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Cities address kids' health care with innovative programs.

The following represent a few of the local programs nationwide that are being highlighted by the Ad Council as part of its national campaign "Change the World of a Child and you Change the World." Nation's Cities Weekly selected out those programs which focus on health care for the young.


Minneapolis has a network of 200 social service, family, child care and education programs under the umbrella of the Minneapolis Success by Six initiative.

New Vistas School--now in its third year, this joint effort by Honeywell and the Minneapolis public schools system built and operates a high school for young mothers (ages 14-16), a day care facility for infants and a preschool with the corporate headquarters of this Fortune 500 company.

Teachers are joined by employees who volunteer as counselors and mentors providing job referrals and baby care. The students are all women, although men are welcome, in grades 10-12. The students receive a regular curriculum plus special emphasis on parenting and health issues. The goal is to provide these young mothers with an education, to improve their chances of success and thereby reduce subsequent generations living in poverty.

Phillips TLC, located in a neighborhood that even program administrators describe as having the "worst of everything," began as a Junior League effort to reduce the number of low- weight births, teenage pregnancies, and improve the overall quality of and access to prenatal care. This program enlists and teaches local mothers who are then paid for providing one-on-one counseling to their neighbors.

Rocking Readers, sponsored in part by Cargill and a local church, organizes company retirees into a brigade of readers for preschool children.

MELD - The Minnesota Early Learning Design - builds support networks for young families who lack access to older adults of their parents but need advice, support and mentoring care. Most clients are young mothers with children up to two years old.


Resources for Children's Health is a five year-old volunteer program that provides at-risk mothers access to prenatal medical care, emotional support and guidance through mentors. Men and women volunteers serve as "family visitors" sharing prenatal techniques, teaching the location of local hospitals and explaining what's required to make and raise a healthy baby.

While the focus of the program is prenatal care through the first year of life the family visitor works with the entire family, not just the mother and newborn. Once home visits begin, older siblings are offered health care screenings for shots and other diagnostic services.

The target audience includes medium and low income families with no insurance, regular access to a doctor or clinic. The Resources program is currently serving more than 100 mothers and their families, including teaching boys how to be good fathers. The youngest member is only 12.

Resources has an impressive track record--increasing the average birth weight and encouraging participants to follow through with their medical care. in the last assessment, 97 percent of pregnant mothers kept physicians appointments, 100 percent were on schedule with immunizations. Many of the volunteer home visitors are own welfare and the program has motivated some of them to seek careers in the health care profession. The family visitors receive six weeks of training, a stipend of $50 per week and must conduct an outreach in their community for new clients.

Austin, Tex.

The CEDEN Family Center builds a one-on-on, positive, relationship to offer prenatal care and parent education for teenage moms. Each pregnant woman is matched with a volunteer, parent educator. The first meeting takes place in the home during pregnancy or at the hospital. Some pairings remain together for up to three years of program eligibility. Some close friendships have continued for a long time afterward.

Volunteers make sure the teen mothers-to-be keep their prenatal care appointments. Lessons include tips for better nutrition, child care and parenting. All volunteers receive two training sessions, a manual and a curriculum to focus their work and maintain effectiveness.

In the Parent-child Family Services program volunteers work with youngsters who are at risk of being developmentally delayed and families which have low-incomes or might be struggling with a great deal of emotional or economic stress.

Volunteers work to build supportive and trusting relationships in part by educating moms about parenting activities. These are geared toward the specific age of the child, offering positive reinforcement and communication skills and providing health care referrals.

Fairfax, Va.

The Fairfax Community Medical Care is the result of efforts by a state community worker to mobilize businesses, HMOs and doctors to create a program that provides health care to 2,400 at-risk youth. The program was awarded the innovation award in 1990 by the Ford Foundation sand the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

HMOs like Kaiser Permanente donate a small sum to cover insurance; businesses donate funds to create endowments; and doctors donate their time and professional expertise to provide quality health care throughout the county. The plan provides for an even distribution of responsibilities, careful not to strap participants of energy, enthusiasm or money and thereby creating a balance that sustains the work.

One goal is the serve children who often slip through the cracks of other government programs. Most of the children come from families who do not qualify for Medicare, yet still do not have health benefits from their parents' employment. Without access to this program, many of their medical problems might otherwise remain unidentified or go untreated for years.

The program hopes to expand to serve 4,000 children this year and 19,000 by the end of next year. Most families hear of the program through ads or by case worker's referrals.

Lucas County, Ohio

The Lucas County Parents Collaborative is a spirited and committed group of parents and families at-risk who have established and operate their own mentoring program and telephone hot-line about medical/health issues for other parents.

Started by two parents of chronically ill children, the Lucas County Mentoring Program is an effort to empower parents of children 0 to 3 who may be lost in a maze of medical specialists. Technology and terminology. The program is relatively new and has 16 mentors whose own children are termed at-risk.

Mentors address the needs of low-income families with children who are mentally retarded, developmentally delayed or chronically ill. They explain what to expect, how to accrue funds and how to educate and prepare themselves. The program is based on the belief that parents cannot be expected to help themselves without mutual support and that other parents are best providers of that support.
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Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:May 3, 1993
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