I distinctly remember the first times I dropped off my children at child care at the end of my maternity leave. The memory of my son Leo’s first day is more vivid because of its recency, but the feelings were the same.

I was a nervous wreck all day. Would they like him? Would he like them? I wondered how long it took him to stop crying after I left. What if he didn’t eat or sleep?

All these questions raced through my mind as I sat through meetings. To say I was distracted was an understatement. By the time the clock hit 4:59, I was out the door with my keys to go pick him up.

It became apparent that my children’s teachers play not only a very important role in their lives, but also in mine, affecting my ability to be at work on time and have a productive day. Knowing I have safe and reliable child care is invaluable and allows me to go to the office and do what I need to do to provide for my family.

My situation is not unique or exceptional, and Leo is one of 2,400 children in licensed child care centers in Henderson County. At the Children & Family Resource Center, we understand the long-term effects that high quality child care can have for any caregiver.

With access to childcare, comes the ability to enter the workforce and improve productivity with fewer days missed, and the potential for increased hours.

Each day, nearly half of the children under the age of 5 in Henderson County are dropped off at a licensed child care facility to learn, grow and thrive. Each day, the Children & Family Resource Center’s Child Care Resource & Referral staff is also in these licensed child care centers providing on-site technical assistance and professional development.

Every interaction in a child’s life is significant, especially in the first five years, and we are working alongside local child care providers to share state requirements on health and safety and developmentally appropriate practices. Our staff’s goal is to ensure every child has quality early childhood interactions to positively shape the rest of his or her life.

Our newest program, the WNC Early Childhood Workforce Development Grant, was awarded funds through the NCWorks Local Innovation Fund, a part of Gov. Roy Cooper’s NC Job Ready Initiative. The two-year grant is designed to address the shortage of quality early childhood teachers and child care slots in Buncombe, Henderson, Madison and Transylvania Counties by recruiting candidates interested in entering the career of Early Childhood Education.

The pathway for participants includes paid pre-service training, classroom-based observations and coaching and financial assistance for tuition and books to support the attainment of the NC Early Childhood Credential.

This opportunity will allow prospective teachers to implement the skills learned as a substitute in local early childhood classrooms to full-time employment as child care teachers.

The program creates a strong career pipeline for field of early childhood and allows for greater access and availability of quality child care for working families.

Every day, the 13 programs at CFRC are helping lay the foundation for the future of Henderson County’s children – not only their kindergarten readiness or third grade EOG’s, but also their high school graduation potential, and their ability to sit in an interview and have the soft skills needed for today’s job market.

The presence of quality early childhood programs and highly qualified educators are not just beneficial for people with children, but for our entire community.

We all survived Leo’s first day and the two and a half years since. It may have taken him a year to stop crying at drop off each morning, but it never lasted long and I know he is happy and safe in his classroom. He has even discovered a love of biscuits and gravy.

Because of high-quality interactions at child care, Leo and 2,400 other children in our county are learning developmentally appropriate content preparing them for kindergarten, learning social skills needed for future employment, and helping strengthen families.

Jamie Wiener is the Executive Director of the Children & Family Resource Center at 851 Case St. in Hendersonville. Find more information about CFRC at www.childrenandfamily.org or call 828-698-0674.