San Mateo County’s children’s Summit Moves 350 Participants from Talk to Action

In a single day, May, 18, 2000, 350 representatives from city, county and state government, schools, public agencies, community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, collaboratives, health care facilities, businesses, foundations, labor unions, and the criminal justice system, established  a community-wide agenda for action around children and families using indicator data recently published in San Mateo’s Children in Our Community:  A Report on Their Health and Well-Being  Moreover, top level commitment to implement the action agenda through  the county budget was pledged by top county leaders. .

The urgency for action  was underlined as leaders, researchers and advocates presented key findings from the Children’sReport, published in January  2000 concerning  low birth weight; teen birth rates; drug, alcohol and tobacco use; family self-sufficiency levels; housing affordability; child care availability; children who are self-supervised and student access to pupil support services. Ten subgroups, organized by geographic location, identified existing successful collaborative efforts; reviewed the Key Findings from the report, and selected the three highest priority indicators.  To be selected, each indicator had to meet the following criteria:  timely and high quality data available, commitment to action from groups and/or resources, relevance for the community and the potential to be impacted by collaborative action.  Finally, each group brainstormed”what works” ideas to”turn the curve” for each indicator.

The three top indicators chosen by the sub-groups, supported by specific”what works” action items, included:

1.      Child care availability:  there is only one subsidized child care space available for every eight low-income children who need child care.

2.      Housing affordability:  only 16% of homes were affordable to median income families in 1999. (NOTE:  San Mateo County is in the heart of California’s booming Silicon Valley)

3.      Children who are self-supervised:  41% of 16 and 17 year-olds have no adult supervision after school.

Other indicators identified by the sub-groups included family self-sufficiency levels, student achievement, and access to health care. The groups also stressed developing countywide, culturally sensitive, multilingual services and to increase access to all services for special populations.

JoAnna Caywood,  Children’sOutcome Manager of the Peninsula Community Foundation will coordinate community efforts to create and carry out an action plan, identify and support programs that work, and use data to monitor progress and improve services.

Advice from Susan Ferren, Project Coordinator for the Children’sReport and Summit:

Lessons Learned from the Children’sSummit  –

  • The process is as important, if not more important,  than the content.  In other words, you need to get as inclusive as possible group of stakeholders to be part of the collaborative effort.  You can always change the nature of the report, the format of it, the data you would like to collect and measure, etc. but if you don’t have initial buy-in and support from the major public and private stakeholders, your end result will not be as successful.
  • The project manager for an endeavor such as the Children’sReport needs to be focused, tenacious and the success of the project can’t be driven by personal interests.  Keep in mind that selecting and agreeing upon outcomes and indicators can be challenging.

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MarcSan Mateo County’s children’s Summit Moves 350 Participants from Talk to Action