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Our mission is to inspire and sustain a local movement to reduce and prevent the root causes of poverty and its impact on children in Buncombe County through education, collaboration, and public policy. Our vision is a community where all children can thrive.


The Need

No child chooses to be born into poverty. All children deserve to be well cared for, healthy, safe, and educated so they have opportunities for success in the future. Unfortunately, children in poverty usually experience poorer health, safety, and education, as well as greater levels of toxic stress, than children from families with more money. In Buncombe County, right now 1 in 4 children in our county is living in poverty.

Children from low-income families are more likely to come to school behind, have undiagnosed learning disabilities, score lower on academic achievement tests, and drop out of school.  They have less access to adequate health care and are 6 times as likely to live in homes without enough food, in high-crime neighborhoods.

Children from low-income families are also more likely to experience parental joblessness, substance abuse, homelessness, and/or absence of a parent – leading to toxic stress levels that brain research shows hardwires young children’s brains and slows cognitive and emotional development.


History of the Success Equation

bookIn 2010, Children First/CIS launched a listening project to document the experience of families facing poverty in Buncombe County. 113 low-income people,  including teen and Latina mothers, participated in focus groups and one-on-one interviews. Additionally, we interviewed service providers that work with low-income families. Interview participants represented a wide geographic range: from public housing in the city, the Emma community, south Asheville, east Asheville, and Barnardsville.

Children First/CIS presented the issues raised by the listening session to a broader community summit for action ideas. In May 2011, Children First/CIS hosted a two-day appreciative inquiry summit attended by 120 participants representing local organizations, community leaders, low-income individuals and interested community members.  Out of this summit, an Action Plan was created and committees formed.

The current Success Equation Action Plan includes emphasis in the three key focus areas identified from interviews and at the summit: Early Childhood Development  •  Child &Family Supports  •  Family Economic Stability


Our Roles

The Success Equation unites our community to alleviate the root causes of child poverty. We do this in Buncombe County through the following roles:

  •  Educator – reporting poverty data, messaging about poverty’s impact, and inspiring broader dialogue focused on solutions.
  • Advocate – building a local advocacy voice supportive of public policy and investment in effective programs that meet children’s basic needs and place them on a path to success.
  • Convener – connecting individuals, businesses, government, schools, faith communities, and organizations to enhance promising strategies, collaborations, and creative/provocative ideas.


The Communications Team helps create broad messaging for the Success Equation and interface with the other teams to provide specific messaging for policy, volunteer opportunities, and frontline initiatives.

  • Promote the message that “child poverty impacts all of us, but the problem is fixable when a community unites.”
  • Increase understanding about poverty, dismantle negative stereotypes, and highlight effective programs, collaborations and policy that reduce the incidence and impact of poverty.
  • Position the Success Equation as a resource on child and family poverty data, stories, and solutions.


The Policy Team reviews the impact of policy decisions related to our focus areas and engages community partners to advocate. Click here for the  Success Equation Policy Agenda 2015

  • Develop and move forward a policy agenda focused on local and state policies and investments that build pathways for families moving out of poverty and reduce risks for families facing “benefit cliffs.”
  • Work with local benefit providers, government, schools, and policy makers to elevate cross-sector conversation, awareness, and problem solving related to policies and resources impacting low-income children and families.
  • Engage organizations, individuals, businesses, and faith communities, to advocate for the Success Equation’s policy agenda.


The Family Resource Center Team helps shape the Family Resource Center Roundtable to meet three objectives: Networking/Sharing; Focus on best practices & evidenced-based programs; and shared evaluation and messaging to attract resources. The roundtable is comprised of members from existing or emerging family resource centers – including school-based initiatives and the Community Navigator program – in Buncombe County.

  • Support and connect local sites that support and empower children and their families, improve access to services and social connection, and increase educational, vocational, health, and parenting skills.
  • Identify evidence-based and/or promising practices that resource centers can implement to meet community identified priorities and engage parents in family resource centers in policy advocacy and local democracy.
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