07/29/07 — Agencies take look at 2005 'promise'

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Agencies take look at 2005 'promise'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 29, 2007 2:01 AM

It's been nearly two years since Wayne County was identified as one of the 100 best communities for young people in the country.

That honor, announced in September 2005, was made possible through America's Promise -- The Alliance for Youth. It targeted five promises that would benefit all children -- having caring adults in their lives; safe places with structured activities in which to learn and grow; a healthy start and healthy future; an effective education that equips them with marketable skills; and an opportunity to give back to their communities through service.

But is Wayne County keeping its promise?

With the county eligible for renewal of the status in 2010, Dr. David Tayloe of Goldsboro Pediatrics recently hosted a meeting of local agencies to discuss progress, challenges and possibilities when it comes to caring for Wayne County's children.

Representatives of Tayloe's practice, as well as the Health Department, Communities in Schools, Smart Start, WISH school-based health centers, and WATCH, Wayne Action Teams for Community Health were among those in attendance.

"Little has happened since the initial celebrations," Tayloe said. "I was glad to see that we have at least looked at this before, but was sorry that they'd gotten the recognition, taken the credit and that was it."

Getting ready to re-apply for the honor again in three years will take continued efforts, Tayloe said.

"It's going to take longer than this time frame," he said.

No time like the present to get started, said Sudie Davis, director of Communities in Schools.

"I'm really excited that somebody in the community is picking up the ball," she said of the recent meeting to discuss the challenge.

"I think one of the things that we're anticipating probably doing, we're going to look at which of the five promises agencies are already addressing. We'll be talking to other agencies to see what they're doing."

Working together is nothing new. In fact, collaboration has become one of Wayne County's trademarks, Mrs. Davis said.

"I truly believe that we were awarded the recognition because of the way we collaborate in our community. People work together so much better than in other communities that I'm aware of," she said. "I think those of us who do work with youth and are part of that collaborative relationship really do understand that that's what did it."

Calling the process to make Wayne County eligible for the national recognition a "dynamic thing in itself," Mrs. Davis said that now is not the time to slow down.

"What we need to do is figure out how you can measure whether a child has healthy adults ... has a healthy start ... has safe places and then effective education and opportunities to help others," Tayloe said. "Evidently the folks who chose us must have documented that a lot of people were working on these issues."

Through his practice, Tayloe has been privy to some of the dynamics affecting the county's children.

"Over 40 percent of our babies (in Wayne County) are born to single mothers, so we're playing catch-up putting the caring adults in place," he said. "I deal with parents every day who are doing marvelous jobs, and then I have some who need to be connected to services."

Concern over safe neighborhoods in Goldsboro and teen pregnancies are other glaring needs, Tayloe said.

Statistics in the latter have dropped drastically, Tayloe said, attributing some of that to the addition of health educators in some of the schools. 

"Every one of our high schools and probably every one of our middle schools needs a health educator that the kids can confide in if we're going to do anything about this adolescent pregnancy stuff," he said.

Likewise, dropouts and expulsions have also been reduced in schools with nurse and social worker services, Tayloe said.

"WISH is already in six public schools, the two alternative schools, and there are six nurse-social worker teams ... which develop a model of teacher/student relationships."

Groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and faith-based organizations also provide opportunities for youths to become engaged in positive activities helping others.

Tayloe hopes to have future debates about shoring up a commitment to the area's young people.

"I think my immediate goal would be to convene an evening meeting ... inviting representatives of child health, education, child day care, Head Start, religious organizations, social services, mental health, mentoring resources, foster care, WATCH, WISH, First Steps and other interested groups," he said.

Groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics are already supportive of America's Promise, Tayloe said. Now it's just a matter of enlisting a similar investment from the community at large.

"If these kids have four to five promises, their outcomes are going to be greater," he said. "We have just got to make this work."