Providing more support for struggling families and finding safe places for children after school were priorities identified in a recent survey in Delaware County.
Family support was identified as a priority in a recent “Youth Health Assessment” compiled by the Delaware County Family Children First Council and the Delaware General Health District.
One of the components of the assessment was a “key informant survey,” which asked people who work with youth here to identify areas that need improvement in the county.
Of the 62 key informants surveyed, 25.93 percent believe family support and safe places for kids out of school should be the top health priority, according to the assessment.
“Lots of families do not qualify for Head Start or Title XX but still cannot afford child care,” one informant wrote in the survey. “Lots of families are isolated or ashamed they are having difficulties with drugs, mental health or social supports.”
When asked what the county needs to fix, one informant responded: “I think we need to have more centers accept a sliding fee scale for families that cannot afford childcare or find funding through the school systems for this. Those daycare centers or schools need financial support to make this happen.”
Safe public places for kids are also a big priority for the county, according to said Kelsey Kuhlman, a health educator at the health district and one of the persons who helped compile the assessment.
“This is important because kids need to know where they can go to feel safe and supported whether it’s the weekend or during the school week,” Kuhlman said.
“Many youth are sometimes left without adult or parent supervision, and often this is when they participate in risky behaviors. As a community, we need to ensure that our youth have safe, supportive places to hang out, be themselves and engage in healthy behaviors both physically and mentally. So many risky behaviors that teens can partake in today, can truly be prevented by appropriately delivered education/awareness in the right setting.”
Regarding the informants, Kuhlman said: “These are the professionals who work with youth once problems or concerns are identified, and we wanted to know — where are the gaps, what is missing to improve the health of youth in this community?
“Since this survey was an open-ended response, we performed a key word search to identify key themes which resulted in the ideas of lack of social support services and lack of transportation.”
Many Delaware County agencies are hoping to coordinate to improve their services to Delaware County families, according to health officials.
The assessment reports that the objectives to improve family support are to create environments where children are safe in their homes, developmentally on track and prepared to enter school. The assessment also said increasing knowledge of parenting skills and increasing participation in quality after-school programs are also objectives.
According to the assessment, the strategies for these objectives is to coordinate a network of early childhood providers to identify gaps in services for strengthening families and to provide additional after-school sites for youths.
“We’re so lucky to have so many community agencies and partners truly dedicated to creating happy, healthy youth and understanding the role of prevention and getting kids on the right path as early as possible,” Kuhlman said. “After working in tandem with the United Way of Delaware County, much of their collective impact assessment in the community showed similar data, so we decided to partner with them to help advocate for increased services for families, so no family (need) goes unnoticed in our community.”
The Youth Health Assessment also measured the environmental health of the county as well as students’ drug use, mental health and obesity rates.