Engaging the community to get better outcomes for children

Sheet of paper with the hopes for the community“I feel like I would’ve been like really successful if I had had that early start,” says Angela Clark, a resident of Palm Beach County, Fla., and Bridges Member. She says she’s part of the Bridges program because she wants to give back to her community and “get the young people or the parents to start putting more into their kids like my mother would have done for me” so that others can have opportunities she didn’t have as a child.

Bridges is a program of Children Services Council and Community Partners, both of Palm Beach County, Fla. The program has gathering places for families with young children in ten neighborhoods throughout the county. Their goals are to increase the number of healthy births, increase the number of children that are ready for school, decrease the number of children experiencing abuse and neglect, and to make sure that children are at grade level by the end of 3rd grade. 

“We all want our children to be successful and be healthy safe and strong,” says Jennifer Schneider, Director of Program Operations for Children’s Home Society of Florida. They’ve incorporated Everyday Democracy's Dialogue-to-Change process in their projects in order to bring businesses, city officials, and local residents together to achieve their goals.

“We as adults are responsible for many of the problems that kids are having and so we can continue to be part of the problem or be a part of the solution. But it's really about changing our ways, our actions, our conversations as adults so that we can get better outcomes for children,” says Cornesha Dukes-Chisholm, Director of Bridges at Pahokee.

On May 15, 2013, they held an action forum attended by 125 people. “The energy filled the air and the dedication of the participants was so very obvious,” says Barbara Chieves, a consultant for the program.

Out of third round of dialogues in 2014, four out of the eight participating communities targeted actions towards teens, concentrating on: education, prevention, focus groups, and surveys. One group was made up entirely of young mothers, choosing to create PSAs with the voice of a fetus advising mom to eat well and not to smoke while pregnant. Multiple agencies have already offered to help fund, design, and launch their campaign.

The October 2014, the Bridges programs in all 10 communities will gather for a celebration of Strong Starts where residents from each community will showcase their action efforts. They hope to continue to engage the public and use dialogues in their programs to achieve true community engagement aimed toward change.

February 28, 2014

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Dialogue to Change

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