Saturday, April 26, 2003

Program targets children under 6



By Brenna R. Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer

BURLINGTON - To make sure children are ready to succeed when they get to first grade, Boone County is launching a community-based initiative that will help parents help their children.

The program, Success By 6, is a United Way-led partnership in which government and businesses work together to make sure every child under 5 - nearly 7,000 in Boone County - is healthy, safe and ready for the first grade.

"It's so important that children get off to a good start," said Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore.

Through an executive director and two councils made up of government and business leaders, Success by 6 will assess the needs of Boone County children and direct their parents to programs to help them prepare for school.

Though Boone County ranked second in the state for the well-being of children in a 2000 study, Moore said there is room for improvement.

"By comparing ourselves to other Kentucky counties we are not setting the bar very high," Moore said. "We want to compare ourselves to the best communities in the country, not just in Kentucky. We want the best for our children."

In the study, Kids Count 2000, Boone officials also noticed that some indicators of children's well-being, such as birth weights, gestation periods and high school dropouts were worse than they were in 1990.

"We want to see our indicators improving, not going the other way," Moore said.

For example, the number of babies born weighing less than 5.5 pounds increased from 1989 to 1999. The number of unwed mothers also increased in that time period.

Success by 6 will help parents find out what programs are available in the county to help their children.

"The first noticeable element to the program will be the public awareness," Moore said. The next step will be to direct people to services available, such as libraries for reading, health care and education.

The Boone County partnership includes seven county departments and four businesses.

"We jumped at the chance to make a difference in the lives of our young people," said Johnna Fasold, vice president of communications for Citigroup.

Citigroup employs 2,100 people at its Florence call center. It plans to add 1,400 this year. Because many employees live in Boone County, Citigroup supports several programs in the county's schools, Fasold said, "but if kids aren't ready when they start school, all that is in vain."

In addition to Citigroup, Bank of Kentucky, Delta Air Lines, and Fifth Third Bank are participating in the program.

Success by 6 has four goals: to ensure children are born healthy, children remain healthy, children are safe and nurtured, and children are prepared to succeed in school.

The group will use data to measure whether it is meeting those goals. For example, the goal of having children remain healthy will be measured by the percentage of children who have immunizations by age 5, and by the percentage of children entering kindergarten with untreated health issues.

The executive director will be paid about $70,000 a year, including benefits. The deadline to apply for the job is May 15.

Boone County's Success by 6 will be funded by five of the partner organizations with the Northern Kentucky Independent Health District providing $40,000, the Boone County Extension District, Boone County Library Board, Boone County Fiscal Court and Northern Kentucky United Way each providing $25,000.

Success By 6 began in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1988. There are now 330 programs in the country, including in Lexington and Louisville.

Last November, a Success by 6 partnership was started in Cincinnati with the United Way, Cincinnati Community Action Now and several local businesses.

E-mail bkelly@enquirer.com




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