Rebeca Cortez was just a junior in high school when she learned she was pregnant. She remembers feeling scared.
“I was going to be a teenage mom,” she says, “and I hadn’t graduated yet.”
A family member connected Cortez with Imprints Cares, a local nonprofit that strives to enrich the development of children while supporting their families through the journey of parenthood. A family educator immediately began regular home visits to help her prepare for the birth of her son Nathaniel in August of 2015 and provided ongoing support that focused on her role in nurturing his early development.
Today, 3-year-old Nathaniel is meeting developmental milestones and is on track to enter school ready to learn.
“I know what I have to do in order for him to get all the knowledge he needs for his age, and I am able to give him what he needs,” says Cortez, who not only finished high school but recently earned a certificate in medical office administration at Forsyth Tech. “I learn new things every day and he surprises me every day. I like being a mom.”
Nearly half of all children in Forsyth County are not prepared for kindergarten at age 5. And statistics show that children who start school behind, stay behind.
“Research suggests that 80 percent of a child’s brain develops in the first three years of life,” says Claudia Barrett, executive director of the nonprofit that specializes in early childhood education. “Our core service is to help prepare parents to be their children’s very best teacher. Parents want what’s best for their children but may not know how simple interaction can impact early learning skills.”
For more than 25 years, Imprints Cares has built its work around the internationally recognized Parents as Teachers model, offering tiered services aimed at meeting parents where they are. Family educators work with families through one-on-one consultations in pediatric offices, administer developmental screenings, conduct home visits, and lead group connections.
Statistics bear out the success families achieve through its Ready for School programs:
The nonprofit’s success has hinged in large part on a commitment to continually evaluate the effectiveness of its staff and programming.
Thanks to a grant from the Foundation, Laurie Brown now works as the full-time evaluator for Imprints Cares. Her ongoing assessments allow the nonprofit to learn more about the children and families it serves as well as the long-term impact in the community.
Barrett believes the nonprofit’s emphasis on evaluation sets it apart. “Our organization is well-positioned to validate our work as an evidence-based model addressing the needs of children as well as impacting family dynamics and poverty.”
In 2016 and 2017, Imprints Cares received two Community Grants totaling $52,500 to support a full-time evaluator position. Since 1990, the Foundation has provided the organization with more than $310,000 in grant support.