Poverty can inhibit children’s ability to learn as well as lead to social, emotional, and behavioral problems. That’s why a group of organizational and community leaders across the state have banded together to address the serious issues caused by living in poverty that have a negative impact on children. Neil White, who tells the stories of Children’s Trust, reports on what steps these leaders are taking to promote child well-being.
One year into the creation of the South Carolina Child Well-Being Coalition, strategies are taking shape for improving the lives of the state’s children.
Led by Children’s Trust of South Carolina and funded by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the Child Well-Being Coalition is comprised of a broad cross-section of local and state agencies, community members, and family-serving organizations committed to working collectively to mitigate the effects of poverty on children in the core areas of community, economy, education, family, and health.
Amy Moseley, Children’s Trust community coalitions manager, sees the progress made in each of these areas by workgroups assembled to address children’s needs.
“Over the past year, all of the workgroups have focused on making data-driven decisions to define their goals and strategies,” Moseley said. “Some of the workgroups are in early stages of strategy development, and others have more refined plans in place for action.”
- The health workgroup is focused on increasing the number of well visits to health care providers for children across the state.
- The education workgroup has a plan to implement teacher training on cultural responsiveness in pilot schools and to measure the impact of removals from the classroom.
- The joint community and economy workgroup is focusing on using established best practices to increase participation and retention for the nutrition program for women, infants and children (WIC).
- The family workgroup is working on increasing access to reliable information for families living in poverty.
Dr. Christine Turley, the director of the USC School of Medicine’s Research Center for Transforming Health, serves as the chair of the coalition’s leadership team, and she is excited by the high-end level of engagement in each of the workgroups.
“It’s been really very gratifying to see how many people have engaged and provided so much creativity and so much thoughtful input into the future and the direction of the goals that we have,” Turley said. “We are probably well beyond the expectations that I had for us in terms of the level of specificity that we’ve been able to develop. There’s a lot of evidence that people are using to inform the directions for each of the workgroups and their priorities. That is invaluable for us going forward.”
Turley emphasized that the coalition isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel. Instead, she noted coalition members need to take what they know will work and apply it strategically to these specific areas. The key is engaging with all the pertinent stakeholders, from health teams to educators to parents, and get them to coalesce around the action steps of the workgroups. She called it fun to watch the next steps unfold as concepts begin to turn into action.
June’s full coalition quarterly meeting in Columbia brought together approximately 90 members, who listened to reports from each of the workgroups on accomplishments and the expectations are moving forward.
Moseley outlined the future objectives of the coalition’s leadership team:
- Consider statewide policies that will support the work the coalitions,
- Simplify enrollment and access to programs that support families in poverty, and
- Explore national initiatives, especially those that are evidence-based, that could impact poverty in South Carolina.
She also envisions more convergence taking place among the five areas.
“We continue to see crossover of impact across the workgroups and possibilities to partner further,” Moseley added.
The workgroup chairs have watched the steady progress being made over the last 12 months. As an example, Monty Robertson, manager of the S.C. Hospital Association-affiliated Alliance for a Healthier South Carolina and co-chair of the health workgroup, believes his group members have identified what the issues and barriers are and moved towards identifying what actions need to be taken to eliminate those barriers.
“One of the (health) barriers is around knowledge and education so we’re taking our first steps to really provide tools and resources for parents to understand the importance of getting those well-child visits,” Robertson said. “We are working to really build communications materials, something that’s easy for people to understand, and also leverage social media as a tool to reach parents. At different points of their child’s life, parents need to understand the need to go in for this type of visit, whether it’s for developmental screening, different immunizations at different ages, and also behavior health and mental health screenings.”
The education workgroup is looking to reach out to elementary schools where black students were at least twice as likely to receive an out-of-school suspension than white students, ensure schools have a form of positive discipline in place, and focus on training for kindergarten through third-grade teachers.
The family workgroup wants to put together a handout for participants on how to help families access resources effectively. And the joint community and economy team is ready to partner with the WIC nutrition team by supporting existing actions and recommending new actions.
These various steps are beginning to merge into the larger effort to combat the effects of poverty on children.
“As a whole coalition, we’re starting to be mature enough to start thinking about the systemic approaches we need to pursue,” Turley said. “We’re also having the beginning of a discussion about how we want to start thinking about policy in this day, what that should look like, who we want to engage, and what can we learn from some of the work that’s been happening nationally around reducing child poverty.”
The next meeting of the full coalition will be held Nov. 6 at the Brookland Banquet and Conference Center in West Columbia. It is open to new members. For more information on the coalition, contact Amy Moseley at 803-744-4032 or email@example.com.