Skip to main content

Date and Time: April 12, 2022 | 12-1:30pm

Program Description: 

Little kids need mental health supports too. Children’s social-emotional health and development is imperative for their success. During this presentation, we will review social-emotional health and development, what families say they need, and how the EarlyWell Initiative has responded over the last 2 years and what the future of North Carolina can look like systemically through policy and advocacy.


Mary Mathew, MSPH serves as the Collaboration and Policy Leader at the NC Early Childhood Foundation, where she spearheads collaboration across systems to advance a shared vision and course of action for young children and families. She currently leads the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Initiative, supports the collective efforts of NC Campaign for Grade-Level Reading communities, and partners with NC Child to co-facilitate the EarlyWell Initiative. Her work experience spans community-based nonprofit, school, university, and international settings.

Morgan Forrester Ray, MSW is a systems thinker, rooted in creating equitable systems for all, especially marginalized populations. She is committed to and passionate about women and children’s health, as an advocate, social worker, and birth doula. She is a multi-skilled program administrator with experience in the government, for-profit, and non-profit sectors. Since 2019, Morgan has been the Director of the EarlyWell Initiative, a multi-year initiative to strengthen and expand the state’s early childhood mental health system amidst Medicaid Transformation. Under her leadership, the initiative aims to improve the social-emotional health of children birth-8 by ensuring that children with social-emotional challenges have access to and receive the services needed.

Learning Objectives: 

At the conclusion of this program, participants will be able to:

    1. Recognize at least 3 aspects of positive social-emotional health and development in young children
    2. Summarize 2 points of support needed by North Carolina families with young children
    3. Identify the EarlyWell Initiative and its policy levers and examine 2 ways to engage in the program’s advocacy


Ableidinger, M. (2021, April). Leaning in and listening to families’ voices.

Forrester, M. (2020, January). Little kids need mental health supports, too!.

NCIOM. (2012, August 9). Growing up well: Supporting young children’s social-emotional development and mental health in North Carolina.

Ray, M.F. (2021, May). Introducing the EarlyWell Initiative.