Wake County Smart Start (WCSS) works to ensure that children, birth to five, are prepared for success in school and in life.

In addition to programs directly managed by WCSS, 10 partner agencies also receive funding. Together, 11 local agencies provide services through 20 programs focused on the following goals:

  • Children are in safe, supportive home environments
  • Children are in high quality care that contributes to positive child outcomes
  • Children are healthy and developmentally ready for school
  • Children and families are supported by a strong, diverse, connected, and integrated early childhood system that promotes results

In carrying out our work as part of a larger system of agencies serving young children in our state, we embrace a shared definition of high quality that encourages us to look at the whole child, and to consider the needs of each child:

High-quality early care and education promotes positive child outcomes through:

  • Nurturing and responsive learning communities that promote trusting relationships
  • Engaging and positive interactions with children, families and staff
  • Inclusive and safe play environments with opportunities for physical, social-emotional, language and cognitive skill development
  • Teaching strategies that address the varying abilities of each child
  • Practices that respect diversity


The WCSS 2020-2023 Strategic Plan provides the roadmap for funding priorities and support for young children. The most recently adopted Strategic Plan includes a new lens of consideration: equity.


Frank Porter Graham Institute scientist Kathleen Gallagher calls building “physically, emotionally, cognitively, and socially healthy children” the “single most important feat of construction that our society undertakes.” Listen to her powerful TED Talk video, The Healthy Child: Assembly Required.