Change of leadership at Child Care Services Association

Jul. 17, 2013 @ 04:51 PM

Child Care Services Association is under new leadership, but hasn’t lost the expertise of its previous leader.

As of July 1, former state employee Anna Carter became the new president and CEO of CCSA, replacing the agency’s previous president, Sue Russell.

“Certainly, it is my goal to be sure we maintain these programs because these supports are needed,” Carter said. “We’re looking at opportunities to expand on services we’re doing. We want to try new educational opportunities that are available and see what works with those that we’re doing and want to do more of.”

Carter is former deputy director of North Carolina’s division of child development and early education. In this capacity, she worked with Russell and connected with other agencies that she will continue to work with in her new role.

Russell is more than a staple for Child Care Services Association. As co-founder, she is actually one of the cornerstones. Having spent the last 40 years doing all she can through CCSA to help children in Durham and Orange Counties, Russell is taking a step back. Sort of.

Russell now serves as the part-time executive director of CCSA’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Technical Assistant and Quality Assurance Center.

“I am certainly proud of what CCSA has done,” Russell said. “We’ve become a standard bearer for how to make the system better and the way that we do business; the work that we’ve done with the workforce, giving so many women a chance to get an education and really transform their lives, it’s just personally gratifying to see this investment in human capital payoff.”

Carter said she has no intentions of reinventing the wheel. Instead, she will make sure that CCSA continues to move in the right direction as efficiently as possible.

“I’m going to work to maintain those partnerships at the state level because CCSA can’t do it by itself,” Carter said. “I know the industries that are working in this field and can bring my expertise from the state level.

“With Sue 50 feet away, we’re not losing that history and knowledge or that someone to bounce ideas off of. Her (Russell’s) passion for the work was not foreign to me. Her attention to detail, her focus, is very clear. It’s a good solid process that’s been put in place.”

Child Care Services Association began in 1974 as two independent organizations affiliated with their local United Way chapters: the Durham Day Care Council in Durham County and the Day Care Services Association in Orange County.

Durham’s agency worked to connect families with needed child care services and made sure that those services were of high quality, while Orange’s agency focused on high-quality services for low-income children, Russell explained.

“Orange County started with a single focus of helping the United Way with those issues and we actually became bigger. We created some statewide initiatives in the early 90s and actually did what Durham did in Orange County,” said Russell. “We mirrored what they did, but also continued to focus on low-income kids and scholarships and early childhood workforce.”

In 1990, Russell was part of the launch of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Project, a pilot scholarship program that provided the means for many in early childhood education to get the education that would benefit themselves and their students.

The program began with a handful of students, about $23,000 in three counties, involving two community colleges. The program has now grown to 23 states and the District of Columbia and has given out more than 100,000 scholarships, Russell said.

“We were able to help women who always wished they could have a college education and it changed their whole lives,” she said. “It’s often been a wish but they never had the means to go. It also changes the educational trajectory for their own children.”

Russell beamed as she talked about how CCSA helped so many lives in Durham and Chapel Hill. She didn’t refer to notes or talking points on index cards, but recalled the progress of CCSA as if it all happened within the last month.

DDCC and DCSA merged in 1999 to form CCSA and the two “have been together since and have continued to grow since then.”

Despite all of the work that’s been done and the progress that’s been made, Russell said that some misconceptions make her job harder.

“Every parent wants what’s best for their child, but unfortunately not every parent can afford it and they need help,” she said. “It’s the same with teachers. Not every teacher has the resources to do their very best.

“We, the United States, unlike other developed countries, we have not prioritized and put the funding around what young children and families need. The amount of money invested in children, it’s absolutely striking the difference.”

With all of her years of experiences, Russell said her magic wand to cure the ills of early childhood education would “fund early childhood education at the same rate we fund high school, an equal investment in every child.

“The dollars would allow the infrastructure to grow in the ways it needs to,” Russell said. “All of it would have high standards and be affordable to every family. It’s all about priorities and what you believe is a good investment. If you invest early, it’s way smarter. It’s much, much harder and expensive, and possibly harder, when you do it later.”