All young children impacted by poverty are physically, socially and emotionally healthy as they enter kindergarten.
In western and central New York, nearly one in five families with children under age 5 have incomes below the poverty level. Many more families straddle that line – only one job layoff or illness away from joining the official statistics.
For these families facing day-to-day struggles, prioritizing, finding and accessing high quality health care for their children can be a constant challenge.
The first few weeks, months and years of a child’s life are the most critical – and when children are most vulnerable. The developmental milestones and early learning experiences children have before age 5 will shape their health and well-being as they grow. And children who miss out on these milestones are often unable to catch up.
Young children impacted by poverty are among the most vulnerable people in the regions we serve. They’re more likely to have been born prematurely or have low birth weight and have unidentified behavior or developmental problems. They’re also more likely to have a variety of health issues like untreated cavities that can affect their development and chances for success in school.
Recognizing the challenges families impacted by poverty face – such as unemployment, transportation difficulties and inflexible work schedules – the Foundation focuses on helping families access services, and bringing services to the places children already go, like preschools and child care centers.
Our work in this focus area aims to get families the care, information and tools they need so their kids are physically, socially and emotionally healthy when they enter kindergarten – an important stepping stone toward a bright and healthy future
- Challenge: Behavioral and developmental problems: About 12 to 16% of children experience developmental problems. And yet, only one-third of those children are identified before starting kindergarten, putting them at a disadvantage.
- Challenge: Tooth decay a chronic disease: Even though it’s almost 100% preventable, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. In New York, approximately 62 percent of Medicaid-eligible kids between ages 3 and 5 did not receive any dental care in 2009.
- Challenge: High Risk Pregnancies: The U.S. still ranks last among 17 developed nations in infant mortality. For women living in poverty, life issues, along with a lack of access to care, results in high-risk pregnancies, babies with low birth weights and even infant death.
Kids Strengthen Social and Emotional Skills
More than 6,000 children in more than 190 classrooms have improved social-emotional skills through the PEDALS curriculum. Teachers reported a 57% decrease in the number of kids with social-emotional needs.
Strong Environments Support Healthy Development
More than 2,000 Ages and Stages Questionnaire developmental screenings were completed as part of Help Me Grow, which includes following up with parents to share results and make referrals as appropriate.
Pregnant Moms Get Care and Counseling
In Niagara Falls, Syracuse and Buffalo, the WHEN Program has helped hundreds of pregnant women involved with the courts – often homeless, affected by domestic abuse or mental illness – get health or social services.
Kids’ First Visit to the Dentist
The Cavity Free Kids curriculum has reached more than 10,000 young children, and Portable Dental Care has served nearly 1,000 kids, between 20 and 40% of whom had never seen a dentist.