On Wednesday, December 5, 2012 Mayor Slay convened the Mayor’s Commission on Children, Youth and Families for their last meeting of 2012. The previous two meetings of the Mayor’s Commission focused largely on youth violence, the creation of the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, and youth development issues. The December meeting focused entirely on early childhood. Mayor Slay was quick to point out that youth violence and early childhood are not disconnected issues; early childhood experiences are inextricably linked with outcomes later in life.
To set the stage for the Commission meeting two brief videos were shown at the start of the meeting. The first video was entitled “Why Early Investment Matters” and features Nobel Prize winner James Heckman. In this video University of Chicago Economics Professor James Heckman outlines the concrete economic benefits of investing in early childhood. To learn more about Professor Heckman’s critical work on early childhood please visit www.heckmanequation.org. To watch this video click here.
The second video was entitled “Brain Hero” and was produced by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. This brief video outlines the pivotal influence brain architecture and development play in later life outcomes for both the individual child and the broader community. To watch this video click here.
The first presenter of the meeting was Corinne Patton, faculty at the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. Ms. Patton gave a presentation on Missouri’s child care system that covered the history, statutes, rules, policy and culture from which the current child care system has evolved. Furthermore, through Ms. Patton’s extensive knowledge and experience in the early childhood field she was able to clearly illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of our current system.
The next presenter of the meeting was Kendra Copanas, Executive Director of the Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition. Ms. Copanas’s presentation focused on the current status of child health in the St. Louis region. She stressed the need to consider a “Cradle to Cradle” life course approach as opposed to the more familiar “Cradle to Career” approach. Ms. Copanas presented data on a number of child health indicators including WIC utilization, immunizations, smoking during pregnancy, and asthma. However, it was the data on inadequate prenatal care which showed large disparities between African American and Caucasian women that really sparked questions and discussion among the Commission Members.
The last presentation of the meeting was given by Elizabeth George, Co-chair of the Regional Early Childhood Council (RECC) and Vice President at the Deaconess Foundation. Ms. George’s presentation described the work of the Regional Early Childhood Council and introduced the commission to the major projects the RECC will be focusing on in 2013 including a baseline assessment of kindergarten readiness and a pilot of a readiness assessment tool. Ms. George also introduced the Commission to Project LAUNCH, a $4.2 million, 5-year, federal SAMHSA grant that will target ZIP codes 63106 and 63107. The long term goal of Project LAUNCH is for all children to reach physical, social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive milestones.
The next meeting of the Mayor's Commission on Children, Youth and Families will be on Wednesday, March 13 at 8:30 AM.
Written by Liz Hoester, Staff to the Mayor's Commission on Children, Youth and Families,