Community Foundation Grant Supports 6th Dare County State Of The Child Conference

By Tatum Clements

Over 140 people, including business leaders, government officials, local nonprofits, health professionals, school representatives, health and human service agencies, and concerned community members came together to discuss issues related to Dare County’s youth at Dare County’s 6th State of the Child Conference on Thursday, March 14.

A Community Enrichment Grant from the Outer Banks Community Foundation (OBCF) to the Children & Youth Partnership for Dare County (CYP) supported the 2024 Dare County State of the Child Conference, which focused on addressing the most pressing needs for children and youth on the Outer Banks, including child care/early learning, child-wellbeing/mental health, and enrichment/recreation.

Created in 1994 following the second State of the Child Conference in Dare County, CYP is a private, nonprofit organization that connects all children, adolescents, and their families with resources to ensure they have what they need to thrive. Grants from the Community Foundation have supported all of Dare County’s State of the Child Conferences.

“We are thankful for our partnership with the Outer Banks Community Foundation (OBCF), who generously provided a grant to support the 6th Dare County State of the Child Conference,” said CYP Executive Director Sara Sampson. “It was amazing to see such incredible interest from our community! Our vision was to bring greater awareness to the importance of high-quality early learning opportunities for all children. I feel inspired as I think about the collective impact that we will have as we join efforts to explore long-term solutions to ensure the well-being of our children and our community.”

The conference was co-chaired by community leaders Beth Storie and Tess Judge. 

“What an energizing conference we had in March,” said CYP Director Emeritus and OBCF Board Director Tess Judge. “It is about ‘our children’ each day. The conference focused on all aspects of what children are experiencing in these times and the best practices for addressing their needs.”

Macey Chovaz and Ivy Ingram co-chaired the event’s Program Committee. They worked with the committee and CYP staff to identify community needs through surveys and interviews, secure speakers, and organize the runway-style presentations by child-focused professionals and parents who told their stories at the conference.

“Our vision for the day was for it to be positive and uplifting, but also address any gaps in services in our community and I think we accomplished what we envisioned,” said Ivy Ingram.

A survey conducted prior to the conference revealed that community members believe that infant and toddler childcare is the most urgent need for children and families in Dare County. 

“I have been a preschool/child care program owner in Kill Devil Hills since October 2001,” added Ingram. “During that time there is one thing that has never changed and that is the need for child care. As you can imagine, next to housing it is our community’s greatest need. Nearly 15 years ago after the 4th State of the Child we attempted to address the child care shortfall, but hit roadblocks. After seeing that room full of incredible community members, I am confident that we’ll find a solution to not just child care but all of our needs for our children and adolescents and make Dare County an even greater place for our kids.”

Susan Butler-Straub from the North Carolina Early Education Coalition spoke at the conference citing the critical role child care plays in shaping the future, and the current strains experienced by both families and child care providers.

According to the North Carolina Early Education Coalition, North Carolina is considered a “child care desert” when it comes to infant and toddler care, with a statewide average of more than five families with babies competing for every available licensed child care space. Dare County falls into the child care desert with 1,594 children under the age of five living in the community, but only 550 early child care slots.

“Child care is the backbone of our economy,” said Straub during her presentation. “You can create something that will work for your community,” she added, stressing the importance of investing in innovative early childhood care and education. 

Outside of child care, mental health, and well-being were identified as Dare County’s youths’ greatest needs through the conference committee’s research.

Early Childhood Specialist and National Trainer Dr. Nefertiti Poyner from the Devereux Center for Resilient Children giving her presentation at the conference.

Early Childhood Specialist and National Trainer Dr. Nefertiti Poyner from the Devereux Center for Resilient Children presented “Building Resilient Communities: A Pathway to Positive Childhood Experiences and Well-Being” at the conference.  

“As part of my work with The Devereux Center for Resilient Children, I have the honor and privilege of sharing the hopeful message of resilience with others,” said Dr. Nefertiti Poyner. “During my presentation, I spoke of “rain and umbrellas.” We can think of the challenges we face in life as the rain that falls on us. When it’s raining, we need an umbrella. The umbrella metaphor I used in my presentation symbolizes the collective effort and the various elements required to build a resilient community that can protect and nurture our children.”

Poyner’s presentation exemplified the importance of early childhood well-being, including mental and emotional health as well as social and economic circumstances. 

“The State of the Child Conference provided an excellent opportunity to share ideas and best practices on how to foster resilience among children,” added Poyner. “The dedication I witnessed there reinforces my belief in the power of community collaboration to create a nurturing environment where our children can thrive and reach their full potential. The day was symbolic of a statement that guides my work – It takes a healthy village to raise healthy children.”

A diverse panel of Dare County residents, including a school counselor, a surgeon, sports coaches, mental health professionals, a physician, and parents shared personal testimonies at the conference providing insight into the reality of the issues facing children and families. Each speaker shared their story, which included what they would do for their community if they had a magic wand. 

St. Andrews By-The-Sea Rector Nathan Finnin was one of the residents who shared a testimony. He spoke about his personal experience as a parent with young children and his work experience with St. Andrews preschool.

“We moved to the Outer Banks in June of 2020, with a 5-year-old and an 11-month-old,” said Finnin. “We are privileged that my family can live comfortably on a single income. Were we in a situation where both my wife and I needed full-time employment, we could not have made the move here to the Outer Banks. There are just not enough full-time child care opportunities to make it work for us. What that means though, is that families can’t afford for both parents to work. My wife has a Master’s degree in Education, and we can’t afford for her to work. I wonder how many people are in similar situations, and the toll it is taking on an already strained workforce. What kind of local talent is sitting on the bench because either they can’t afford to work, or they can’t find the care necessary to do so.”

Rev. Finnin not only experienced child care issues as a parent, but also as a child care provider. “One of the other realities of my role is that I work closely with our preschool director,” said Finnin. “She opened enrollment for the 2024-2025 year during the last week of February. In less than a week, there was a waitlist for every class. If I had a magic wand, I would connect those willing to provide child care with spaces that sit empty for large portions of the week and school year. One of the questions I wrestle with in my professional role is how to maximize the use of space that sits empty most of the day. I don’t have the answers, but they’re questions worth asking.”

Attendees participating in the conference’s World Cafe.

The conference concluded with attendees participating in a World Cafe that encouraged group dialogue and provided a platform for solutions to be discussed in the future. 

“We are looking forward to continuing our collaborative work in the community, to ensure that our children, youth, and their families and educators have what they need to thrive,” said CYP Executive Director Sara Sampson. “As a follow up to the conference, we invite those who are interested in being involved with some of the recommendations from the State of the Child Conference, to partner with us as we begin to update our strategic plan over the coming months to address the areas of greatest need.” 

The State of the Child Conference Committee is meeting again in mid-April to review the feedback and recommendations for possible solutions that came out of the event and to discuss their next steps. 

To learn more about CYP, visit

Children & Youth Partnership (CYP) for Dare County is a private, non-profit organization that connects kids and their families with resources to help them thrive. Created following the second State of the Child Conference in Dare County in 1994, the organization was charged with focusing on issues brought forward at that conference and worked to establish the Wright Place for Youth and the Dare County Youth Center. In 1997, the Partnership began administering North Carolina’s nationally recognized Smart Start early childhood program for Dare County, ensuring that all children are ready to succeed upon entering school. Since then, CYP has sponsored four additional State of the Child Conferences to focus work on what all kids need to thrive. Today, CYP works with the help of many community groups, businesses, and individuals to offer a variety of programs and services to ensure the healthy development of all children from birth through adolescence.

The Outer Banks Community Foundation awards quarterly Community Enrichment Grants to qualifying nonprofit organizations to help meet local needs and enrich the quality of life for the people of the Outer Banks. Community Enrichment Grants are awarded four times a year, with application deadlines on the last Friday of January, April, July, and October. For more information about Community Enrichment Grants, visit

The Outer Banks Community Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charitable organization that inspires philanthropy and connects people who care with causes that matter. The Community Foundation manages 220 charitable funds for individuals and agencies, including 70 scholarship funds; awards grants to nonprofits and scholarships for higher education, and provides tailored services to help donors pursue their charitable interests. Since its inception in 1982, the Community Foundation has awarded more than $13 million in grants and scholarships.