Crawl, Walk, Run: “Prenatal to 3” Plan Addresses Early Childhood Development

Two babies interacting at daycare

A child’s health and well-being during the first three years of life affects future learning, behavior, and health. It is the most sensitive period for a child’s developing brain and body. But many families face challenges during these years.

Consistent with the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners’ priority to expand services that promote early childhood development, the County has introduced the Prenatal to Three Strategic Plan which works to improve the trajectory of child and family well-being in those early years.

The Prenatal to Three Strategic Plan was developed by Mecklenburg County’s Early Childhood Executive Committee, which comprised County and community leaders with wide-ranging subject-matter expertise in prenatal, maternal health, early childhood development, health care, and other family support services. With a focus on community engagement, the current landscape, and specific needs in Mecklenburg County, the committee developed a vision that all children are born healthy, and their families have equitable access to high-quality resources and supports to help them achieve their optimal development.

The final report summarizes the yearlong effort, presents the strategic vision for prenatal to three programs and services, and provides recommendations as determined by the committee, parents, and community leaders.

The recommendations include:

  • Improve prenatal to three data collection and sharing to better evaluate results and adjust programming to the community’s needs.

  • Work with community partners and families to provide greater access to social determinants of health and child development screenings to identify needs proactively.

  • Improve navigation and referral processes to better connect families to needed services.

  • Partner with community organizations and local service providers to expand access to high-quality prenatal to three services.

  • Support community organizations in leading family engagement and education work to capture family voices and ensure parents/caregivers feel empowered to support their families.

Work is underway to advance the recommendations, including the hiring of a project manager and a consultant to develop an implementation plan, which are funded in Mecklenburg County’s FY2024 budget.

Decades of research have shown that babies and toddlers thrive when they have loving, responsive interactions in their earliest years. Positive interactions with caregivers produce long-term benefits not only for families, but also for society. This plan is intended to help Mecklenburg County address families’ need for sufficient resources and skills to create and sustain the environments that set children up for success.

The Prenatal to Three plan is the latest endeavor to address the Board of County Commissioners’ early childhood development priority. Meck Pre-K is now in its sixth year, and reported its highest number of applications and enrollments for fall 2023, with more than 1,800 students beginning the school year.

Learn more about Mecklenburg County’s Prenatal to Three plan and other County initiatives at