Specifically, the coalition wants Monroe County to restore $1.7 million worth of funding that has been cut from some of those programs since 2014. They include Nurse-Family Partnership, Parents as Teachers, and Building Healthy Children. Long-term, they want the county to scale up the programs so they can serve more people. Coalition members have collected 1,200 letter from local faith communities, which they plan to send to county legislators and County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo.
But by the day's end, the Dinolfo administration said it had already planned to restore the cuts. County spokesperson Jesse Sleezer sent this statement:
"County Executive Dinolfo looks forward to presenting a balanced, flat-tax budget tomorrow that invests more than $500 million in services for children and families, representing over 40% of the county's annual operating spending. Included in that sum, the County will invest $1.7 million more in preventive programming for children in 2018 - a decision made well before today's announcement by the Children’s Agenda.”
The advocates' ask comes on the heels of Dinolfo's plan to beef up the county's Child Protective Services. When she releases her 2018 budget proposal Tuesday morning she'll propose adding 30 caseworkers, boosting pay for caseworkers, and reinstating the local abuse and neglect reporting hotline. Speakers during a press conference this morning lauded that plan, which the exec announced last month.
But the county can help prevent child maltreatment from happening in the first place by putting resources into preventive programming, which provide support for parents, particularly young, first-time parents.
"Such a move only closes some of the holes in the safety net and doesn't prevent them from falling into the safety net in the first place," said Dr. David Topa of Pittsford Pediatric Associates.
Through the Nurse-Family Partnership home visitation program, a nurse starts visiting mothers while they are pregnant, and continues the visits through the child's second birthday. All women on Medicaid and who are in the first trimester of pregnancy for their first child are eligible in Monroe County. The program works with the mothers on matters related to their children's health and development and is considered extremely effective.
Building Healthy Children is a broad program that grew out of the University of Rochester's Mount Hope Family Center. It combines outreach, family therapy, and the Parents as Teachers home visitation program; the latter effort focuses on parenting skills and building bonds between children and parents.
"We want every family to thrive and grow," says Brigit Hurley, a policy analyst with the Children's Agenda, the advocacy group that's coordinating the preventive services campaign.
A link to submit a letter is available at thechildrensagenda.org/.
This post was updated throughout the day.