About ZFive

ZFive is a collaborative working group, providing a community of support for the positive social and emotional development of children ages birth (zero) through five in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. Founded in 2007, ZFive works to raise awareness, advocate for resources and enhance the quality of services provided to young children and their families in our area. With representation from dozens of local organizations, our diverse group includes mental health practitioners, program administrators, funders, educators, early intervention providers, childcare providers, researchers, medical professionals, and parents. We welcome new participants at any time!

Quarterly meetings are held virtually on the third Thursday of January, April, July and October from 9-10:30 am. Click here to receive updates from ZFive, including information on how to attend our meetings.

Why Early Childhood Matters

Rapid brain development provides a window of opportunity in early childhood

At birth, a baby's brain is one of the few major organs that is still in the process of development. It is only 25% of the size it will reach in adulthood. While the newborn brain is fully equipped to manage reflexes and other responses required for survival, higher-level brain functions - e.g., communication skills, the capacity for learning, and the regulation of behavior & emotions - develop over time, and depend heavily on input from the environment surrounding the child.

z-five Why Early Childhood Matters

Why is the environment so crucial in brain development?

Although the newborn brain already contains most of the brain cells (neurons) it will have throughout life, the child's environment determines how those neurons will be organized. Every experience - positive or negative - creates connections between neurons (synapses). And these connections provide a blueprint for the child's behavior, motivation, learning and self-regulation throughout the lifespan. At the rate of one million new connections formed per second, the first five years of life represent the most robust period of brain growth in all of development.

For how long does this rapid period of brain development continue?

By age 5, the brain has reached 90% of its adult size, and the foundation for much of the brain's architecture is now in place. Of course, the brain continues to take in information and becomes more specialized as development continues. But the first five years of life are unparalleled in terms of the brain's growth with respect to size and connectivity. Given that the brain drives every aspect of thought, behavior and emotion, it's easy to see why what happens in the early years of a child's life is so crucial. It sets the stage for lifelong development.

How can adults promote children's early brain development?

For Parents/Caregivers

Adults are the key to promoting children's early brain development

We now know that stable and nurturing caregiver relationships are the key to promoting the best possible outcomes for children, which means that YOU can make a difference in your child’s early development! By providing sensitive and responsive care, including lots of serve-and-return interactions, you are giving the environmental input your child’s brain needs to grow.

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How do I know that my child's development is on-track?

Because we can't see inside the brain to check on its growth, caregivers sometimes wonder if what they are seeing in their child is "normal" or expected. Checking for milestones in the way children play, learn, behave and interact is one way that pediatricians are able to ensure that children's early development is on track. Parents can do this, too, through the Centers for Disease Control's "Learn the Signs, Act Early" Milestones Tracker.

Learn more about milestones in development:

Where can I go if I have concerns about my child's development?

The friendly professionals at the Children's Developmental Services Agency (CDSA) (if your child is birth to 2 years of age), or the Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) - Exceptional Children's program (if you child is between 3 and 5), provide free evaluations and help finding services.

What local resources are available for families with young children in Mecklenburg County?

The partner agencies that comprise ZFive are here to help! We have put together a short list of resources that are helpful to families with young children in our community.

Still Have Questions?

You don't have to go it alone! Our live community navigator, Wanda, is here to help. Ask her a question, and she will direct you to agencies with all the answers about birth-to-five services in Mecklenburg County.
Ask Wanda!