“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”

Maria Montessori


Our Mission

Wake County SmartStart (WCSS) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our mission is to build the capacity of families and the community to prepare children for success in school and in life.

Learn more about our priorities.

Our Beliefs

WCSS believes that each child has the potential to do great things! We also believe:

  • Learning begins at birth
  • All children deserve the best opportunities for learning and development
  • Families and communities play a critical role in children’s learning
  • Collaboration is essential to accomplish our vision

Our Core Values

WCSS is guided by a set of core values that define what is important to us as an organization and are the basic elements of how we go about our work. These core values affect how we interact not only with our community’s children and families, but also with each other.

Learn more about our core values.

What We Do

WCSS works to improve the quality, accessibility and affordability of child care, provide preventive health and early intervention services and offer family support services—all delivered as part of a strong, diverse integrated early childhood system.

Our work is truly collaborative. WCSS’ funded partners provide direct services for children and their families. Community volunteers, staff members, child care providers, schools, civic organizations and local businesses all strive to realize WCSS’ mission and build a strong foundation for children’s learning and development beginning at birth.

Learn more about our programs.

Our Origins

Smart Start was established in 1993 as a statewide, public/private partnership under the leadership of Governor James B. Hunt, Jr. In order to “make North Carolina’s schools the best in America.” Governor Hunt identified five goals, the first of which was that “Every child must start school healthy and ready to learn.”

WCSS was officially formed in 1996. WCSS is part of a network of 75 nonprofit local partnerships led by The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC).

Our Funding

The State of North Carolina is our largest source of funding. In addition, The John Rex Endowment funds two of our programs, Wake Connections and Farm to Child Care.


    What is the connection between WCSS and the NC Pre-Kindergarten program?

    WCSS and the NC Pre-Kindergarten program are two separate programs. However, WCSS only administers the NC Pre-Kindergarten Program in Wake County. We process applications from families and place children in pre-Kindergarten classrooms, process applications from child care centers wanting to host  pre-Kindergarten classrooms and provide oversight and technical assistance to existing Pre-Kindergarten program administrators.

    Are WCSS programs only for low-income families?

    WCSS and all funded programs prioritize services to children in families with limited resources and additional risk factors and to the child care facilities that serve this population. The WCSS Board has utilized this definition of children with “greatest need” for over 10 years in order to target WCSS resources. All programs funded by WCSS prioritized services to children and facilities who met this criteria.

    Does WCSS operate child care centers?

    WCSS does not operate child care centers, nor do we provide funding to help start family home care centers. Through Child Care Program Quality Supplements and other funded activities (technical assistance, grants, teacher training, consultation, and planning), WCSS helps hundreds of child care centers enhance the overall quality of care for children. WCSS also administers the Pre-K program in Wake County.

    Is WCSS run by the state?

    No. WCSS is a nonprofit organization. We have a local Board of Directors with community and business representatives. Our Board sets boundaries and makes key operational and funding decisions that our Executive Director manages.

    Can I obtain child care vouchers through WCSS?

    WCSS does not provide child care vouchers. Wake County’s Subsidy Program is administered by Wake County Human Services. To learn if your family is eligible or to receive an application, contact the Wake County Human Services Subsidy Program Office at 919-212-7376.

    Is WCSS affiliated with Head Start?

    WCSS and Head Start are separate agencies. While we are not affiliated, WCSS and Head Start are community partners. Head Start receives funding for the Family Literacy Program from WCSS.

    WCSS is funded by the State of North Carolina and private contributions. Head Start is a federal preschool program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information about the Head Start program in Wake County, visit the Telamon Corporation website.



2017-18 Fact Sheet: English Spanish

2017-18 Partner ListEnglish  Spanish