CHARLOTE, N.C. — Figuring out what services and treatments are available for children with special health care needs can be a daunting task, but there is a new program on the horizon in Mecklenburg County aiming to provide another resource.


What You Need To Know

Smart Start Mecklenburg County studied the systems of care for children under age 5 with special health care needs

The study, Taming the Octopus, showed a lack of services for children during the transition into Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Smart Start Mecklenburg County's Guiding Parents to Services team will now work with families using the Children's Developmental Services Agency to transition into CMS


Smart Start Mecklenburg County focuses on getting children ages 1 to 5 ready for kindergarten. In their study, Taming the Octopus, they researched the systems of care for children younger than five with special health care needs. They consulted experts, checked data and county history, even brought in parents like Rachelle Lawrie to talk about their struggles.

Lawrie has two children, 8-year-old Demayne “Junior” Jones and 4-year-old Abi Lee. Jones was born with several conditions affecting his eyes, stomach and ears as well as his heart. Both children have autism.

“A lot of times we’re getting launched into this world of special needs parenting, and we know nothing about it. I didn’t know anything about autism,” Lawrie said.

Jake House, Smart Start Mecklenburg CEO, said they are already using the report to implement changes in their workflow. Their Guiding Parents to Services team has partnered with the Children's Developmental Services Agency.

“It's activating an idea and a solution in a very small beginning way, but it has the potential to become bigger and bigger and bigger,” House said.

GPS has shifted to help families receiving CDSA services transition into the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system. GPD will help bridge the time as children are exiting from CDSA services, but are still pending programming with CMS, by supporting families and empowering them to get the services their child needs.