A recent article in the New York Times lauded several cities’ new approach to preparing children to succeed. It’s predicated on the idea that dozens of factors influence whether a child will fly or flounder. These cradle-to-career programs bring together stakeholders from across the community – not just parents and teachers – to address a web of interconnected issues that have bearing on children’s ability to ultimately live productive lives. What they’re discovering is that it does take a village to raise a child.
Who’s involved? It depends on the program, but it’s a wide range of constituencies: faith leaders, local government, police, healthcare experts, philanthropy, business leaders, schools, and parents.
How are they organized? Each of these constituencies has one or more representatives who serve as part of a formal coalition. The group considers everything that might negatively or positively impact a child’s development, and how these factors interconnect, before seeking solutions.
How do they work? Much of what they do is investigative and data-driven. What are essential milestones for success? Where are children falling behind? What are all the factors that drive these issues? What assets does the city have to create change? The group relies heavily on before and after data to determine what’s broken and ultimately what’s working.
What are common issues that influence children’s performance? Some are: poverty, class size, school resources, not reaching key reading/math milestones, as well as a host of children’s individual experiences that can negatively influence their ability to learn and grow.
As the author so aptly points out, “Sometimes schools treat students as brains on a stick who come to be filled with skills and information. But children don’t leave behind their emotions, their diet, their traumas, their safety fears, their dental problems and so on when they get to school. If you’re going to help kids, you have to help the whole kid all at once.”
You’ll be glad to know that two of Liberty Bank Foundation’s grantees are engaged in such efforts right now. Kudos to the Coalition for New Britain’s Youth and Waterbury Bridge to Success for engaging representatives from across the community on behalf of children’s well-being.
Read the NY Times article, and then stop by these local organization’s websites to learn more about their life-changing efforts.
Above, Liberty Bank Branch Manager Marzena Bukowski (c) delivers a grant check to the Coalition for New Britain’s Youth staffers (l to r) Tracey Madden-Hennessey and Mallory Deprey.