By SMRITI JACOB
In response to high childhood poverty rates in Rochester, ROC the Future Alliance has rolled out a new initiative, the Whole Child.
Born out of last year’s goal—parent engagement—the initiative will be funded by $1.55 million in grants from the ESL Charitable Foundation, Konar Foundation, Sands Foundation and Wegmans Foundation. WCI aims to better identify and correct ineffective systems of support for parents, families and children.
ROC the Future made the announcement during the release of its annual report card Thursday.
“We recognize that children grow and develop within supportive relationships and environments that strengthen their resilience, while acknowledging the detrimental role racism, inequities, violence, and poverty may play in their everyday lives,” says Lorna Washington, chair of ROC the Future Alliance. “We are intentional about involving parents and families from the very beginning in decisions that will impact the well-being of themselves and their children.”
Earlier this year, the alliance conducted a Parent Voice Survey, which identified needs relating to children, families, schools and the community. The biggest of them are:
■ Children: social emotional support
■ Families: parent-school partnerships
■ Schools: social emotional support
■ Community: resources and safe spaces
The Whole Child initiative focuses on culture, community and systems, family and relationships to influence positive change and improve outcomes. The cross-sector, communitywide commitment centers children, from prenatal to school age, and their families using a holistic approach.
The initiative recognizes that children grow and develop within caregiving relationships and environments while acknowledging the lasting effects of racism, inequities, violence, poverty and access, the report states. To that end, WCI’s goals include support for children and families to ensure they are healthy, thriving and reaching their fullest development potential and that they live in safe, stable neighborhoods and communities. WCI aims to ensure children are a priority and the community acts to support their health, safety, learning and well-being and conduct systems work for families, which includes economic stability.
In its report card, ROC the Future finds areas of slight improvement for city students, including those enrolled at charter schools, with third grade students meeting or exceeding standards of proficiency at levels three and four to 25 percent. High school graduation rates for all students continue to increase, reaching 73 percent, officials say.
The report, which outlines various goals and outcomes, also found that at the county level, the number of mothers of all races accessing early prenatal care has increased to 69 percent. It identifies areas for improvement including kindergarten readiness where only approximately 44 percent of children were considered school ready last year. A major gap in the racial diversity of teachers and the students they serve exists with at least 75 percent of teachers identifying as white while 86 percent of the students identified as African American or Hispanic.
To address these challenges, the alliance says it will work on ways to change systems and processes so that they better support children and families, and the community. It suggests moving from pilots or projects targeted at individuals to those that can bring about changes to systems responsible for poor outcomes for children.
“We believe improvement is possible when communities employ a collective impact approach,” Washington says in the report, adding that there is still much more work to do.