Thoughtwell, previously known as Community Research Partners, unveiled the results of a comprehensive needs assessment for youth in Franklin County at Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum.
Mike Foley has details.
The yearlong assessment included input from parents, teachers, and early education providers through a mix of focus groups, stakeholder meetings and surveys. The analysis covers Franklin County youth from birth to age 12. Thoughtwell Executive Director Lynnette Cook offers some of the highlights.
“More than two-thirds of parents reported that their child’s school does very well or well at school planning, leadership and volunteer opportunities. Community members were particularly concerned with social-emotional health of young children, mentioning things like a rise in tween and teen suicide, lack of parental involvement in addressing behavioral and social-emotional issues in their children and a perceived rise in preschool suspensions and expulsions.”
The report identified a lack of affordable, flexible and extended-hours childcare options. Nearly 36% of parents say they’re struggling to afford childcare but unable to qualify for government assistance. Cook says poverty remains a problem in Franklin County, with 13% of families living at or below the threshold.
“That jumps to just over 20% for families with kids under 18 and 45.2% of female-headed households with kids living at home. That’s from a family perspective, but now let’s just think about the kids. 25% of children overall between the ages of 6 and 11 live in poverty. That’s 1 in 4. And the disparity is even more shocking. 44.7% of African American children between the ages of 6 and 11 are living in poverty, compared to 37.2% of Hispanic or Latino children, and 15% of white children.”
The report noted the highest performing school districts for math and English language arts - Dublin, Grandview and Upper Arlington - also have the lowest poverty rates. Overall, 71% of Franklin County students are at or above proficient in math, 75.3% in English language arts. Other conclusions from the assessment: parental engagement and collaboration with educators and providers remains critical for a child’s success. Bullying and guns were the highest safety concerns parents had for their kids. But in stark contrast, 33.6% of parents identified as “not at all concerned” about gun safety, compared with 11.2% “not at all concerned” about bullying. The report cites a lack of counseling programs for at-risk youth who have suffered trauma. It also calls for more supportive reading programs leading up to grade 3. The study also found that early childhood teachers sometimes lack consistent training, and that low pay contributes to the difficulty centers have in filling positions and retaining staff. Thoughtwell is currently working with Franklin County Job and Family Services on a more comprehensive look at childcare providers and the new quality ratings system.