FFN network in the county. Imagine a community with FFNs as the connectors to the early care and education system, ultimately resulting in supported young children and families who feel a strong sense of social cohesion, children who are ready for kindergarten, and families who can maintain employment because they have stable childcare. Child care availability is often an obstacle, and expansion will support placements and help meet families where they are. Smart Start envisions the FFN network will generate interest in the early care and education field of study and perhaps even result in a pathway to licensure. 

In addition to building a network of FFN/FCCH providers, advocacy to legitimize the FFN provider is a vital part of this project. FFN providers have historically played a significant role in child care, with their value certainly highlighted during the pandemic.

For more information on Smart Start of Transylvania County, please visit, and for information on Home Grown Child Care, please visit

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