By Katie Landes, Director of GSAN
The life of a child advocate is busy, and your time is limited –– we understand. So when emails and news articles announcing the latest and greatest kid-related developments in Georgia hit your inbox during the last year, maybe sometime you just saved them for later. Other times, you might have even (gasp) deleted them.
If you choose to watch that video of puppies vs. stairs (we don’t blame you) instead of reading every article, you’re in luck, because we’ve put together a short list of wins in 2014.
We measure victories (our idea of victories anyways) around five key areas: Safety, health, education, connectedness to family and community, and employability.
So without further ado here is the roundup of what you need to know as we move into 2015.
Child welfare was a hot button topic this year, with both members of the House and Senate of the Georgia General Assembly in discord over a bill that proposed to privatize child welfare services. After much discussion and many amendments the bill ultimately failed, but did lead to the creation of the Child Welfare Reform Commission (CWRC) by Gov. Deal.
Additionally, this year the governor committed more resources to the agencies responsible for responding to the needs of abused and neglected children. With reviews and possible reforms on the horizon the creation of the CWRC and the added funding to DFCS are major step towards improving our child welfare system, and ultimately better protecting our most vulnerable citizens.
How you ask? Because of increased health coverage for children and their families of course. This year children, regardless of age, in families who earn up to 138% of the poverty level were moved from PeachCare to Medicaid, and while the official numbers aren’t in yet, enrollment during the first and second periods of the Affordable Care Act were promising.
What does it all mean? Simply put, that more parents will have access to the services they need to maintain not only their health, but that of their families.
Just kidding. What we really mean is that the quality of education in Georgia is changing in a few ways. Most recently, Georgia and several Head Start programs won federal grants to improve opportunities for infants and pre-school age children.
Also, the Department of Public Health launched its “Talk With Me Baby” campaign, aimed at helping low income families get the tools and backup they need to help with their child’s language growth and development.
This one is a little less straightforward, but still worth bringing up (we think). 2014 saw leadership from the DOE, the governor’s budget, Get Georgia Reading, and community-based organizations come together and recognize –– through the funding of things like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) and few other policy related things we won’t get in to –– that it’s not just what schools teach but the environment they teach in that makes a difference in how students behave and how they learn.
Because of all of this . . . .
The more educated our kids are, the more employable they become. Need we say more?
The Juvenile Justice Reform Bill, signed on May 2 of 2013, officially took effect at the beginning on 2014. In the first 9 months of implementation we saw a reduction in the number of youth in detention by 62%.
2014 showed continued leadership from DOE, DFCS, GOCF and DPH on increasing quality of our-of-school time programs with the state’s 2nd Georgia Afterschool and Youth Development Conference. We are also going to go ahead and say that new quality standards for afterschool is a 2014 win. High quality afterschool and summer learning programs provide youth a safe place to go and learn outside of the classroom, something we know can improve academic outcomes, help to close the achievement gap, reduce school absences, and improve social-emotional outcomes. The standards have been shared with state-funded programs now and will be available to all providers in 2015.