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Partner Profile: Children First/Communities in Schools

Adrienne Spinner, Director of Strategic Partnerships

As part of our mission to build a coalition that prioritizes housing advocacy across the state, NCHC works to build relationships with advocates across a variety of sectors. This month, we are highlighting the work of Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County. 

The organization now known as Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County began as Youth Services Action Group in 1976, with a focus on youth advocacy work.

Envisioning a community where children and youth are highly valued and are provided the maximum opportunity to reach their goals, the mission of Children First is to empower children and their families to reach their full potential through advocacy, education and services. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life – their core values include Opportunity, Equity, Justice, Success, Mutual Respect, Community, and Collaboration. 

In 1992, Children First was established as a program of the United Way of Asheville-Buncombe County and later opened the Family Resource Center to provide food, clothing, and emergency support. In 1998, they became an independent nonprofit which provided both direct services and public policy advocacy, and they officially became affiliated with Communities in Schools (CIS) in Buncombe County in 2003.

One of the key ways Children First/CIS works to pursue their mission is through the direct services they offer to children and their families in Buncombe County. Here are a few examples of those programs and services:

  • Student Support Specialists serve at Claxton, Emma, Estes, Oakley, Hall Fletcher, and Johnston Elementary schools as well as Eblen Intermediate. They connect students and their families to critical community resources that are tailored to meet each family’s individual needs. 
  • Afterschool Enrichment programs provide a safe place for 80 students. They receive homework help, a healthy snack, and enrichment activities.
  • Family Resource Centers help 300 families with food and clothing assistance, emergency financial assistance, and parent workshops.
  • Project POWER/AmeriCorps provides mentoring and enrichment activities to more than 1,000 youth living in Buncombe County.

In addition to direct services, Children First/CIS also provides advocacy and community education. 

We at NC Housing Coalition are thankful to be able to engage with Children First/CIS through the Success Equation Housing Team (SEHT), who raise awareness of and develop sustainable solutions for issues affecting children and families . We have hosted virtual conversations with stakeholders to talk about the intersections of child welfare and housing, particularly prioritizing the theme of housing as the foundation for a child’s social determinants of health. Our partnership with the SEHT furthers the work we have done as part of Opportunity Starts at Home (OSAH), a national campaign that seeks to “build a movement with stakeholders from many sectors to generate widespread support for federal policies that correct long-standing racial inequities and economic injustices, by ensuring quality housing for people with low incomes.”

We look forward to collaborating further with Children First/ CIS of Buncombe County and the Success Equation Team at the intersection of child welfare and housing. 

If you are interested in learning more about Children First/Communities in Schools of Buncombe County and their work, visit

If you are interested in the OSAH campaign and want to learn more, visit you are interested in becoming a Coalition partner or engaging more with us, contact our Director of Strategic Partnerships at

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