Monday, December 03, 2001

Young mothers on county's cut list

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Every Child Succeeds, a 2-year-old charity formed to help “at-risk” young mothers and their babies, has grown by more than 68 percent during the past year. That means more Cincinnati-area children are getting regular medical care, more homes are being made safe for toddlers, and more young mothers are getting their lives together, organizers said.

        “The progress has been phenomenal,” said Gibbs MacVeigh, chairman of Every Child Succeeds.

        “In the last seven or eight years, there has been a tremendous amount of research that shows that a child's brain develops faster in the first three years of life than any other time. This program is helping children hit those developmental milestones so that they will be much better prepared when they enter school.”

        According to an annual report released last week, 1,495 young mothers received home visits and other services from Every Child Succeeds. That's up from 887 families visited the year before.

        Every Child Succeeds was launched in mid-1999 by several high-profile health agencies and charities, including United Way & Community Chest, Children's Hospital Medical Center and Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency. About 60 percent of its funding comes from public sources, including Kentucky tobacco settlement money and the Hamilton County children's services levy. The rest comes from several private grants.

        Despite its growth, Every Child Succeeds is one of three social service programs facing a total of $1 million in budget cuts in Hamilton County. The county also has proposed cuts for Cincinnati Youth Collaborative and Friends of the Children.

        The goal at Every Child Suc ceeds is to increase support for “at-risk” children during those crucial first three years.

        Of the participating families, 92 percent of the mothers are unmarried; 46 percent are under age 18; 60 percent have annual household incomes under $15,000; and 78 percent report problems with substance abuse, mental illness, inadequate housing or other “significant life challenges.”

        At least once a month, the program sends trained visitors — mostly social workers and nurses — to the mothers' homes.

        So far, Every Child Succeeds is reaching about 40 percent of the at-risk infants and toddlers in the seven-county service area.

        The babies get free books, edu cational toys, and regular tests of their physical and mental development. The mothers get one-on-one parenting advice, tips on nutrition and home safety, and help connecting with services they may need, from job training to substance abuse programs.

        So far, more than 90 percent of the children are developing at normal levels for language, physical and social skills, the agency reported. That's better than would be expected for an “at-risk” population, said Robert Ammerman, a psychologist at Children's Hospital who works with the program.

        For information about Every Child Succeeds, call 636-2830


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