This article is part of a series featuring ways in which mayors are working to meet the specific goals and targets set for the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families. Challenge mayors establish measurable goals to ensure that every child has opportunities to learn and grow, a safe neighborhood to call home, a healthy lifestyle and environment and a financially fit family in which to thrive. Launched in November 2008 and joined by more than 100 mayors, the challenge seeks to highlight and promote municipal leadership and innovation in enhancing child and family well-being.
At a press conference held at Jacksonville, Fla., City Hall last Thursday, Mayor John Peyton announced his city's participation in the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families, using the occasion to highlight four measurable goals for strengthening families and improve outcomes for children and youth:
"Like those of other municipalities, Jacksonville's children and families face challenges. However, we also have an amazing array of dependable, results-oriented programs and resources available to them," said Mayor Peyton. "We know that the future vitality of this community depends upon the investments we make in our young people today. These goals will help us focus on building the capacity of those things which have a demonstrated track record of success."
1,000 Days to Lift 1,000 Residents from Poverty
Prior to the announcement, Mayor Peyton joined Councilmember Michael Corrigan, Jacksonville Children's Commission CEO Linda Lanier and NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families Executive Director Clifford M. Johnson on a tour of innovative programs supported by Jacksonville Journey that will help the city make progress toward meeting its local targets.
The first stop on the tour was a briefing on a collaborative asset-building initiative designed to help 1,000 Jacksonville residents (300 families) become economically self-sufficient within 1,000 days. As part of Jacksonville Journey, Family Foundations of Northeast Florida's "1,000 in 1,000" program brings together 20 government, business, education, faith-based and nonprofit social service organizations around a family-centered model of poverty reduction.
Each participating family develops a personal work plan to enhance their financial assets, education and social support system. Families must also complete CommUniversity, a series of classes on financial literacy, parenting skills, job skills and citizenship. Fifty families are currently going through the first round of the program, with 40 percent of participants increasing their income by 15 percent or more in the first year. The city is working with Family Foundations to recruit and support the second cohort of 50 families.
Access to High-Quality Early Learning and Health Care
Later that day, Mayor Peyton visited two Jacksonville child care centers. As a partner of the Early Learning Coalition of Duval, the Jacksonville Children's Commission is helping more child care providers offer high-quality early learning opportunities that prepare young children for success in school.
Since its implementation in November 2007, the coalition's Guiding Stars of Duval - a quality rating improvement system for child care centers in the county - has given Star Ratings to more than 100 early learning centers, indicating that they offer high-quality care and providing parents with more information when choosing early learning centers for their children.
The city has also partnered with child-serving agencies and hospitals to enroll 7,700 children in Florida's KidCare health insurance program through awareness events and individual follow-up, with a goal of enrolling nearly 10,000 children by January 2012.
Keeping Youth Safe and Productive
The site visit continued to a unique partnership formed under Mayor Peyton's Jacksonville Journey initiative between a local nonprofit called The Bridge of Northeast Florida, Inc., and Duval County Public Schools. The Bridge is one of five sites offering an Alternative to Out-of-School Suspension (ATOSS) Center, which enables students suspended from school to keep up with their schoolwork using grade recovery and academic remediation software.
In addition to keeping more youth supervised during the school day and preventing disciplinary problems from cascading into failure at school, ATOSS connects students to other programs at The Bridge that provide youth in high-crime neighborhoods with academic, health, social enrichment and employment services.
Other Jacksonville Journey-funded programs focus on using a "door-to-door approach" to violent crime prevention that enlists local, state and federal law enforcement partners; keeping young people safe through summer and afterschool programs; granting scholarships; intervening with troubled youth; and reducing recidivism by former offenders.
The final stop on the tour was the Clara White Mission, a one-stop community center that provides at-risk residents with job training and placement in culinary arts and other fields, transitional housing, a drop-in center and daily meals. With support from Jacksonville Journey, the Clara White Mission is providing training and reentry services to help formerly incarcerated individuals lead productive and crime-free lives.
Details: For more information on Jacksonville Journey, visit www.coj.net/Mayor/Jacksonville+Journey. To join the Mayors' Action Challenge for Children and Families, visit www.mayorsforkids.org or contact Michael Karpman at (202) 626-3072 or firstname.lastname@example.org.