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NCDHHS updates plan to improve early childhood development, with focus on improving infant mortality and long foster care waits

File photo: A toddler and a tree.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is taking steps to improve early childhood development in the state.

The update to the Early Childhood Action Plan is intended to ensure all children get a healthy start in life and develop to their full potential in safe and nurturing families, schools and communities.

The updated plan focuses on four key areas -- healthy babies, food security, permanent families for children in foster care and high-quality early learning.

State health officials say North Carolina ranked as the 10th worst state in the nation in infant mortality in 2021, and about one in six children is facing hunger.

Additionally, thousands of children in North Carolina spend months or years in the foster care system while waiting for permanent placement.

North Carolina is also in the middle of a child care crisis that was only made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Annette is originally a Midwest gal, born and raised in Michigan, but with career stops in many surrounding states, the Pacific Northwest, and various parts of the southeast. An award-winning journalist and mother of four, Annette moved to eastern North Carolina in 2019 to be closer to family – in particular, her two young grandchildren. It’s possible that a -27 day with a -68 windchill in Minnesota may have also played a role in that decision. In her spare time, Annette does a lot of kiddo cuddling, reading, and producing the coolest Halloween costumes anyone has ever seen. She has also worked as a diversity and inclusion facilitator serving school districts and large corporations. It’s the people that make this beautiful area special, and she wants to share those stories that touch the hearts of others. If you have a story idea to share, please reach out by email to westona@cravencc.edu.