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1 in 4 Children in London Live in Poverty
The Child and Youth Network

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The Child and Youth Network was coordinated 10 years ago by the City of London in conjunction with 50 community partners in response to some difficult data. It was found that not only were 1 in 4 London children not ready to learn in Grade 1, but 1 in 4 London children were also living in poverty, and 1 in 4 London children were suffering from obesity. To top it off the parents that needed to access help for their children found the system difficult to navigate with long lines for services and the need to repeat their story every time they met someone new.

The Network was set up to share data, improve service, and work better together to meet the needs of their clients in London. Currently there are five neighborhood service centers with two more about to come on line. All of the service centers are associated with a local school, and the Network is set up for any parent of a child 0-12 years of age can come in seeking help. Onsite are community partners who can either assist the parent and child in need of service or can get them to someone that can. The goal is to have a service center in every neighborhood.

The Network is built upon four priorities: Literacy as a Way of Life, Ending Poverty, Healthy Eating and Activity, and Creating Family Centered Service. While these priorities are listed distinctly there is an awful lot of integration between them to effectively serve the parents and children. Recent initiatives include:

Literacy: Through the prenatal training undertaken by the Health Unit they have been distributing a “Babies Book Bag” to every first-time parent. Items in the bag include several high-quality board books, a CD recorded by artists in Stratford, and an envelope with resources that may be beneficial to new parents.

Poverty: A food for family’s program including 10 modules adaptable to any neighborhood. The modules train parents on stretching the family food budget and picking healthy alternatives at the grocery store.

Healthy Eating: Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care presented the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. This included picking healthy alternatives such as “Water Does Wonders (changing from fruit and sugary juices to water)” and how to boost the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Creating Family Centered Service: Creating and supplying service maps, improving access to physicians, and creating age appropriate support groups.

Illustrating how the priorities overlap, Jennifer Smith is the Project Manager for the Literacy and Ending Poverty priorities. She believes that managing them together makes absolute sense as study after study have shown that literacy and poverty are intrinsically linked. However, she by no means sees the difficulties our families face as hopeless.

“By working collectively we can improve outcomes for children, youth, and families,” says Smith. She challenges, “Take a look at our list of partners and figure out what is most meaningful to you. The Child and Youth Network has general meetings that are open to the public so you can figure out how you might be involved in serving these families.”