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Growing up green: Sustainable living in the backyard
Written by Elizabeth M. Mack - Democrat staff writer - Published June 8, 2012
With the average age of today’s farmer being about 60, it’s even more important to get youth involved in farming now, said Nathan Ballentine, otherwise known as the Man in Overalls.
“If we are going to need to feed ourselves, we are going to need to know how to feed ourselves,” he said. “And when there are more people living in urban areas these days, we need to know how to farm where we are.”
But with programs such as iGrow, the path to more sustainable living seems brighter.
The Frenchtown based program, which started as an extension of YELDA — Youth Empowerment Leadership De velopment Academy — has been around for a decade, said Ballentine, known for his blog on gardening, also facilitates the program.
“The purpose is three-fold — grow healthy food for the community, provide meaningful employment to youth and teach other people how to grow their food,” he said.
A group of about a dozen teens meet each Monday, discussing and learning the ins and outs of gardening and running a business.
“Every step of the way is about youth empowerment,” Ballentine added. “So, instead of me coming in and saying this is what we need and how things need to be laid out, they are learning how to cook, work the books and watching documentaries on farming.”
The group has gotten hands-on experience with gardening at the community garden they started a year and half ago at American Second Harvest of the Big Bend. At the garden there’s everything from cucumbers, bell peppers, strawberries, greens and peas.
“I feel accomplished and amazed that we as a group and individuals made all this happen,” said Jalen Milton, 18, who has been in the program for a year and helped start the Second Harvest garden. “I’m in awe looking at it right now.”
Milton said being in iGrow has also taught him more than just how to grow fruits and vegetables.
“iGrow has taught me to stay dedicated to things that I do,” he added. “It’s taught me to try new things and care for things that I do.”
The teens also learn how to run a business by selling iGrow buckets, which are self-watering container gardens. The students keep track of the orders coming in for the buckets and even put them together.
There are three different types of buckets — one with all the supplies inside, one with just soil and another that is empty. Virtually anything can be grown in the buckets, Ballentine said.
Courtney Atkins, Whole Child Leon executive director, said they have an iGrow bucket at the Wesson Center, where Ballentine has been working with the Pre-K children, teaching them how to garden and the health benefits that come from it.
“Not only are they inexpensive, easy to use and perfect for people living in urban areas without room to plant a garden, but by purchasing one you will benefit a great program for our community's youth,” she said.
Atkins said they purchased an iGrow bucket three months ago. They grew tomatoes and have already had their first harvest.
“It was so easy,” she added. “The beauty of the iGrow bucket is that because of the unique design, you can't over water it and you don't have to water it as often.”
And it has health benefits.
“I think the sooner we can help children understand where their food comes from the more likely they are to pick up healthy habits,” Atkins said. “And when they are curious and seeing where these fruits and vegetables come from and they are seeing it, they are more likely to eat them throughout their lifetime.”
Ballentine said they have raised $1,500 so far from selling the buckets. The money used from the sale of the buckets is going toward a community garden in Frenchtown.
iGrow recently received a $21,300 grant from the Junior League of Tallahassee to start a community farm in Frenchtown.
The grant was open to a nonprofit agency or organization that proposed a project to address a major community need and improves school success for the community’s children and families, said Kate Wasson, JLT president-elect.
JLT received 27 grant applications, Wasson said. The final two nonprofits made a presentation to members of JLT.
“We really liked the project,” she said. “They fit into our focus area of school success, but the big thing for us is the self-esteem.”
Ballentine said with the grant, the iGrow group was able to purchase a plot of land. The community garden will be located at 526 Dunn St. And work should be starting soon.
“This summer we are doing planning and designing for the farm, as well as learning how to market,” he said. “We are also taking field trips to learn about crop productions and visiting local farmers markets to learn about direct local food marketing.”
Khadijah McClure, 18, who has been in iGrow for a year said she believes the Frenchtown garden is something that is really needed in the community.
“It will be really helpful for people,” she said. “Especially for those that can’t afford to buy healthy foods regularly. And they can also see how easy and useful it is to grow their own foods.”
Wasson added that JLT will also be keeping in partnership with iGrow moving forward.
“We are really excited and proud to be a supporter of this project,” she said. “This is not just about growing vegetables, this is about growing our community’s future. We want these kids to know that they can have the next big idea. And it can really be something.”
Drowning is summer's silent killer of young children in Fla.
Written by Lonnie Parizek - Special to the Democrat
Published May 29, 2012
With summer quickly approaching, it is important to remember that drowning is the leading cause of death among Florida's children ages 1 to 4. Drowning happens quickly and silently, with most child drowning victims missing from sight for less than 5 minutes. In 2008, 71 percent of drowning deaths occurred in residential swimming pools; however, young children can drown in less than two inches of water. Take steps to keep children safe around all water hazards including beaches, lakes, bathtubs, buckets, coolers, ponds, ditches, fountains, hot tubs, toilets, pet water bowls and wading pools.
The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida and Florida Department of Health recommend using multiple layers of protection to keep children safe:
Adult supervision is the most effective prevention strategy and the most critical layer of protection. Children must always be supervised by an adult when in or around water. Never allow a young child to be responsible for a younger sibling or playmate. Designate an adult 'water watcher' to monitor children in and around water. The 'water watcher' cannot leave the swimming area for any reason and must keep swimmers within reach at all times. Keep distractions such as reading material away from the swimming area. The designated 'water watcher' should have a phone with emergency numbers nearby.
A child should never be able to enter any swimming area unaccompanied by a guardian. Barriers physically block a child from the swimming area. Barriers include child-proof locks on all doors, a pool fence with self-latching and self-closing gates and door and pool alarms. Professional pool covers should be customized to securely fit the pool. Around the house, empty buckets immediately after use and store them upside down and out of a child's reach. Drain bathtubs and keep toilet seats down. Consider using a lock or toilet clip to prevent toddlers from lifting the toilet seat.
If there is a water related emergency and a child stops breathing, there is a small window of time in which resuscitation may occur. It's important for everyone to learn CPR. The techniques are easy to learn and can mean the difference between life and death. In an emergency, it is critical to have a phone nearby and immediately call 911.
The Florida Department of Children and Families partnered with the Ounce of Prevention Fund and the Florida Department of Health to create a drowning prevention brochure as part of the Keep Your Eye on the Kids campaign. Copies of the brochure are available in English, Spanish and Creole at no cost to family serving organizations, community partners, caregivers, and volunteers upon request. Simply complete the online order form at: www.ounce.org/Printed_Resources.html.
For more information on promoting healthy child development and preventing childhood injuries, visit www.ounce.org. Whole Child Leon is building a community where everyone works together to make sure children thrive. For more information, go to www.WholeChildLeon.org, or call 850-414-8344.
— Lonnie Parizek is Director of Communications, The Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida
Blue Cross gives Whole Child Leon a big check
Written by Kate Schofield Democrat staff writer
Published May 24, 2012
When Courtney Atkins helped create Whole Child Leon four years ago, she didn't expect to be standing in front of a crowd accepting a check for nearly $100,000.
Wednesday, Whole Child Leon was presented with a $98,472 grant by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Foundation (BCBSF Foundation). Atkins, executive director of Whole Child Leon, was also this year's recipient of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors Joseph W. Cullen Award, presented by John Robitscher, NACDD chief executive officer.
The one-year grant will be used for the 95210 initiative, a community-wide effort that promotes behavioral and policy change. The program focuses on the need of nine hours of sleep a night, eating at least five fruits and vegetables a day, doing at least one hour of physical activity a day, spending less than two hours of recreational screen time a day and not using tobacco products.
"What we are looking for is a program that provides innovative solutions to problems," said Susan Towler, vice president of the BCBSF Foundation. "We want to improve the health of communities all around Florida."
Through partnerships with the Leon County Health Department, Leon County Schools and the Early Learning Coalition, this Whole Child Leon initiative is active in 24 Pre-K classrooms in Leon County Schools and four centers contracted through the Early Learning Coalition. Whole Child Leon is an initiative of United Way of the Big Bend.
"We (community organizations) are melding together and bringing the issues to the forefront," said Jennifer D'Urso, the Tallahassee ACHIEVE coach. "This will allow the idea of the broad health message to continue."
Earlier Wednesday morning, D'Urso, Atkins and others toured the city with Robitscher to show off the environmental and policy changes the group had accomplished in two years. They went to Wesson School where a group of students showed them their garden; to Second Harvest where the group visited another community garden and to the Frenchtown garden where they weeded.
Whole Child Leon and its partners aim to teach youth simple messages in hopes of giving them the tools to live a healthier life and to pass on the information.
"The resources have been embedded in our community," D'Urso said.
Whole Child Leon will use the grant money to start working with more students and their families in grades up to fifth or eighth in Leon County, said Atkins.
Sleep a Focal Point in the Whole Picture of Health
By: David Huang, MD, Medical Director, Tallahassee Memorial Sleep Center
- Special to the Tallahassee Democrat Published May 8, 2012
It is fitting that our community’s 95210: Whole Picture of Health initiative begins by addressing the need for nine hours of sleep a night—not only is adequate sleep fundamental to other areas of health, it is also a largely overlooked component of a healthy lifestyle.
While most adults need anywhere from 7.5 - 8 hours of sleep each night, children and teenagers need at least 9 hours. Unfortunately, on average, our children and teens are not getting anywhere near that amount of rest. It is estimated that only 20 percent of our nation’s adolescents get the recommended 9 hours of sleep each night.
Adequate sleep helps us to perform our best at school, in sports, at our jobs, and in our interpersonal relationships with family and friends. Memory, focus, concentration, mood, and learning are all influenced by sleeping well, which means both an optimum quality and length of sleep. So, how can we make good sleep a priority?
The first step is to recognize that sleep is crucial to healthy functioning. Sleep has the power to affect many other areas of our health. Inadequate sleep may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, heart disease, depression, and possibly dying young. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to increased risk of car accidents.
In order to attain the level of sleep our bodies need, we may have to be more realistic about our life’s goals—Top performing students may be taking all AP classes, participating in sports and extracurricular activities, and holding down part-time jobs. It is hard to get adequate sleep when juggling so many demands on our time.
To ensure a better night’s sleep, turn off bright lights and all electronics well ahead of bedtime. Even light from television and computer screens can delay our internal sleep clock and cause us to feel alert when our bodies actually need rest. By turning off the electronics, we allow our bodies to sync with natural daylight and nighttime hours.
While getting adequate sleep can require some lifestyle changes, it has many rewards in terms of better physical, mental, and emotional health.
Agencies offer free screenings on Friday
Special to the Democrat - Apr. 10, 2012
For the last three years a group of local agencies have been working together to provide free developmental screenings to children ages 6 months to 5 years old. The screening process is comprehensive and encompasses the following areas: social-emotional development, cognitive development, physical motor skills, speech, hearing, dental health and vision. To date, more than 233 children have received these free and in-depth screenings. The next screening day is Friday.
"We are very fortunate to have all these agencies working together for the betterment of the community," said Angel Trejo, Whole Child Leon Action Team Leader.
"The Free Community Developmental Screening serves a valuable function in identifying children, ages 6 months to 5 years, for possible developmental delays. The purpose of this early identification is to facilitate developmentally appropriate services so that children are ready to learn when they begin kindergarten," reported Dr. Mary Seay, Medical Director of Children's Medical Services.
Although many children see a medical provider during these early years for illnesses, immunizations, and hopefully for well child care, many developmental concerns are not discovered. A variety of reasons — including lack of parental reporting, brief time available with the provider, no formal screening process, or a watch and wait attitude — can contribute to the problem.
"Each of these Community Developmental Screenings has identified at least four to six children with serious developmental concerns, and many more with milder but significant issues," said Dr. Seay.
The screening process covers a range of developmental issues, including dental care.
"The purpose of these screenings is to detect early signs or symptoms that could be problematic if left unattended. From a dental perspective, I cannot stress enough how important early dental screening is. Tooth decay is a serious public health problem. Most people do not realize that it is in fact the most common chronic childhood disease that will not resolve without treatment. It is also one of the most preventable diseases. Children's oral health care habits today will have an impact on their health as an adult and prevention is always better than treatment. That is why I volunteer for these comprehensive screenings. Early detection allows for early non-invasive treatments and for positive changes in children's habits in caring for teeth. The most important aspect of these screenings is that it gives me an opportunity to educate parents about early childhood tooth decay and healthy oral practices. Very often a simple change in their daily routine can result in children growing into adults," reports Dr. Richard JP Bastien of Bastien Dental Care.
"We are all extremely grateful for the community partners who come together and volunteer their time and expertise to identify children who need assistance with their developmental growth. This is a great community program and one of which we can all be proud," concluded Dr. Seay.
The next free Developmental Screening is set for Friday at Children's Medical Services, 2390 Phillips Road, Tallahassee. Call for an appointment at 850-487-2630. Visit www.WholeChildLeon.org for more information, or call 850-414-8344.
11:55 PM, Apr. 3, 2012
By Elizabeth M. Mack Democrat staff writer
Kneeling down, jumping up like sprouts and then reaching for the sky is one way children at the Wesson Center learned about plants Tuesday morning.
Whole Child Leon, the Man in Overalls, Leon County Schools and United HealthCare held a "Plant and Play Day" for pre-K children at the center. The purpose of the event was to teach children about ways to eat, live and be healthy — an initiative of both Whole Child Leon and UHC, said Diane Owens, outreach coordinator for United HealthCare.
More than 100 children ages 4 and 5 participated in the day of planting.
For most of the morning, the children helped plant a community garden in the center's yard using two plant beds.
"You dig a hole, put the sweet potato plant in the hole, then you need water and sun to make it grow," said KÃ­Liani Whitehead, 4, describing what she learned about gardening.
In addition to sweet potatoes, the children helped plant cucumbers, eggplants, banana peppers, okra and tomatoes.
Once the vegetables are harvested, the children will be able to take some home, Owens said. But they also will be donating the bulk of the vegetables to the American Second Harvest of the Big Bend.
"The goal is to start the children on the right path to living healthy lives while they are young," she said. "But we also want to stress the importance of giving back to your community."
Aside from learning how plants grow and planting a community garden at the center, the children also learned about healthy living practices through the 95210 plan.
Here's the breakdown; "9" hours of sleep a night, "5" servings of fruits and vegetables a day, no more than "2" hours of screen time a day, at least "1" hour of exercise and "0" sugary drinks.
"We really hope that with the 95210 plan they will learn that just like they have to take care of plants for them to grow, they also have to take care of their bodies," said Courtney Atkins, executive director of Whole Child Leon.
Closing the Infant Mortality Gap Through Education and Community Action
Special to the Tallahassee Democrat - Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Leon County was recently awarded a $130,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health, Office of Minority Health (OMH) to reduce racial disparity in infant mortality. This grant enables the County to collaborate with the Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition by launching the “Leon County Campaign for Healthy Babies.” The overarching goal of the campaign is to help improve birth outcomes and decrease infant mortality among African Americans in Leon County through education and awareness activities.
As part of the “Campaign for Healthy Babies” initiative, the “Year of the Healthy Infant II” will convene at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 17th at the Florida State University Turnbull Conference Center, 555 W. Pensacola Street. Everyone is encouraged to attend the forum, which is free and open to the public. Ideas, thoughts, concerns and opportunities are needed to help solve this community-wide problem. Dr. Cheryl Clark of the Florida Department of Health will offer an in-depth overview and analysis concerning infant mortality in Leon County. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask expert panelists health-related questions in an open forum. Panelists will include: A.J. Brickler III, M.D.; Andrea Friall, M.D.; Kristy Goldwire, M.S.W.; Ed Zapert, D.M.D. and Todd Patterson, M.D. The event moderator will be Fran Close, Ph.D. Whole Child Leon’s Healthy Infant Partnership, Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition, Bond Community Health Center, and the Leon County Health Department will offer an overview of current programs and initiatives. Additionally, there will be a resource fair, education classes and health screenings.
The initial “Year of the Healthy Infant” forum was held in March 2008. This initiative paved the way for caregivers, residents and organizations to develop a community action plan to reduce Leon County’s high rate of infant mortality. Over 100 citizens attended.
“Leon County is pleased to convene the Year of the Healthy Infant II. It is through this type of collaborative effort that community partners can mobilize to address such an important health issue,” said County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “Many providers and organizations have invested a lot of time and resources to help families achieve positive birth outcomes. Making a measurable impact on infant mortality will require continued community-level engagement and action.”
“Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition’s partnership with Leon County to reduce African American infant mortality is a major step forward,” said Ann Davis, Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition Executive Director. “Babies will be saved and our community will be healthier as a result.”
For more information about this year’s forum, please contact Lorraine Austin, Healthcare Services Coordinator with the Leon County Office of Human Services and Community Partnerships, at (850) 606-1912 / AustinL@leoncountyfl.gov or Jon D. Brown, Director of Leon County Community and Media Relations, at (850) 606-5300.
Alone in crib is safest way for baby to sleep
Special to the Tallahassee Democrat February 7, 2012
As a new or expectant parent, it is important to create a safe sleep environment for your baby. Sleep Right, Sleep Tight is a public awareness campaign developed by Prevent Child Abuse Florida in partnership with the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Health and community stakeholders.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby less than 1 year old. This is very scary for parents. Some parents believe sleeping with their baby can protect the baby from SIDS, but sleeping with a baby is dangerous and actually raises the risk of infant death.
Did you know that suffocation and strangulation in an adult bed is the leading cause of injury-related death for Florida infants under age 1? Or that the risk of sleeping-related infant death is 40 times higher for babies who sleep in adult beds compared to babies who sleep in their own cribs?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies are safest when sleeping alone, on their backs, in a crib in the parents' room for the first six months of life. If the parent or their partner smokes in the bedroom, the crib should be placed in a room that is smoke free. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends that cribs should be undamaged and meet current Consumer Product Safety guidelines that can be found at www.cpsc.gov.
The crib mattress should fit tightly in its frame and have a snug fitted sheet. Soft objects and loose bedding should be kept out of your baby's crib. If needed, use infant sleep clothing designed to keep your baby warm without the possible hazard of head covering or entrapment. Avoid over-bundling babies because of the possibility of overheating.
Offering a pacifier has also been linked to a decreased risk of SIDS. For breastfed infants, delay pacifier introduction until 1 month of age to ensure breastfeeding is firmly established.
For more information, on the Sleep Right, Sleep Tight campaign, visit www.ounce.org/safe_sleep.html or check out the Sleep Right Sleep Tight page on Facebook.
Whole Child director wins recognition
Tallahassee Democrat 3:52 PM, Jan. 25, 2012
The National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) announced in December its annual award recipients for top contributors in state chronic disease programs and projects, nationwide.
The Joseph W. Cullen Award celebrates the life and influence of the former deputy director of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. This year's award recipient is Courtney Atkins, executive director of Whole Child Leon in Tallahassee. Atkins helped to establish wellness and nutrition initiatives in Pre-K classrooms and area child-care centers.
Atkins has worked to address the childhood obesity epidemic with the promotion of 95210: The Whole Picture of Health. Whole Child Leon works to create a community where everyone works together to make sure all children thrive.
Volunteer program offers free help with filing income taxes
Special to the Democrat - Published January 3, 2012
Don't pay to have your taxes done.It's almost tax time again, and it's important to know that there is an alternative to paying for filing, loans or quick refunds: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).
VITA, part of United Way of the Big Bend's BEST Project, will offer free tax preparation at sites throughout the Big Bend from mid-January to April. This free service helps residents avoid refund-anticipation loans and costly income-tax preparers.
VITA volunteers work to ensure that eligible families take advantage of tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC is a federal tax benefit for working people with low or moderate incomes. It can offset some or all of the taxes workers must pay and can help cover any federal income tax workers may still owe at tax time.
You may also get cash back through an EITC refund. The EITC can be worth up to $5,751 for families who worked in 2011. In addition, some families can get the CTC, which can be worth up to $1,000 per child. Even if you don't owe any income tax, you may still be eligible for these credits if you worked during 2011. To claim the credits, you must file a 2011 tax return.
You may feel confused or overwhelmed when faced with filing your tax return, but before you go to a paid tax preparer, who may charge $100 or more, consider using a VITA site that can help prepare and file your taxes for free. Get your full refund with no fees or hidden expenses. Returns are e-filed so you'll receive your refund in 10 days — faster if you receive your refund using direct deposit.
VITA sites will open on Jan. 21. To find a VITA site near you, dial 211 or visit www.theBESTproject.org/tax-help.
Pitch in with Second Harvest blitz
Special to the Tallahassee Democrat - Published December 6, 2011
Did you know that currently, one in six of our neighbors in the Big Bend struggle with hunger on a regular basis, and one in four children? The faces of hunger now are different than they have ever been. As widespread unemployment and underemployment combine with a steady increase in the cost of living, many people who never needed help before are struggling to put food on their tables.
America's Second Harvest of the Big Bend is the local food bank whose mission is to feed the hungry through its network of partner agencies, which are those food pantries, community meal sites and other programs that feed those in need. By working with over 135 nonprofit and faith-based organizations, Second Harvest is able to address the immediate needs of hunger on a larger scale. This past year, Second Harvest distributed over 5.5 million pounds of food and grocery items through the partner agencies to help an average of 30,000 people in need every month.
Although the number of people served seems huge, we know that there is still more people in need. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, there are over 58,600 people living in poverty in Leon County alone, and 23,000 of these are children.
Food is the fuel that kids need to learn in school and stay active and healthy. One of the programs that Second Harvest has is the Back Pack Program, which helps children who qualify for free lunches during the school week, but often don't have food on the weekends and go hungry. Through this program, children receive a bag of food at their school every Friday to take home, to make sure they have at least one meal over the weekend. Teachers report that children in this program are doing better in school, because they are not returning to school hungry on Monday morning.
To learn more about how you can get involved with Second Harvest, log onto the website: www.fightinghunger.org. There are plenty of opportunities, such as sponsoring a child in the Back Pack Program, holding a food drive, or donating funds. Volunteering is also a great way to get involved, as Second Harvest can accommodate both children and adults during their monthly Saturday "Volunteer Blitz."
Some children and families have taken it a step further and conducted their own food drives in their neighborhoods, with their churches or synagogues, or other organizations.
We have had several young people organize a neighborhood food drive by passing out fliers they made, listing a day for donations to be picked up, and then walking throughout the neighborhood collecting food for the hungry. It is an incredible sight to see a 13-year-old help unload an SUV filled with canned goods that he was responsible for collecting!
As you make plans for the Holiday Season and the year ahead, can you commit to helping fight hunger and feed hope? To learn more about how you can get involved, log onto the Second Harvest website: www.fightinghunger.org or call 850-562-3033. If you are in need, or know a family who is, you can also call this number to get information on a program that will be able to assist with emergency food needs. Together we can fight hunger and feed hope.
Whole Child Leon's Website - on WCTV's www.MomsEveryday.com
Whole Child Leon's Childhood Obesity Efforts - on WCTV's www.MomsEveryday.com
Make sure your tot gets all the benefits from car safety seats
Special to the Democrat - November 8, 2011
The American Academy of Pediatrics now advises that all infants and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat until they are 2 years of age or until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat's manufacturer. Studies show that children under age 2 are 75-percent less likely to die or to be severely injured in a crash when their car seats are rear-facing because those seats do a better job of supporting the head, neck and spine in an accident.
Previous guidelines recommended that children stay in rear-facing seats as long as possible, but also included a minimum age and weight of 12 months or 20 pounds. The new recommendation is not a rule, but can be used to help parents decide when to make the transition to a forward-facing seat. Smaller children may benefit from remaining rear-facing seats longer, while some children may reach the maximum height and weight before their second birthday.
If you have already switched your car seat to forward facing and your child is not yet 2, try to switch it back. You don't even need a new car seat — most convertible car seats on the market are made to accommodate children in the rear-facing position up to 35 pounds. If you don't think your toddler can handle the switch back to rear-facing, attempt it for a week. If your child is still rear-facing, plan to not switch the car seat to forward-facing until your child is 2 years old or until you need to switch it based on your car seat's maximum weight guideline.
Above all, it's crucial to be sure your car seat is installed correctly. Always follow the manufacturer's guidelines for installation. If you're unsure if the seat is secured properly, local law enforcement will inspect and help install car seats the correct way.
There are many ways we can help children
Re: "Session priorities: Children's Movement tries a few small steps" (Our Opinion, Nov. 2).
I read with interest your opinion piece on the Children's Movement legislative agenda for the upcoming session. As advocates for children's issues for many years, those of us at the Lawton Chiles Foundation are pleased that so many supporters of this agenda are forming a unified voice.
We are also pleased to see the recognition of Whole Child Leon, a stellar example of what Gov. Chiles put forth as the necessary precursor to moving the dial with Florida's children, community engagement and cooperation.
We did want to inform your readers that Whole Child Leon is only one of eight Whole Child programs across the state. It is also active in Jefferson, Madison, Taylor, Gadsden, Manatee, Martin and Indian River counties.
Whole Child's specific charge is to replicate the program in each of the 20 judicial circuits by 2015, a tall order with no state funding. But Whole Child, through the Lawton Chiles Foundation and communities across Florida, is committed to make every effort to help forge unity around children's needs.
KITTY CHILES, Executive Director, Whole Child Florida
Children's Movement tries a few small steps
7:29 PM, Nov. 1, 2011
Perhaps it will be the year of the child, after all — even if that means being satisfied, even celebratory, over succeeding by reducing expectations.
In terms of Legislative largesse, however, the approach of child advocates this year may be better than asking for the moon and going away empty handed.
The Children's Movement on Monday launched a pragmatic 2012 legislative agenda. The nonprofit's focus is a 5-point, $30 million investment in the health and education of very young children, perchance to improve the futures of older children — and ultimately that much-talked-about educated "workforce" that will carry Florida into prosperity.
Also known as the Milk Party for its milk-and-cookies events statewide, the Children's Movement is on the same chapter, though perhaps on different pages than the nonprofit Children's Campaign coalition. In August, it set out goals for public policy supporting pre-natal infant and child health care and high quality child care.
We have no shortage of child advocates. Florida has created a Children's Cabinet to share information with other agencies about child welfare. Here in Leon County, Whole Child Leon is a wonderful program to connect parents with information and services for children, but it's local in scope.
Yet despite these and other champions of children — and despite political rhetoric that unfailingly favors children — our state is guilty of chronic child neglect.
Florida ranks 47th among the states and the District of Columbia in the access of children to affordable and preventative health care.
Some 800,000 Florida children from infancy to age 18 are without health insurance.
During the economic downturn, even some children who had been covered by family insurance lost it when parents lost their jobs.
To that end, one of the five points of the Children's Movement is to do a much better job of getting the word out to families about KidCare through school-based and community outreach efforts. Florida's low-cost insurance program for very low-income parents, KidCare has never been the success story it should have been because of complex application processes and low public awareness that it even exists.
The Movement is seeking $5 million to develop an online screening and diagnosis and treatment for children with special needs. It's seeking $4.2 million to do a better job of assessing how children are doing in the state's voluntary pre-kindergarten program for 4-year-olds, and $8.7 million to require an evidence-based curriculum for VPK. This kindergarten program was never intended to be child care alone.
Finally, the Children's Movement is after $10 million to build a parental skill-building system so parents can do a better job with the fundamentals.
The roughly $30 million that Children's Movement Founder Dave Lawrence says these incremental improvements would cost sounds like very little in the state's $69 billion budget. Yet on Tuesday Senate President Mike Haridopolos made it perfectly clear that tradeoffs will have to be made — and for him the $22 million in savings from prison privatization would be an excellent place to find the bucks, at least a portion of them.
The Legislature convenes on Jan. 10 and the games will begin. For children's advocates, positive pragmatism is what they're bringing to the arena, hoping to win a berth in this year's Priorities Championships.
We hold out modest hope that not too many more generations will come of age before children-and-families campaign rhetoric turns to reality.
Free Infant, Toddler and Preschool Developmental Screenings
Special to the Democrat - October 4, 2011
Over the last three years a group of local agencies working together have provided Free Community Developmental Screening to children ages 6 months to 5 years old. The screening process encompasses the following areas: social-emotional development, cognitive development, physical motor skills, speech, hearing, dental health and vision. More than 185 children have received these free and in-depth screenings.
"We are very fortunate to have all these agencies working together for the betterment of the community," stated Angel Trejo, Whole Child Leon Action Team Leader.
"The Free Community Developmental Screening serves a valuable function in identifying children ages 6 months-5 years for possible developmental delays. The purpose of this early identification is to facilitate developmentally appropriate services so that children are ready to learn when they begin kindergarten," reported Dr. Mary Seay, Medical Director of Children's Medical Services.
Although many children see a medical provider during these early years for illnesses, immunizations, and hopefully for "well child care", many developmental concerns are not discovered. A variety of reasons including: lack of parental reporting, brief time available with the provider, no formal screening process, or a "watch and wait" attitude can contribute to the problem.
"Each of these Community Developmental Screenings have identified at least 4 to 6 children with serious developmental concerns, and many more with milder but significant issues. At the most recent clinic a 5 year old boy was seen who had a history of loss of motor and language skills, balance abnormalities, and stiffness. He was immediately referred to appropriate medical care and was subsequently evaluated by specialists in Jacksonville and Miami. Unfortunately, he was found to have a very serious and progressive neurological condition. He was able to start therapy services and the family was able to receive support to help care for this boy and to assist in making him as functional as possible" stated Dr. Seay.
The screening process covers a range of developmental concerns including dental care. "With the connection between systemic diseases and problems found in the mouth becoming clearer, it is critical that these dental conditions are identified and taken care of at the earliest age possible," states Dr. Edward Zapert, Dental Director for the Leon County Health Department.
"We are all extremely grateful for the community partners who come together and volunteer their time and expertise to identify children who need assistance with their developmental growth. This is a great community program and one of which we can all be proud," concluded Dr. Seay.
The next free Developmental Screening is set for October 28th, 2011 at Children's Medical Services, 2390 Phillips Road, Tallahassee Florida. Please call for an appointment at 850-487-2630 by October 17, 2011.
Whole Child Leon: '95210' holds the keys to good health for kids and adults
Special to the Democrat - September 13, 2011
A new pilot program "95210 — The Whole Picture of Health" is being introduced in our area and currently targeted to pre-kindergarten age children. The program will provide guidelines and practices that will help prevent and reduce obesity, increase physical activity and improve nutrition. It spells out five daily habits that can help children and adults achieve these goals.
The name of the project "95210 – The Whole Picture of Health" is an easy way for parents and teachers to remember the formula and to plan ways to help their children meet their goals. The numbers represent the intended goals in the five selected areas. The message is stated in a clear, concise and easy-to-follow format that makes it especially valuable for busy teachers and parents. Simply by posting the 95210 tenets in your classroom or home, you can help children become more aware and involved with the program.
The tenets are:
9: Getting at least nine hours of sleep each night.
5: Eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
2: Limiting recreational screen time to two hours or less (TV, computers, video games, etc.).
1: Getting at least one hour of physical activity.
0: Eliminating sugary drinks/zero tobacco exposure.
Annsworth Academy is partnering with Whole Child Leon, the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend and the Leon County Health Department as one of the three participating schools in the 95210 pilot project. The Annsworth teachers promote these goals with their children in both the school and home settings.
Annsworth Academy addresses each of these areas in its parent information packet. Annsworth provides the teachers with the means to accomplish and expand these directives daily by engaging the children in creative activities that encourage active participation.
Sharing Tree opens doors to the public
Special to the Democrat - Published August 2, 2011
When The Sharing Tree opened a year ago, donated new and gently used materials of the reusable resource center were made available to teachers in Leon County public schools exclusively. Since The Tree's inaugural year has been such a resounding success - in 10 months, teachers received more than $150,000 worth of supplies and other materials for classroom use - the advisory board for the center has opened the store to the public.
The Tree's continued success is largely the result of the strong partnerships that were developed in the beginning and new ones that have been created since then. Founding partners for the center, located on the campus of Lively Technical Center, were Leon County Schools, Goodwill Industries of the Big Bend, Leon County government, and Sustainable Tallahassee. More recent partners include the Foundation for Leon County Schools, the City of Tallahassee and the Early Learning Coalition.
The Sharing Tree always is looking for supplies, including any kind of art and craft supplies, school supplies, fabric, yarn, etc. The Sharing Tree is also looking for volunteers; if you're interested, call 264-4035.
"I hope with our newfound outreach to the public that everyone can come to understand The Sharing Tree as an invaluable resource; one that provides an avenue in which to donate, as a resource that is more than affordable for organizations and families facing shrinking budgets, and a creative reuse hub that broadens our communities knowledge of reusing materials for educational and creative purposes," said Carly Sinnadurai, director of The Sharing Tree.
Learn more about The Sharing Tree at www.thesharingtreefl.org or by calling 264-4035.
Share the Magic of Music with Your Little Ones
Special to the Democrat - Published July 19, 2011
Have you noticed how your child's eyes light up when you play or sing a favorite song? A hefty stack of research shows that music helps spark memory, imagination, language skills, and reasoning ability. Music, combined with movement, help children learn balance, coordination, body awareness and rhythm. But enough about science. Music is a great way for your child to bond with you! Having fun together is one of music's greatest perks.
Here's how to make music a part of your family's life:
• Let your child explore. Little ones won't be able to keep a beat or sing right away. Don't worry! Let her do her thing and enjoy what she's hearing. Percussion instruments are easy for little hands to grasp, shake, and tap. Maracas, tambourines and small drums are perfect, but so are pots and pans.
• Be spontaneous. Little kids need little encouragement to break into song, and you shouldn't either. Sing "Good Morning to You" to the tune of "Happy Birthday," narrate bath-time preparations in an operatic voice, and make up rock songs about the dog.
• Use music to teach. Songs help children learn to spell ("B-I-N-G-O"), name the parts of their body ("Head, shoulders, knees and toes"), count ("Five Little Monkeys") and even speak new languages ("Frere Jacques").
• Make music accessible. Keep CD players or iPod docks in the kitchen, living room and your child's room. Don't limit your child to just one kind of music. Play what you love in addition to the songs meant for kids.
"Catching Smiles" — released in 2007 by Whole Child Leon — features the music of many talented local musicians who generously donated their songs to produce a CD with a beautiful collection of music that helps children feel good about themselves and the world around them. Thanks to the Early Learning Coalition of the Big Bend and the Agency for Workforce Innovation, "Catching Smiles" will be available in the community once again. You can get your copy when you see Whole Child Leon out in the community or you can download the songs at www.wholechildleon.org/Catching-Smiles-CD.
Whole Child Leon can help parents at TMH
Special to the Democrat • June 7, 2011
Whole Child Leon is a community-wide effort to get our children off to the best start in life by ensuring they have everything they need to thrive. Families with young children often need help, especially when their child has medical problems. Through a partnership with Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare, a Whole Child Advisor is now available to provide that help by meeting with parents of children who are receiving care in the NICU and pediatric units.
Having an advisor on-site gives parents an opportunity to ask questions, get assistance with filling out the Whole Child Connection and to gain access to the more than 2,000 area resources in the Whole Child Leon Resource Guide. Since the program began in January, advisors have helped parents and care-givers find resources such as services for special needs children, health insurance and childcare.
Advisors are available on Wednesdays in the Ronald McDonald rooms where parents can be assured privacy as well as a comfortable and convenient location. A Whole Child Advisor is on site at the Pediatrics Unit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the NICU Unit from 2:30 to 5 p.m.
All children are different, and finding local services for them can take lots of time and effort. The Whole Child Connection makes it easy, by putting it all in one place. The Connection assists families in identifying their needs and then families receive resource information There are also resources for general family support.
Now families can access Whole Child Leon's website at the Leon County Courthouse. The kiosk is a self-help station that allows families access to the Whole Child Leon website where they can complete the Whole Child Connection and access the Resource Guide. If there are any questions, a Whole Child Advisor can be reached by email in the "contact us" tab or by calling 414-8344. Visit www.WholeChildLeon.org for more information.
Take a Vital Step in Preparing for Kindergarten
SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT • PUBLISHED: May 10, 2011
If you have a child starting kindergarten in the fall, be on the lookout for the “Kindergarten Parent Input Survey”. This survey is designed to make your child’s transition into Kindergarten easy and successful. It will also help your child’s new school make the most appropriate class placement. The Kindergarten Parent Input Survey offers parents an opportunity to point out their child’s developmental strengths and weaknesses and describe how their child reacts to different situations. The rising kindergartener is also asked to participate by drawing a picture of themselves for their new teacher.
Surveys will be distributed through VPK sites and will also be available for download from www.wholechildleon.org/The-6-Dimensions/Quality-Education, or call 414-8344 . Completed forms will be collected at VPK sites or can be sent to your child’s new school by July 31.
County Holds Ceremony for New Family Resource Center
Leon County Board of County Commissioners Chairman John E. Dailey; Vice-Chairman Akin Akinyemi; County Commissioners Bill Proctor, Bryan Desloge and Kristin Dozier; along with representatives from Whole Child Leon and 2-1-1 Big Bend, cut the ribbon for the new Family Resource Center (pictured), located in the Leon County Courthouse, at the Tuesday morning event. The first of its kind in Leon County, the center will provide greater accessibility and more convenience for families visiting the Courthouse to find information immediately, such as counseling and legal services, support groups, pediatricians and health services, housing assistance, substance abuse services, and information on after-school activities. (Photo by Stan Johnson)
Leon County, in partnership with 2-1-1 Big Bend, Inc., and Whole Child Leon, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday to present the new Family Resource Center, which is located in the Leon County Courthouse. The Family Resource Center features two computer kiosks and a direct telephone line for citizens to access information about area support services.
"We are grateful to our partners, 2-1-1 Big Bend, Inc., and Whole Child Leon, for helping to make this Family Resource Center a reality," said Chairman John E. Dailey. "This center, which is available to all Leon County residents, provides a convenient and comprehensive source for information on area support services that wasn't immediately available before now."
The first of its kind in Leon County, the center will provide greater accessibility and more convenience for families visiting the Courthouse to find information immediately, such as counseling and legal services, support groups, pediatricians and health services, housing assistance, substance abuse services, and information on after-school activities.
2-1-1 Big Bend, a United Way Agency, answers more than 50,000 calls each year through its seven hotline programs. From the kiosk, residents can search for human service programs through its touch-screen database or talk directly to a Helpline 2-1-1 counselor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Through the Whole Child Connection, families can complete a "profile" to receive a custom report of services specific to their needs, and users can connect to more than 2,000 resources by using the online resource guide.
"The Leon County Commission's investment to provide these services confirms their commitment to our community," said 2-1-1 Big Bend President Randy Nicklaus. "Last year we assisted more than 24,000 callers via Helpline 2-1-1 alone, and through this partnership, we hope to double our impact."
People in need of financial assistance, as well as those needing help dealing with emotional distress, can access available services without the hassle of navigating a complicated network of providers.
Whole Child Leon Executive Director Courtney Atkins said family court judges often recommend Whole Child Leon's website to those appearing before them in court, and now there is direct and immediate access through the Family Resource Center.
"Whole Child Leon is thrilled to have a presence in the Courthouse, and we appreciate the County Commissioners for making this happen," said Atkins.
For more information, please contact Leon County Public Information Officer Jon D. Brown at (850) 606-5300.
Healthy Kids Day Offers Family Fun
SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT • PUBLISHED: APRIL 13. 2011
Don't miss Make it a Play Date Healthy Kids Day at the YMCA on Apalachee Parkway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. There will be bounce houses, relay races, arts and crafts, as well as fitness classes for children and parents. Sponsors such as New Leaf Market and Earth Fare will provide healthy snacks and beverages, and a drawing will be held to win a new bike from the Great Bicycle Shop. The Pilot Club will be giving out bicycle helmets. Make time to tour the YMCA facility and learn more about swim lessons, YMCA's Camp Indian Springs and day camps. The YMCA also will debut its new community vegetable garden. The YMCA is looking for volunteers to help maintain the garden this summer. For details, call 414-8344.
Free health screenings set for April
SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT • PUBLISHED: MARCH 01. 2011 2:00AM
Since 2009, Whole Child Leon's Social-Emotional Action Team has organized a group of agencies who work together to provide free developmental screening to children — ages 6 months to 5 years — twice a year. "This effort is a true coming together of local agencies" says Angel Trejo, Chair of the Whole Child Social and Emotional Action Team.
Children's Medical Services provides the location and clinical staff. FSU provides its expertise and their students get a great opportunity to practice their future trade.
Early detection of developmental delays and early intervention helps families and in the long run, society as a whole. By strengthening positive early experiences, children are more likely to thrive and grow up to be healthy and productive adults. Benefits include:
· With parental approval, the child's physician is sent a letter with screening results.
· The screenings have identified children without a primary physician or health insurance.
· About 70 percent of children with developmental concerns have been further referred and evaluated by service agencies.
· A total of 124 children have been screened and an equal number of families have been referred to agencies during a preliminary telephone screening.
· At least 25 percent of the children screened with developmental concerns have received a full assessment from the referral agency and are now receiving intervention services.
· Parents/Guardian participating in the screening event have provided positive feedback that the community is providing this service.
The next screening will be held on April 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Children's Medical Services, 2390 Phillips Road. Screenings include: vision, hearing, motor skills, speech, language, cognitive, behavior, growth, and dental. Call (850) 487-2630 ext. 2231 for a reservation. For more information, visit www.wholechildleon.org or call 414-8344.
Our Opinion: Caring for 'our future'
On children, actions don't match the rhetoric
| • Published: February 04. 2011 2:00AM Tallahassee Democrat
Despite countless effort and many champions for children throughout our state; despite political rhetoric that nothing is more important than our children — "our future," they are called with warmth and hope — Florida is guilty of child neglect.
The emotion doesn't translate. The well-meaning programs don't suffice. Healthy Start, Health Kids, Healthy Families, Florida KidCare insurance — all the programs that aim high but are constantly struggling for support — are not getting the job done.
Thursday's report on children's health care from the Commonwealth Fund, which is a nonprofit that advocates for health issues, ranked Florida 47th among the states and the District of Columbia in the access of our children to affordable and preventative health care.
Ranked on 20 health-care-related criteria, Florida came in the bottom quarter of the states in nearly every measure, from affordability and treatment to the potential to lead healthy lives, in large part because so many children are uninsured.
From infancy to age 18, some 18 percent are uninsured for medical care, and no state ranks lower in terms of children getting access to dental care. In recent years, most estimates put that at between 600,000 and 700,000 children without health insurance.
During the economic downturn, even some children who had been covered by family insurance lost it when parents lost their jobs and health coverage along with it.
KidCare, Florida's low-cost insurance program for very low-income parents, has never been the success story it should have been, with complex application processes and low public awareness that it even exists.
And last month, Florida got no portion of $206 million in federal bonus money for states that have adopted smart KidCare-style enrollment and retention policies, because Florida met only five of eight benchmarks to earn the grants. One easy fix, which lawmakers have so far declined to try, would have set up express-lane eligibility for enrollment by using the Free and Reduced Lunch Program in the public schools as evidence of eligibility. We also make parents renew their KidCare policy every six months, for no apparent reason whatsoever.
Finally, this week, Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty gave back $1 million in federal grants awarded to states to help with health reforms — an act of refusal linked to our state's official and hotly political dislike of federal involvement in state matters.
Our priorities are skewed in Florida, where we have created a Children's Cabinet in Florida, an organization created to share information with other agencies about child welfare.
Here in Leon County, we are fortunate to have Whole Child Leon, a wonderful program to connect parents with information and services for children, but it's local in scope.
Last year, the Children's Movement of Florida (www.childrensmovementflorida.org), which calls itself the Milk Party, was launched to make more visible all efforts to raise, not taxes, but healthy children. The Children's Campaign (www.iamforkids.org) has had a similar goal since 2002.
We need such advocates seeking health insurance for all children, screening and treating for children with special needs and more best-practices efforts aimed at early-childhood education and parenting. It's a big mission to educate political, business and civic leaders — and all parents — about the urgent need to make the well-being and education of infants, toddlers and all other children Florida's highest priority.
If this latest report is even remotely on target, these efforts and others like them have never been more urgent.
Meanwhile, Florida is busily fighting other battles, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act, which among other things prevents denial of insurance for children with pre-existing conditions and allows young adults to say on their parents insurance plan until age 26.
The children in our state deserve to know how we can work at such cross purposes, so at odds with all well-meaning rhetoric and with such devastating consequences.
Free tax help can save you a bundle
WHOLE CHILD LEON • January 11, 2011Special to the Tallahassee Democrat
You could owe less in taxes and get cash back from the IRS. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax benefit for working people ...
You could owe less in taxes and get cash back from the IRS. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal tax benefit for working people with low or moderate incomes. It can offset some or all of the taxes workers must pay and can help cover any federal income tax workers might still owe at tax time. You also might get cash back through an EITC refund. The EITC can be worth up to $5,666 for families who worked in 2010. In addition, some families can get the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which can be worth up to $1,000 per child. Even if you don't owe any income tax, you still might be eligible for these credits if you worked during 2010.
The IRS reports that millions of eligible families did not file for these credits last year. This means dollars are not finding their way into the pockets of people right here in our community.
You can get these tax credits and not lose other public benefits. The EITC and CTC do not count as income in determining eligibility for benefits like cash assistance, Medicaid, food stamps, SSI, public housing or child care.
To claim the credits, you must file a 2010 tax return. Many people feel confused or overwhelmed when faced with filing a tax return. They often seek the services of a paid tax preparer who may charge $100 or more. That preparer also might persuade you to get a "quick refund," which can add more fees. That's why it's so important to know there is an alternative: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA).
VITA, part of the United Way of the Big Bend's BEST Project, offers free tax preparation at sites throughout the Big Bend from Jan. 22 to April 15. This free service helps residents claim the benefits they earned, avoid costly income-tax preparers and refund-anticipation loans. If your household made low to moderate income in 2010, visit a VITA site to have your taxes prepared and filed for free.
VITA has no fees or hidden expenses. Returns are e-filed so you'll receive your refund in 10 days – faster if you receive your refund using direct deposit. To find a VITA site near you, dial 211 or visit www.theBESTproject.org.
Whole Child Leon is focused on ensuring that children from birth to age 6 in Leon County will be healthy. Visit www.wholechildleon.org or call 414-8344.
Southside Farmers' Market makes fresh local produce more accessible
SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE • Published: December 12. 2010 2:00AM
With the New Year on the horizon, it is a wonderful time to start eating healthy, but not everyone in our community has access to healthy foods. Whole Child Leon, FAMU's StateWide Small Farm Program and Trinity United Presbyterian Church have come together to help make fresh local produce more accessible and convenient to the community, through a local community farmers' market.
"Combating childhood obesity is one of Whole Child Leon's focus areas and we want to bring fresh and local foods to neighborhoods with limited access," said Heather Telfer, Whole Child Leon's Community Outreach Coordinator. "Children don't go grocery shopping and are not making their own food choices, but with efforts like the Southside Farmer's Market we can help alleviate food deserts so more communities will have access to fresh fruits and vegetables!"
"We are working together to provide an opportunity for the whole community to enjoy the benefit of eating good, fresh and local produce," said Jennifer Taylor, Coordinator Small Farm Programs at Florida A & M University. "The produce this month will include delicious fresh greens (collards, mustards and turnips), rutabagas, sweet potatoes, peas, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, tomatoes, squash, tangerines, kumquats, sugar cane, grapefruits, fresh baked pies, pound cakes, and more. The Southside Farmers' Market will also provide learning opportunities for youth and adults during market hours."
The two previous markets that have taken place were so well received that we have decided to hold the market on a consistent basis.
The next Southside Farmers' Market will be held from 11 a.m. to dusk on Wednesday Dec. 22. at the Trinity United Presbyterian Church (corner of Pasco Street & Gore Avenue). It is held every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month.
For information about this market and other sustainable development efforts contact Jennifer Taylor, FAMU StateWide Small Farm Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (850) 599-3546 or contact Whole Child Leon at (850) 414-8344 or www.WholeChildLeon.org.
ECHO has programs to help individuals and families
special to the DEMOCRAT • November 2, 2010
ECHO, which stands for Emergency Care and Help Organization, began in 1980 when a group of clergy and members of several downtown Tallahassee churches met to address increasing requests for food from needy individuals and families. ECHO began as a food pantry and a coat closet and now offers a full range of services that restore self-sufficiency and a feeling of self-worth. Programs include:
An Emergency Resources Program provides food, furniture, household goods, bus passes and other essential items. ECHO is a registered USDA food pantry.
The Family Services Program, also known as Bethany Family Services, provides short-term housing and long-term hope for families in crisis. The goal is to move families toward independence and permanent housing.
The Employment Assistance Program provides employment counseling and assistance in writing a resume, plus providing job leads, work clothes and the motivation and encouragement sometimes needed to move toward self-sufficiency.
ECHO is now collecting food donations for an annual program that provides a full Thanksgiving dinner to 250 needy families each year. If you would like to donate either a grocery-store gift card or items such as a frozen turkey (approximately 12 pounds), a box of stuffing mix or macaroni and cheese, a can of yams, cranberry sauce, or green beans, deliver your donation to ECHO main office at 702 W. Madison St. by Friday.
Coat donations can be dropped off at ECHO or the Burlington Coat Factory in the Tallahassee Mall. ECHO can be reached at 224-3246 or www.echotally.org.
Whole Child Leon is focused on ensuring that children from birth to age 6 in Leon County will be healthy. Visit www.wholechildleon.org or call 414-8344.
Southside Farmers' Market begins Friday
BY CARYN WILSON • DEMOCRAT WRITER • PUBLISHED: OCTOBER 21. 2010 2:00AM
Whole Child Leon has joined forces with Florida A&M University and Florida State University students to create a new community fresh market.
The "Southside Farmers' Market" is a campaign by the FSU School of Education and FAMU Statewide Small Farms Program to encourage healthy eating options for all people.
The idea was proposed by a group of FSU students as part of their service-learning project.
Sara Tours, a third-year early childhood education student, said her group was intrigued with a project that would have a lasting impact.
"We wanted to touch the community and bring healthy food to children and families that do not always have access to it," Tours said.
The Walker Ford Community Center will play host to the new market from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday. Joe Thomas, the center's supervisor, said this is more than just a program to get community members to sell produce.
"This is also an opportunity to get young people to see what vegetables look like before they get on the table," Thomas said.
Tours said, "There are so many other farmers' markets in Tallahassee, but not one located in that area."
Jennifer Taylor, professor of sustainable development at Florida A&M University and coordinator for the FAMU Statewide Small Farms Program, said, "Our program is designed to meet the needs of the farmer and the community."
Farmers will provide squash, sweet potatoes, greens, okra and other seasonal produce. The convenience of having fresh produce so easily available may change cooking and eating habits for some families. Some farmers, who have completed the certification program, will be accepting food stamps and WIC.
Taylor said the farmers' market is an educational opportunity to teach the community nutrition and healthier eating habits.
"There will be cooking demonstrations and it will be an enjoyable occasion for all," Taylor said.
Coalition offers free screening for children
special to the DEMOCRAT • October 5, 2010
Whole Child Leon's Social and Emotional Development Action Team and Infant Mental Health have organized a coalition of early intervention providers for a third time to provide a screening for area children. The comprehensive screening will focus on dental, vision, language, hearing, cognitive, emotional and motor skills.
The free developmental screening for ages 6 months to 5 years will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at Children's Medical Services, 2390 Phillips Road. Screening will be done by appointment only. Call 487-2630, ext. 2231, to see if your child is eligible.
Developmental screening is designed to identify children who should receive more intensive assessment or diagnosis for potential developmental delays. It can allow for earlier detection of delays and improve child health and well-being.
Why it's important
In the United States, 17 percent of children have a developmental or behavioral disability such as autism and other intellectual delays. Many children have delays in language or other areas, which also impact school readiness. However, less than 50 percent of these children are identified as having a problem before starting school.
The tremendous adaptability of the brain in the first three years of life means that early treatment of delays leads to improved outcomes, whereas later intervention is less effective and more costly.
With proper intervention, a child can overcome a wide range of developmental, behavioral and learning problems. Timely intervention can improve the prospects — and the quality of life — for many children who are considered at risk for cognitive, social or emotional impairment.
Children who participate in early intervention programs are more likely to graduate from high school, hold jobs, live independently, and avoid teen pregnancy, delinquency and violent crime.
For more information call 414-8344.
2-1-1 Big Bend has wealth of resources
Whole Child Leon • September 7, 2010 Special to the Tallahassee Democrat
Just after 2 a.m. the phone rings at 2-1-1 Big Bend. The distraught mother on the line begins rather reluctantly to tell her story to the hotline counselor. Her husband has been laid off and thus lost their health insurance. The baby is sick. There is little food left in the pantry. If the utility bill is not paid tomorrow, the electricity will be turned off. The counselor encourages the mother to assess the multiple needs and concerns of the family. Most importantly, she provides a listening ear and emotional support.
Eventually, a plan is formulated. The mom learns about affordable health insurance for children and how to apply. She learns where to obtain food for her family, both immediately through food pantries and longer term by applying for food stamps. She is given information about utility assistance programs. The counselor describes community-wide programs like Whole Child Leon and Capital Area Healthy Start. The mother learns about unemployment compensation and the many services of Workforce Plus. For each of the mom's concerns, the counselor attempts to give multiple ideas to address them.
Now, this particular phone call didn't actually occur; instead, it's a compilation of calls typically made to Helpline 2-1-1, a program of 2-1-1 Big Bend, which serves eight North Florida counties. 2-1-1 Big Bend provides help for relationship issues, domestic violence, suicide, mental health concerns, substance abuse, grief, pregnancy, rape, abuse, crisis, housing assistance, disabilities, teen concerns, youth behavior problems plus community information and referrals. The hotline counselors, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, helped a reported 26,296 callers last year by providing them with information and referrals to more than 1,000 programs as well as emotional support and crisis intervention.
Nationwide, the 2009 count of calls to 2-1-1 services showed that more than 16 million calls were answered across the United States, including 1.1 million calls in Florida. All calls are confidential, and callers may remain anonymous. Resource information is also in printed format in the 2010-2011 Community Resource Directory and a searchable online directory at the website www.211bigbend.org.
Start getting ready for school
special to the democrat • August 3, 2010
Get Ready – School is Right Around the Corner!
There is so much to do to get ready for school. Here are some tips and reminders to help get you and your kids on their way to a successful school year.
Family Connection Corner
Parents, the school district is in the processing of establishing a Family Connection Corner at your child’s school! While not all schools will have these available immediately, plans are under way to create them in each elementary school during this school year. The Family Connection Corner will allow you to connect to Whole Child Leon’s website where you will find all of the resources Tallahassee has to offer families, including pediatricians and support groups, after school activities and discount dining opportunities. For referrals to local human service agencies click on the Connection and fill out a Profile for you and your family so that you don’t miss any opportunities that Tallahassee has to offer. Visit www.WholeChildLeon.com to access the Whole Child Leon Connection and Resource Guide .
At the Family Connection Corner you will also be able to connect and apply for Kidcare health insurance, Medicaid, food assistance (SNAP) and cash assistance programs. If parents need assistance with Kidcare or Medicaid applications, they can contact Gladys Medrano , Whole Child Leon KidCare Outreach Specialist. Gladys works in Leon County Schools to assist parents in obtaining health insurance for their children and can be reached at 414-5110.
Sales Tax Holiday
Take advantage of the “Sales Tax Holiday” that the legislature passed during Spring session. No sales tax will be charged August 13 - 15 on the sale of books, clothing, shoes, wallets or bags under $50 (per item) and certain schools supplies costing $10 or less
Looking for new ideas for packed lunches? Try using whole grain tortillas or flat bread for your child’s sandwiches. How about “breakfast for lunch” with pancakes and a hard boiled egg. Use dinner leftovers as stuffing for sandwiches. Substitute almond butter and honey for peanut butter and jelly. Don’t forget to add fruit and vegetables to your child’s lunch. Dipping baby carrots into hummus is fun. Try applesauce instead of cookies. Visit www.kidshealth.org or www.laptoplunches.com/ or more healthy ideas for your child’s lunchbox this year.
HIC Members asked to Complete Web-based Survey
This is a friendly reminder to Whole Child Leon Healthy Infant Coalition Members to participate in evaluating the Whole Child Leon Healthy Infant Coalition (HIC) by completing a web-based survey. The purpose of this survey is to assess your experience and involvement with HIC. Your feedback is very valuable to us!
The Healthy Futures Project, supported by a contract with the Agency for Health Care Administration, is interested in gathering information from you and other stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how the community is working together to influence the direction of improving maternal and infant outcomes by addressing key components of a comprehensive approach to delivering perinatal care.
Your participation in this evaluation is completely voluntary and there are no foreseeable risks associated with you completing the web-based survey. However, if you feel uncomfortable answering any questions, you can stop answering questions on the survey at any point. The amount or length of time you’ve been involved with HIC is not important—whether you serve as a team leader or just an occasional attendee at coalition meetings, we want to hear from you. We would be very appreciative if you would take a few moments to go to THIS LINK and complete this anonymous online survey.
The survey should only take 10-15 minutes to complete. Your survey responses will be strictly confidential and no identifying information is requested on the survey. No one will be able to identify you from your responses. You will be asked to read and agree to the informed consent statement; by clicking on the “I agree” button you will signify your consent to participate. All information from the survey will be presented in the aggregate: no individual responses will be used. In addition, you will receive a summary of the survey results via email when the analysis is complete.
I hope you will agree to take part in this survey. The link to the survey will be available until November 16, 2009. If you have any questions regarding this survey, please feel free to contact me at (850) 488-9942 or via email at email@example.com. Thank you for your participation.
Tallahassee Democrat, August 18, 2009
Help prepare your child for first day of school
A new school year can make young children nervous, especially if they are entering a new environment. Whether they are starting preschool, kindergarten or first grade, some children may be worried about the new setting and the new experience, and there are things that parents and families can do to help their children make a successful transition.
First, discuss the changes that will be taking place. Talk with your child about the changes in his daily routine; together, you could make a chart illustrated with photographs or pictures of the new morning schedule. Encourage him to describe how he feels about starting a new program or school and try to ease his fears.
Visit the school and classroom with your child, and, if possible, meet his teacher. This will help him become comfortable in the new environment while you are with him. Start your child's school-year bed time and morning routine a few days early. This may prevent him from being confused, groggy or cranky on the first day of school.
Let your child lay out his clothes or pack a backpack for the first day. If possible, arrive at the new school early on the first few days to give him time to settle in. Use this time walking or riding to school together, or waiting at the bus stop, to talk about what she can expect that day.
Always say good-bye, and let your child know you will see him at the end of the day. Your child will have an easier time with separation if he's confident you will return to pick him up. Problems may arise during the first few days of school, even with appropriate preparation, so be ready to handle them in a matter-of-fact way. Take time to make sure your child adapts to his new environment, clearly explain the changes around him, and listen if he has doubts or fears. Approach the new year with confidence, and your child will, too.
Whole Child Leon is focused on ensuring that all children from birth to 6 in Leon County will be healthy at age 1, making appropriate progress and entering kindergarten ready to succeed.
Tallahassee Democrat, July 14, 2009
Reading prepares a child for learning
Children develop literacy-related skills long before they are able to read. The human brain develops more rapidly between birth and age 5 than during any other time. Reading books, telling stories, singing songs, and pointing out and naming objects all play a role in brain development and preparing young children for school.
When you read aloud to young children, you help them gain skills they will need to succeed in school. Reading helps children master language development, builds listening skills, increases a child's attention span and develops the ability to concentrate at length. Even babies benefit from reading. The effort of focusing on pictures develops their eye muscles. Each time she hears a particular word, it imprints more strongly in her brain.
Reading time is a special time. When your child is sitting on your lap or cuddled near by, she is getting the added bonus of loving touch that aids in her emotional development, which in turn helps her learn better.
When reading to your child, there is much more to it than just saying the words. Remember that reading for just a few minutes at a time is OK. You don't have to read every page or even finish the story. Let your child decide how much or how little time you spend reading.
Be prepared to take advantage of different reading moments that pop up with your child and let books become part of her everyday routine. You can use books and stories to quietly ease your child to sleep at nap time and bed time. Keep a few books in the car to keep the little one quiet and busy during car rides. Have books handy while waiting at the doctor's office. Read shop names, road signs, advertisements and birthday cards. All of these are chances to introduce your child to reading in a fun way. When children have positive interactions with books and reading, they are developing good feelings about reading which will make them want to seek out books as they grow. Investing the time to read with your child every day during their early development years will pay off by leaps and bounds by the time your child enters kindergarten. It is one the best things you can do to make sure your child is ready to succeed in school.
Driven by its mission of building a community where everyone works together to make sure children thrive, Whole Child Leon is focused on ensuring that all children from birth to 6 in Leon County will be healthy at age 1, making appropriate progress and entering kindergarten ready to succeed.
MUSIC AND STORIES
Every Wednesday at 10 a.m. at the Leon County Public Library, 200 W. Park Ave., Mr. Gary and his guitar take babies and toddlers on a musical reading adventure. The event is free.
Tallahassee Democrat, June 9, 2009
Health insurance is available for kids
If 3,000 children in Leon County had an illness, we'd consider that a serious epidemic. Yet 3,000 of our children are uninsured. Affordable coverage exists for many of these children. Whole Child Leon is working to ensure that more eligible children get and maintain the coverage they need.
Children with health insurance are much more likely to have access to health-care providers, receive the care they need, have their prescriptions filled and receive preventive well-child checkups. Access to health care can influence physical and emotional health, growth and development, as well as a child's capacity to reach his or her full potential as an adult. Healthy children arrive at school ready to learn, making classrooms more productive.
Florida KidCare is our state's health insurance program for uninsured children under age 19. It covers doctor visits, check-ups, shots, hospitalization, surgery, prescriptions, emergencies, vision and hearing, dental and mental health. Premiums are based on the household's size and income. Most families pay around $15 per month, and some families qualify for no-cost coverage.
Sharon Daugherty lost health insurance coverage for her family when she was laid off from her job. While Daugherty awaited KidCare processing, her daughter shattered her anklebone, requiring extensive surgery. Daugherty says "After a good cry, I calmed down and remembered that Whole Child and KidCare were linked. My first call went through to Whole Child Leon. They quickly put me through to Courtney Atkins, Whole Child outreach specialist with Leon County Schools. While she made no promises, I knew she was going to do everything within her power to help my daughter. I received a call the next day that my daughter would be placed on temporary emergency Medicaid, dating back to the first of the month. When I tell people my story, we all agree this has been a miracle."
Whole Child Leon is building a community where everyone works together to make sure children thrive. Apply for KidCare online at www.floridakidcare.org.
Tallahassee Democrat, May 12, 2009
A baby hears your voice from the womb
The womb is not a silent place. A baby can hear blood whooshing through the mother's vessels, gurgling and rumbling from her stomach and intestines, and the tones of her voice and the voices of others, and many other sounds from the outside world.
Ears begin to form at around eight weeks and become structurally complete at about 24 weeks. As early as 18 weeks, the bones of the inner ear and the nerve endings from the brain have developed enough for your baby to hear sounds such as your heartbeat and blood moving through the umbilical cord. By week 25, your baby begins to hear your voice -- and your partner's -- and may even recognize those voices as early as week 27. A baby's heart rate often slows down when its mother is speaking; suggesting that he not only hears and recognizes the sound, but is calmed by it. For the rest of the pregnancy, sound serves as a baby's major information channel.
Babies are very much in tune with what is going on in the "outside world," reacting to all sorts of stimuli. You may notice if your baby is startled by loud noises. Many pregnant women report a fetal jerk or sudden kick just after a door slams or a car backfires. Babies also respond to music you hear while pregnant. After the baby is born, the same calming music played throughout pregnancy can be an effective way to calm a baby when upset.
Whole Child Leon presented "Catching Smiles" to the community in 2007. "Catching Smiles" features the music of talented local musicians who generously donated their songs to produce a CD filled with a beautiful collection of music. The CD includes some relaxing songs perfect for a new baby.
The last song on the CD is a track of a mother's heartbeat and since that was the first and most prominent sound a baby hears while in the womb it is very calming when a baby listens to it! Through a partnership between Whole Child Leon and the Women's Pavilion at TMH, all newborn babies go home with their own copy of "Catching Smiles."
Tallahassee Democrat, April 7 2009
Create a nontoxic nursery
We want above all else, to protect our children. Yet we often expose them to harm merely because we are uninformed of some health hazards, such as environmental pollutants in our homes. This especially applies to the nursery.
Since babies breathe more frequently than adults and will inhale more pollutants in relation to their body weight, it is very important to keep nurseries free of all toxins and air pollutants. Babies' immature organs are less able to cope with toxins in the environment. With all the best intentions, many parents unknowingly outfit their new baby's room with furniture and decorations that release unhealthy fumes into the air. Many types of paint, finishes, carpet, mattresses, curtains and particleboard contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, toluene and benzene. Through a process called outgassing, VOCs are released into the air, causing harmful indoor-air pollution.
Here are some hints for making your nursery nontoxic:
- Use milk-based or zero-VOC paints or paint the nursery as soon as you find out you are pregnant, giving plenty of time for the VOCs to offgas. When pregnant, it's best to stay away from paint fumes, so be sure to have someone else paint for you.
- Put lots of plants inside to absorb the chemicals. Orchids and bromeliads are particularly good.
- Use hard surface flooring instead of carpet. Carpet traps pollutants, mold and dust mites that may trigger allergies and asthma. In addition, most synthetic carpet is treated with stain repellents and flame-retardants and is glued down with VOC-containing adhesives, which can release fumes for up to five years. If you already have wall-to-wall carpet, keep carpets clean using a HEPA-filter vacuum. If you want an area rug or are determined to have carpet, use wool carpet, which is a natural flame retardant.
- Choose furniture made from real wood with natural or nontoxic finishes.
- Select a mattress made of untreated pure cotton and wool, preferably organically grown mattresses and linens. Many linens and car seat covers have formaldehyde. If you aren't using organic alternatives, wash everything many times before baby uses them and leave the window of the nursery open for months while everything is outgassing. Also place a regular mattress outside at least for a month to outgas before bringing into the nursery.
- Most toys sold in major toy stores are made from plastics that leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Plastic is a major contributor to indoor air pollution and is linked to ADD, ADHD, allergies, asthma, childhood brain cancer, leukemia and autism.
- Use natural and nontoxic cleaning products and pest controls. Wash clothes and linens with unscented, nontoxic, biodegradable laundry detergent. Avoid using antibacterial products; they prevent children from producing their own antibodies and leave super-resistant strains of viruses.
- Don't use baby powder with talcum when changing baby's diaper. Talcum is a known carcinogen similar to asbestos.
- Use a chlorine filter for bathing water.
Tallahassee Democrat, March 3 2009
Make sure infant can sleep in safety
Sleeping death is the leading cause of death in infants over 1 month old. Babies are at highest risk before 6 months of age. According to Capital Area Healthy Start Coalition, 5 to 10 healthy infants die in their sleep in our community each year. A variety of causes are implicated in these deaths, including suffocation by bedding or soft materials and wedging between two objects, with the single most common cause being "overlying," in which a deeply sleeping parent rolled over and suffocated a baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that bed sharing is dangerous. The Florida Department of Health recommends that parents, caregivers, or other children not share the same sleep surface as infants.
The Florida Department of Health and the Tallahassee Pediatric Foundation say that the safest way for babies to sleep is:
- On their backs in a crib or bassinet with a firm mattress.
- On crib sheets that fit tightly.
- With no loose blankets, comforters or even bumpers.
- With no pillows, soft toys, or stuffed animals.
- In a smoke-free home.
- With only a light blanket when it's cold, coming only as high as the baby's chest, with the blanket tucked into the bottom and sides of the crib.
Despite warnings about co-sleeping, a recent national poll conducted by Parenting magazine indicated that 42 percent of parents report shared sleep with their infant at least part of the time. These parents choose to sleep with their children because research has demonstrated that the proximity of the infant to the parents during sleep is a protective factor against SIDS and unexplained infant death, as well as valuable for bonding and sleep-time parenting.
Many say that there is not evidence to substantiate these findings. The nonprofit organization Attachment Parenting International cautions parents to use their best judgment and follow safe co-sleeping guidelines before banning babies from the family bed. API's Safe Sleep Guidelines are consistent with the Florida Department of Health and Tallahassee Pediatric Foundation recommendations for babies to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress. Visit www.attachmentparenting.org for the group's safe bed-sharing guidelines.
Whole Child Leon appoints Executive Director
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 18, 2009 – Whole Child Leon (WCL) has named Courtney Atkins as its new Executive Director. Atkins will begin her new role on September 8. Atkins is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and a Certified Employee Assistance Professional (CEAP). For the past year, she has served as the Whole Child Outreach Specialist with Leon County Schools. In this position she worked to enroll the county’s more than 3,000 uninsured children in Florida KidCare and assist their families in obtaining other needed services.