Children’s Services Program Needs Assessment: Part Two

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THE CHILDREN’S SERVICES PROGRAM, operating under an Advisory Committee created by an Indian River County Resolution in 1990, provides funding for children’s services throughout the County.

Under Section 3 of the Resolution, Part (b), the Advisory Committee is to “conduct a needs assessment for services required for children in Indian River County.”

The Indian River County Children’s Needs Assessment, conducted for the first time since 2006, shows increases in poverty along with decreases in educational opportunities and outcomes. There are approximately 28,600 children under the age of 19 in Indian River County (IRC) of which 18,100 are enrolled in our public school system (SDIRC).

In our last volume we wrote about the findings of the Children’s Services 2014 Indian River County Assessment in terms of Demographic, Socioeconomics, Health and Behavioral Profiles, Education and Child Welfare.

The 2014 IRC Children’s Needs Assessment has provided valuable information to help guide the Child Services Advisory Committee (CSAC).

This week we are writing about the areas where the CSAC will focus its efforts.

To begin with, interventions should start as early as possible in a child’s life in order to have the greatest impact.

According to the Advisory Committee, the “Focus should be on the pockets of poverty. Given that IRC poverty is in geographically disbursed pockets and that we have unique transportation problems, we must always keep in mind that services need to be available where and when people need and can access them. We must utilize the best mediums to clearly communicate what, when and where these services are available.”

More specifically, as outlined by the Advisory Committee:

  1. Early Childhood Development

This encompasses birth to age 5. For the younger children this would mean improving the interactions they have beginning at birth with their caregivers. It would include improving the quality (and transparency of relative quality) at childcare, PreK and Voluntary PreK providers as well as improving financial accessibility to by leveraging available federal and state funds.

Why: Research shows that the period 0-5 is the most important time for brain development and cognitive and emotional skills can be significantly impacted.

  1. Build Parent Capacity

This encompasses improving parenting skills at every age of a child’s life and providing support mechanisms for parents. A priority would be new parents in particular first time and single parents and those in the poverty pockets.

Why: A parent is a child’s first and most important teacher. We need to equip parents to be the good parents that they all want to be.

  1. Out of school recreational activities and enrichment programs

They need to be free/affordable and accessible (transportation) to parents and children. Where possible, they should include a literacy/tutoring component. Mentoring programs are included. There is a large gap of programs for children 12+.

Why: Children need to develop positive out of school outlets that keep them engaged in school, promote their health and provide connections (to sports/hobbies, a person or group, etc). There is a wealth of data supporting extended day and extended year.

  1. Middle and High School programs that address risky behavior

It appears that the LifeSkills class in middle school has had a positive impact. We need to investigate how programs like this can be continued into high school as well as include delinquent behavior, teen pregnancy, STDs, bullying etc.

Why: There is a lot of at risk behavior and we need to ensure that it is addressed early and repeatedly.

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