Family Services: Delivering On a Promise



In just a couple of months, Harvard Professor and America’s premier social capital expert, Dr. Robert Putnam, will return to Forsyth County to show us what we can learn from the past century and how we can turn the corner for the well-being of all of our children.

Putnam was the inaugural speaker for Family Services’ Raising Every Child Benefit Luncheon in 2016, so it’s only fitting that he return to see the progress we’ve made during the last four years.

When Putnam spoke four years ago, his message was a call to action.

“We cannot afford to throw away nearly one-third of our smartest kids just because they happen to have parents who make less income,” he said, as he presented his revolutionary research on the “opportunity gap.”

It was just a year prior to Putnam’s arrival that Harvard University released a groundbreaking and eye-opening study that found Forsyth County, North Carolina, was among the worst counties in the nation for helping poor children escape poverty. In other words, the ZIP code you were born into was the single biggest factor in determining your future income.

Two years before Putnam’s initial address, Family Services and other local early childhood professionals were already hard at work exploring how to improve both quality and capacity for local preschoolers in Forsyth County.

“We are not making use of the full potential of all of our children,” Family Services CEO Bob Feikema said. “People from all walks of life—all political parties, all ages—are really recognizing the value of high-quality early education.”

Since that time, Family Services has invited other influential outside voices to the conversation, including Billionaire philanthropist George Kaiser in 2017, who told local leaders how Oklahoma introduced Universal Pre-K.  Later that same year, during the second annual Raising Every Child Benefit Luncheon, Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children’s Zone in Harlem, NY, taught a sold-out crowd at the Benton Convention Center that “what happens by age 5 lasts a lifetime.”

And last year, Family Services invited Duke University researcher Kenneth A. Dodge, who pioneered a definitive study that showed that the more money North Carolina puts into high-quality Pre-K, the better North Carolina children will fare.

Putnam’s return comes five years after Family Services and others began work on addressing the county’s Pre-K deficiency, and one year after the official launch of the Pre-K Priority initiative, which is a coalition of community organizations and individuals committed to improving the number of affordable, high-quality Pre-K programs available to all four-year-olds in Forsyth County.

For information about Putnam’s visit and what you can do to help Raise Every Child in Forsyth County, visit RaisingEveryChild.org.

“All of us have to become champions and make this a Priority,” Feikema said.


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