What happened: Shelby County Commission voted 8-3 on June 6th to defund the county 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, Melvin Burgess and Walter Bailey. In the end, these commissioners voted to sacrifice $6 million in state and federal grants awarded the Office of Early Childhood and Youth to serve Shelby County kids because it would rather cut $400,000 from its budget.
What happened just prior to the vote to stand against the children of Shelby County: Shelby County Commission voted to fun their catering budget of $25,000 and travel budget of $12,500.
Here is what we lose:
-$4.2 million grant from the U. S. Department of Health & Human Services. This multi-year grant will provide pre-natal care for pregnant teens at Memphis City Schools, ensuring that babies are born healthy, stay healthy and are enrolled in quality early childhood programs. The funds would have gone to hire 6 master-level social workers whose only job is to recruit and follow ALL pregnant and parenting teens in Memphis high schools set to start this fall, in order to link them to quality pre-natal care, case management, home visitation services, Head Start, and Pre-K.
$1,674,320.00 from the State of TN to provide oversight and accountability for community providers of pre-natal care and infant mortality reduction efforts.
-$500,000 to fund hard-to-find resources like diapers, breast pumps, cribs, car seats, etc. $300,000 would have funded a Community-wide, multi agency, case management tracking software to follow families and improve the service delivery system.
-an invitation by the Department of Justice to receive $2 million for the Defending Childhood Initiative, Shelby County being 1 of only 3 communities across the United States to receive this invitation
-the improved coordination of children and youth resources, led by this Office along with its many community partners. This Office has partnered with over 200 agencies across Shelby County over the past 3 years.
These are examples of how the Office has leveraged a very small budget of $396,795 in fiscal year 2011 to attract millions of state and federal dollars. This funding would not have been available to our community without the coordination of the Office of Early Childhood and Youth. OECY secured funding that benefits evidence-based programs, that serve clients directly. Funding goes directly to the community.
We the undersigned ask?
Is catering lunch to Commissioners more important than reducing our teen pregnancy rate or high infant mortality rate or child abuse rate?
Do you not yet realize that by improving health, education, safety, and support for children that you are building your future taxpaying community?
Do you not understand that you are hurting my program and the families we serve by defunding this office?
Restore funding Immediately!
We need your help! Restore funding to this office, that 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, and in serving as the single point of coordination within government for all of these programs, so folks are not out there fragmented, un-coordinated, but are working toward building a quality system-of-care for families who usually fall through the cracks.