MDC is partnering with the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust as the activating agency for the Trust’s Great Expectations initiative. Great Expectations is an early childhood initiative that works to ensure that children in Forsyth County enter kindergarten ready to learn and leave set for success in school and in life.

In July 2015, the Trust publicly launched Great Expectations and awarded its first set of grants. Since then, MDC has provided thought partnership and strategic implementation support to the Trust, advancing critical projects toward a more equitable early childhood system in Forsyth County.

The work stems from MDC's understanding that quality early childhood education sets young children up for successful entry into school and careers. Children without a strong early educational foundation are more likely to drop out of school and less likely to attain a postsecondary education, which lowers the chances of experiencing upward economic mobility.

The child care system is an integral part of what MDC calls the “infrastructure of opportunity,” the aligned institutions, policies, and practices that make upward mobility possible. We discuss it here, in our paper “Early Childhood and Economic Mobility,” which examines ways early childhood investments enable progression through the talent development system on the path to upward economic mobility for children, parents and families, and the workforce of early childhood educators and caregivers.

As a first step in advising the Trust on strategic early childhood investment opportunities, MDC facilitated important opportunities for families, caregivers, and service providers to directly inform the development of the Trust’s grantmaking strategies. These efforts included:

  • Forsyth Family Voices, a collaborative approach to family engagement that trained service providers to develop common survey instruments and interview over 600 parents and caregivers (largely low-income and of color) about what families need to help their children succeed and the skills and energy that they have to offer. Unique in its cross-agency approach, this effort also built the capacity of local agencies to incorporate family voice into their work in an ongoing way. The effort also stressed outreach into the Latino community, which is traditionally under-counted and overlooked in the County. Learn more about our approach by reading The Engagement Imperative.
    In our paper "Critical Infrastructure: Supporting and Strengthening Informal Child Care," these care options are seen not as a continuum or rank order from formal to informal, but as an ecosystem that meets different needs at different times, with choice dependent on available child care settings and resources (time and financial), family and community priorities, and with pros and cons, quality and outcomes, variable throughout.
  • The Early Childhood Service System Analysis, conducted in partnership with Forsyth  Futures, used in-depth interviews of all local early childhood programs to create a comprehensive map of services that affect early childhood development. This analysis has allowed the Trust and the broader community to understand systems gaps and opportunities for alignment. Learn more by reading the 2017 ECSSA report.
  • The Family, Friend and Neighbor (FFN) Care Study surveyed over 1,200 parents and over 300 caregivers to learn more about informal child care arrangements in Forsyth County. Only a third of young children in the county are enrolled in licensed and regulated care, and these perspectives have better positioned the Trust and other community partners to strengthen supports for FFN caregivers and create a more holistic child care ecosystem in Forsyth County. Learn more by reading the 2018 FFN report.

Building on family engagement efforts and knowledge of the early childhood field, MDC supported the Trust in establishing a set of strategic goals, including improving birth and postpartum outcomes, addressing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), increasing access and equity in early childhood education, and promoting family economic security.

In order to advise the Trust on grantmaking opportunities that align with their strategic goals, MDC regularly scans the early childhood field for emerging strong practice. Deeper scans in the areas of family engagement, family, friend, and neighbor care, ACEs, and family economic security have directly informed the Trust’s approach to grantmaking.

In addition to promoting family engagement, research, and analysis about strong practice in early childhood, and providing thought partnership to the Trust, MDC partners with local community leaders and service providers to design, facilitate, and implement local systems-change efforts. Past and current efforts include:

  • Facilitating a collaborative design team to recommend, implement, and evaluate pilot supports and community education and advocacy to create a holistic child care ecosystem in Forsyth County that is inclusive and support of family, friend, and neighbor care.
  • Providing design and facilitation support to an effort to align birth to third-grade systems of care by de-siloing early childhood efforts and identifying and addressing a common set of priorities.
  • Facilitating a collaborative design process with system leaders toward a strong screening and referral system so parents could be well connected to the range of supports that children need.
  • Shaping and managing a learning network of local organizations working to strengthen their parent engagement efforts, in partnership with Nolo Consulting.
  • Ongoing efforts to deepen program and system alignment, including the advancement of universal postpartum home visiting (Family Connects) and universal Pre-K.

For more information, contact Trina Stephens at or visit the Trust’s website.