Every child deserves a chance to succeed in school and in life. However, research shows that children born to wealthy families tend to become wealthy adults, while those born to poor families tend to remain tethered to poverty. Perhaps nowhere is that reality starker than in North Carolina’s Piedmont Triad region, where children of families at the bottom of the economic ladder stand less than a 5 percent chance of rising to the top as adults — one of the worst rates of upward mobility in America.
The Duke Endowment is supporting an ambitious, 10-year strategy that uses large, targeted investments in early childhood to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Guilford County, a major population center of the Triad.
Called the Get Ready Guilford Initiative, the strategy is spearheaded by the Endowment and Ready for School, Ready for Life, a leading early childhood organization in the county. Get Ready Guilford seeks to improve individual and population-level outcomes among 55,000 children, prenatal through age 8, across five areas: planned and well-timed pregnancies; healthy births; on-track infant and toddler development at 12, 24 and 36 months; school readiness at kindergarten; and success by third grade.
The first three-year phase of the Guilford strategy is supported by Blue Meridian Partners, a pioneering philanthropic model that finds and funds scalable solutions to problems that limit economic mobility and trap America’s young people and families in poverty. Originally incubated by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Blue Meridian is a group of results-oriented philanthropists pooling funds to invest in both national and regional strategies. The Endowment joined in 2015.
In 2018, after considerable research and planning, Blue Meridian Partners approved a $32.5 million investment over three years to support the Get Ready Guilford Initiative. The Endowment is contributing half of that investment. Those contributions will leverage another $43.5 million in existing local, state and national funding from public and private sources.
Work in Guilford has begun with building a continuum of services for families and children prenatal to age 3. Phase II will expand services to ages 3 to 5, while laying the groundwork for serving children along the entire developmental continuum, prenatal to age 8. The core strategy calls for annually offering assessments to every family in the county, connecting them to effective resources that match their needs and coordinating the community’s care using shared technology.
The bold vision for the Get Ready Guilford Initiative is to create a roadmap for success that can serve as a model for other community efforts across the country.