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State of Durham County’s Young Children Unveiled in Comprehensive Report

April 21, 2017

Durham, NC — Durham’s young children face a range of difficult challenges to thriving and learning, according to a report released today by a joint Durham County and Duke University task force.

The State of Durham County’s Young Children Task Force was a partnership between county government and the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy. It formed in 2016 to gather key information about early childhood experiences, health and learning. The group focused on children aged zero to eight.

“I hope that the information in this report helps to mobilize our community to provide a stronger foundation for all children in their early years so that more children are prepared to succeed in school and in life,” said Durham County Commissioner Ellen Reckhow.

Reckhow and Professor Kenneth A. Dodge, director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy, co-chaired the task force.

The report reveals significant disparities among segments of the population based on race and ethnicity. It includes five recommendations for the community to improve the lives of Durham’s young children.

Some of the findings: 

Adverse Childhood Experiences -- In 2015, approximately 5 percent of Durham’s young children were the subject of a maltreatment report and 16 percent lived in a home where housing costs exceeded 50 percent of income.

Birth and Maternal Health-- Nearly a third of babies in 2015 were born to mothers who did not receive critically important prenatal care in their first trimester.

Early Childhood -- The average cost of child care in Durham greatly exceeds the federal benchmark for 7 percent of a family’s income. 

Kindergarten to Grade 3 – Forty-seven percent of Durham third graders in public and charter schools are reading at grade level, which is 12 percentage points lower than the state average. The ability to read by the end of grade three is a key educational benchmark.

The task force’s recommendations are:

  • Provide trauma-informed services in a systemic way. These services include screening for adverse childhood experiences and training parents and school personnel to address trauma in children.
  • To ensure that Durham County infants enter the world healthy, increase efforts to educate the community about preconception and prenatal services available in Durham. Outreach efforts should focus in particular on the Hispanic and black communities.
  • Improve the availability, affordability and quality of early child care in Durham, with the goal of improving all children’s preparedness for kindergarten.
  • Expand educational and support services in grades kindergarten through third so Durham’s children meet or exceed the state average for reading and math proficiency.
  • Improve data collection across agencies and age groups so that community stakeholders can continue to identify areas of greatest need and track progress.

Dodge said, “Commissioner Reckhow is the driving force behind this effort. With these findings, our community can identify our children’s needs so that we can plan practices and policies to promote their healthy development.”

View the complete report here.

For additional questions about the report or its findings, e-mail