In February 2017, Vivien Stearns became the director of Family Services Child Development Division, adding more than 20 years of experience in elementary education and the field of early childhood education to Family Services Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
Vivien joined Family Services in 2015 as the director of the Forsyth County School Readiness Project (FCSRP). Funded by a grant from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, FCSRP improves young children’s emotional and behavioral development by enhancing teachers’ classroom management skills and by providing in-classroom mental health services when needed.
Prior to her work with Family Services, she taught elementary school children in the Philadelphia School System. In fact, she envisioned retiring as a first-grade teacher. That was until she began making home visits as the Senior Infant-Toddler Specialist for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. In that role she helped single mothers of young children complete educational activities with their children, ages birth to three. Vivien says this experience helped shape her career path and her desire to serve as an advocate for investing in early childhood education and bridging the critical relationship between a young child’s first teacher and the child’s parents.
Vivien believes that people “parish because of lack of knowledge.” Throughout her career she has witnessed the ability of single mothers to improve their circumstances, and that of their children, when they have access to resources, encouragement, information and opportunities to become involved.
Vivien has a first-hand understanding of the transformative power of opportunity-access. Born in High Point, NC, and raised in Philadelphia, PA, by a single mother, Vivien’s earliest education began in a Head Start program in South Philadelphia.
“One of my earliest memories with Head Start was attending a parent workshop. The parents were engaged in a variety of fun, make-it-and-take-it projects, and I learned how to crochet. My mom was an extremely active parent in Head Start,” she says.
With a love of education instilled in her by her mother and teachers, Vivien earned her bachelor of science in Elementary Education from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and a master in Early Childhood Education from the University of Phoenix.
After returning to North Carolina with her two children, who are now college graduates, Vivien taught in the Guilford County schools and became a preschool teacher at the Winston-Salem Sate University Child Development Center during the 1990s, the beginning of an administrative career in early childhood development that led to roles as compliance manager, education manager, cluster manager, center director and Early Head Start coordinator in North Carolina.