First Lady Tracey Quillen Carney has been recognized nationally for her work to end childhood hunger, promote early language development, and identify and respond to childhood trauma.
Carney says she feels the award, the 2021 Casey Excellence for Children Leadership Award, is not an individual achievement, but a group award for First Chance Delaware, a statewide initiative she helps support.
First Chance Delaware coordinates partnerships with public, private and nonprofit organizations to help low-income children access nutritious food, promote early language and literacy skills, and improve ways to mitigate trauma.
“Deep problems need deep solutions,” Carney said.
Carney also works with Trauma Matters Delaware, a network of health and educational organizations that focuses on trauma prevention, early intervention and treatment services.
Her push for early literacy programs led her to serve as honorary chair of Delaware’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library Program, and work for library card and kindergarten registration campaigns.
While COVID-19 has hindered her efforts in some ways, Carney said, she has been able to move forward and learn from the pandemic. As leader of the Task Force to End Childhood Hunger, she helped ensure children were fed when COVID-19 closed schools in spring 2020. The number of meals served was a staggering leap from the year before, she said.
“We had to ramp up ways to get food to kids,” Carney said. “We were determined nothing was going to stop us.”
A former staffer in then-Sen. Joe Biden’s office for 15 years, Carney next worked as communications director for Wilmington Friends School for another 15 years.
A product of Quaker schools herself, Carney said the Quaker educational model is a solid foundation for schools because of its fundamental themes of equality, perpetual curiosity and openness to others’ perspectives combined with values of integrity, community, respect, and the idea that God is in everyone.
Carney is working with Casey Family Programs’ Communities of Hope program to help strengthen families and prevent the need for foster care, and she plans to focus on programs that expand medical services for new mothers and young children.
“It will help families be able to do what they want, and lift up their kids the way they want to,” she said.
Carney said she knows several families who have fostered and adopted children who have experienced trauma and tremendous obstacles.
“Those are the real heroes,” she said. “That’s walking the walk.”