Lowndes Children’s Policy Council reviews unmet needs

Published 3:24 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2023

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In the 2021 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, Voices For Alabama’s Children ranked Lowndes County 55th among Alabama counties for the wellbeing of its children.

Members of the Lowndes County Children’s Policy met on June 7 to discuss the report’s findings and to rate children’s most vital unmet needs the group will work to address.

“There is some good news,” said District Judge Adrian Johnson. “This may be the highest ranking we have received on this list. We have been 64th. So, most people will not be excited about being number 55 out of 67 but when we have been pretty close to the bottom, incrementally coming up is an accomplishment.”

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Johnson explained the council works to address issues impacting the county’s children and for a rural county, the ranking shows progress.

For example, in 2021, the county ranked 67th in relation to fourth grade reading competency. Since then, the council has worked alongside the school system towards grade-level reading improvements to improve those outcomes.

The council discussed data related to children’s education, health, safety, and economic security and considered which three elements ranked among those most needing improvement. Substance abuse ranked among top considerations, as did parental involvement and family engagement, school success, early care and education, juvenile crime and safey, poverty, neighborhoods and housing, transportation, and mental health.

“We discussed our three primary needs,” Johnson said. “Last year our needs were substance abuse, family engagement, and school success. There are also options for early education, juvenile crime and safety, poverty, neighborhoods and housing, and transportation. If we’re having a conversation about Lowndes County needs, we could list any one of those needs and have factors we can address in some capacity. Our challenge is to list what we think are the three most pressing needs addressing children from Lowndes County.”

The council discussed the options and progress toward improvements in each category. Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Jason Burroughs outlined activities designed to promote parental involvement.

“Several people have been involved in activities this year,” Burroughs said. “We scheduled them on the weekends and did them on Saturdays so more people could be involved.”

Head Start Coordinator Laura Hunter described family activities held through the program.

“We have monthly meetings held from August through May,” Hunter said. “We are looking for community partners to come out or provide snacks.”

The group highlighted several areas as top needs and Johnson encouraged council members to submit ideas for which are the most urgent. The group will continue to address multiple areas of need, but will submit the three most urgent as top priorities on its annual needs assessment report to the Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education.

In other business the council:

  • Received information on the Wellness Coalition’s upcoming Wellness Fair scheduled for June 17 in Fort Deposit;
  • Learned the group may apply for a CPC technical assistance grant to be used for various needs of the council;
  • Heard information about the state CPC conference scheduled for August 2;
  • Received a progress update on the Lowndes County Public Schools grade level reading initiative and mobile library;
  • Learned Lowndes County Schools Superintendent Jason Burroughs will retire at the end of June; and
  • Heard progress towards recruiting additional foster care families.

The group’s next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 2 in the Lowndes County Courtroom.