Call to Action from Office of Early Childhood and Youth
For those following the funding fiasco threatening the OECY’s continued existence, you’ll find background below that you won’t find anywhere else.
What happened: Shelby County Commission voted 8-3 on June 6th to defund the county’s Office of Early Childhood and Youth (OECY). Commissioners Brooks, Bunker, Ritz, Shafer, Harvey, Thomas, Roland, Ford, Chism voted to defund the Office. Voting against was Mike Carpenter, an enduring champion for children in every respect, as well as Melvin Burgess and Walter Bailey.
Ironic, what happened just prior to the vote: Shelby County Commission voted against defunding their catering budget of $25,000 and travel budget of $12,500.
We have come to expect this from Commissioners Wyatt Bunker and Mike Ritz who have consistently voted against this office from its inception but that Justin Ford, James Harvey, and of all people – Henri Brooks – the voice for poor, downtrodden minority populations…led the charge to cut the office based on her personal dislike of the Office administrator is most unfortunate.
Here is what we lose immediately:
By cutting this office, we will increase the rate of premature births since current funding is directed toward evidence-based pre-natal programs at the Med and Hollywood Health Loop clinic. We will take away $4.2 million dollars that would have gone to hire 6 master-level social workers hired by Memphis City Schools to identify, recruit, and follow ALL pregnant and parenting teens in high schools (and those who drop out…) starting this fall, in order to link them to quality pre-natal care, home visitation services, Early Head Start, Head Start, and Pre-K. $500,000 alone would have gone to fund those other kinds of resources like diapers, breast pumps, cribs, car seats, etc.
We will take away the invitation by Department of Justice to receive $2 million for the County’s Defending Childhood Initiative, Shelby County being 1 of only 3 communities across the United States to receive this invitation, stemming from an initial planning grant that developed a first-ever, coordinated community response to address children exposed to violence.
However, what will also go away.. three years of service delivery, infrastructure development conducted by the OECY and its many community partners. This Office has partnered with over 200 agencies across Shelby County over the past 3 years. This Office has illustrated that with a small, lean budget, much can be accomplished, acquiring for far greater external funding for programs that serving clients directly. By serving as a point of coordination within County government for all of these agencies and the programs they administer, services aren’t fragmented, disorganized, nor disconnected. This OECY has concentrated its focus on building a ‘system-of-care’ for those very families who usually fall through the cracks in our community, lost to poverty, obesity, diabetes, infant mortality, abuse, neglect, and disregard just like the properties whose grass never gets cut, attracting vagrants, vandals, and crime.
Call to Action!
Will you champion OECY, which has leveraged a mere $370,000 of County funding to bring in millions of dollars to address such community ills as teen pregnancy, poor parenting, infant mortality reduction, child car seat safety, childhood exposure to violence?
To your Commissioner, ask “Is catering lunch to Commissioners more important than reducing our teen pregnancy rate or high infant mortality rate or child abuse rate”? Save the Office of Early Childhood and Youth!
To your Commissioner, ask “Don’t you yet realize that by improving health, education, safety, and support for children you are building your future taxpaying community”? Save the Office of Early Childhood and Youth!
Can you help?
Call the Shelby County Commission office at 901-545-4301 or the County Mayor’s Office at 901-545-4500. Go to www.shelbycountychildren.org and our facebook page and write your opinion!
For more information, call Julie Coffey at 901-385-4228.
Julie E. Coffey
Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth
600 Jefferson Ave., Ste. 230
Memphis, TN 38105
(901) 385-4228 or (901) 619-6420
Fax: (901) 576-8851