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Archive for the ‘Working Partnership’ Category

Hello! My name is Eduardo Castro, and I was fortunate enough to be an intern at the IMPACT Planning Council this summer. As a recent graduate of Bowdoin College interested in entering the non-profit sector, IMPACT offered a great chance to learn about research and evaluation, and also see firsthand important work that is being done to improve the lives of Milwaukeeans.

Milwaukee Public Library staff runs a program in a Milwaukee County Park after a summer meal is served.

Milwaukee Public Library staff runs a program in a Milwaukee County Park after a summer meal is served.

I contributed to a number of projects for IMPACT. I worked to reorganize and revamp the IMPACT website. I created a database of every project IMPACT has conducted, complete with information about funders, keywords, and subjects. This database will allow projects, reports, and presentations to be easily searchable on the new website. In addition, I was able to accompany IMPACT staff during a focus group of youth care workers. My notes and analysis of the focus group will be used by the UWM School of Continuing Education to help tailor trainings for workers and organizations that cater to youth in Milwaukee.

The major project I worked on this summer was the Summer Reading Initiative. Studies have shown that children can lose up to two months worth of instructional time from the previous school year if they do not read over the summer. The loss in reading ability, known as the “Summer Slide,” disproportionately affects economically disadvantaged youth and poses serious consequences to the city of Milwaukee. However, one solution has consistently shown to stop the regression: children who read 6 or more books do not fall victim to the Summer Slide.

In an effort to combat the summer slide, IMPACT Planning Council alongside Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Public Libraries, Hunger Task Force and others, have worked to put books into the hands of Milwaukee’s most vulnerable children. The Faye McBeath Foundation has funded over 26,000 books to be given away at free summer meal sites and awarded several “mini-grants” to local organizations to enhance their existing summer learning programming, and pilot new ideas to bring books to kids.

I supported the Summer Reading Initiative by providing assistance to my supervisor and Summer Reading Coordinator, Carrie Koss Vallejo. I managed mini-grant applications, mapped the reading programs sites in Milwaukee, and helped Carrie brainstorm possible outcome measurements for each organization based on their grant applications. I had the opportunity to conduct a site visit at the Burnham Park free summer meal location to see book distribution. My notes from the site visit were condensed into a report and will be presented to the funders of the Initiative.

Carrie also put me to work moving 40 lbs. boxes of books. Luckily for me (and my back), this was only a one-day affair.

My experience this summer with IMPACT has been incredibly rewarding. I have acquired practical skills that I will continue to use in my career, such as useful tips about using Excel and presenting data and findings. Particularly with my work on the Summer Reading Initiative, I witnessed how data and evaluation shape the implementation of a program. The entire staff has done a tremendous job in providing support and were committed to my experience at IMPACT. Overall, I gained a unique appreciation of the role of data and evaluation in the non-profit and public sector. I highly recommend people interested in research and evaluation to pursue an internship with IMPACT.

You will not be disappointed.

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Imagine a city where every child reads at grade level and returns to school in the fall prepared to start the school year where they left off. Imagine the impact on our community and economy when children are performing at or above grade level. Reading over the summer can prevent summer slide and bring all children closer to this goal. This is our vision.

The risk of summer slide – the loss of knowledge and skills learned during the school year – is a serious problem. We know that children who don’t read over the summer lose approximately two months of school progress. This loss is more common among boys, children in low resourced neighborhoods and children from low income homes. This loss is cumulative. Research shows this loss accounts for up to 80% of the achievement gap between low and high-income students.Image

This summer, a new community effort spearheaded by the Faye McBeath Foundation and joined by the Milwaukee Public Library (MPL), Milwaukee Public Schools, Milwaukee Recreation, Hunger Task Force (HTF), IMPACT Planning Council, United Way of Greater Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Metroparent,and others will get books into the hands of those who need them most. 

This commitment will stress the importance of reading in some of the hardest to reach areas of the city – places where poverty is widespread and most children receive their meals for the day at a Free Summer Meal Site. This effort will bring the library to them. It will ensure access to interesting and appropriate books, and provide adult guidance for selecting reading materials that interest children. Every child deserves this opportunity.

Starting June 23rd, Free Summer Meal Sites will begin serving thousands of free meals in parks and on playgrounds throughout the area. We know children who lack access to food also likely lack access to books. To meet this need, MPL will visit a different Milwaukee Recreation playground each day – Mitchell Park, Carmen Park, Merrill Park, Woodlands playground and Modrzejewski playground – Monday through Friday with library books, read alouds and book-related programs from 2:30 to 4:00 pm throughout the summer. Free books will be given to children who spend time reading at the sites. HTF will also distribute thousands more free books at other meal sites thanks to a donation from New Threads and United Way of Greater Milwaukee.

Reading is fundamental to success in school and life. With 43% of our city’s children living in poverty, we must all ask what we can do to help kids read this summer. Here’s how you can help:

Scott Gelzer, Faye McBeath Foundation; Paula Kiely, Milwaukee Public Library; Sherrie Tussler, Hunger Task Force; Nicole Agresano, United Way of Greater Milwaukee; Kathleen Pritchard, IMPACT

Note:  This piece was originally published as an Opinion piece in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, on June 21st, 2014.  The photo is new to this post.  Photo credit Brooke VandeBurg.

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You may recognize artwork from Express Yourself Milwaukee (EYM) from their outdoor Pop Up gallery on Lisbon, between 33rd and 34th streets.  In case you aren’t familiar with EYM, it is an agency that exposes Milwaukee youth to dance, music and visual arts.  For the past year, we at the Planning Council have been fortunate enough to host the colorful artwork from their “LIFTED!” exhibition from summer 2011.  Every meeting (and we host a lot of meetings) has been brightened by the vibrant prints and hangings.

Cropped art

Over the past for years the Planning Council has hosted art from MPS High School of the Arts, Redline and UWM.  We are looking forward to our next exhibit from Artists working in Education.

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IMGP1497 Infant mortality is a major public health issue in the Unites States disproportionally affecting African-Americans. Wisconsin and Milwaukee are identified as a high risk state and city where black infant mortality is three times the rate of white infant mortality. To combat this the Planning Council for Health and Human Services, Inc. has received a grant for “Engaging African-American Fathers to Reduce Infant Mortality by Improving their Health Literacy.” Funding for this project was provided by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

This project targets African American fathers living in the Milwaukee ZIP codes identified as being most at risk for infant mortality (53205, 53206, 53210, 53216 and 53218). Men from the community will be engaged in developing culturally appropriate health literacy materials and approaches to guide new fathers in the first nine months of fatherhood.

This project will work with Milwaukee LIHF Community Action Plan to strengthen fathers’ involvement with their family. As well as the Milwaukee Fatherhood Initiative, My Father’s House and Silver Spring Neighborhood Center working (with the Pathways to Responsible Fatherhood Project at Next Door Foundation). The academic partners include Dr. David Pate, Associate Professor, UW Milwaukee School of Social Welfare and nationally recognized researcher on African American fathers who will serve as academic partner along with Dr. Kris Barnekow, Associate Professor in the College of Health Sciences at UW Milwaukee whose research focuses on health literacy and training in maternal and child health.

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Foundations influence nonprofits not only by the dollars they deliver but also by the standards they set and the questions they ask.  Both historically and in contemporary times, philanthropists have been interested in results. A recent study[1] suggests there is much work to be done in verifying the impact of their investments, however.  A survey of CEOs of 173 large foundations (annual giving of at least $5 million) across the country provides this snapshot of their approach to performance assessment.

  • Nearly three quarters of foundation CEOs say assessment of foundation effectiveness is among their highest priorities.
  • Acknowledging great progress in the last decade, more than 60% of foundation CEOs say that too few foundations understand their overall performance.
  • A majority of foundation CEOs believe that nonprofits should be held to higher standards of evidence.
  • Of the responding CEOs, 70% believe foundations should place a greater emphasis on understanding the effectiveness of the organizations they fund.
  • 19% of the respondents believe too much emphasis is placed on data and more should be placed on intuition.
  • Nearly three-quarters of foundation CEOs (73%) say they provide financial assistance or other support to help some grantees measure performance.  Only 9% do it for all their grantees.
  • According to the CEO responses, the main sources of information they use to assess the effectiveness of their foundations’ programmatic work are: anecdotal feedback (94%), written reports (92%) and site visits (90%).
  • Other sources of information are growing in use but less common. Examples include: evaluations of individual grants (70%); grantee surveys (66%); grantee focus groups (64%); program or issue area evaluations (60%): and grant cluster evaluations (52%).
  • The majority of foundations turn to third party evaluators to conduct formal assessments of their work. 
  • The median spending on formal evaluation is two percent of a grant maker’s budget and fewer than half of foundation grants have formal evaluations conducted.
  • More than a quarter of the respondents (26%) said they are using coordinated measurement systems with other funders
  • A smaller percentage of CEOs are collecting feedback from beneficiaries and believe this has provided a better understanding of the progress their foundations are making.

[1] The Center for Effective Philanthropy, Inc.  “The State of Foundation Performance Assessment, A Survey of Foundation CEOs”  written by Elli Buteau, Ph.D. and Phil Buchanan, 2011.

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The Milwaukee Child Abuse Prevention Services Coalition (MCAPS) is a group of citizens and community-based organizations committed to providing services that prevent child abuse and neglect and “strengthen the capacities of families to provide safe and healthy environments for their children.”

With the support of the Children’s Trust Fund, MCAPS’s Public Policy Committee recently partnered with the Planning Council to enhance the committee’s work to promote policies and programs that prevent child abuse and neglect and afford all families the opportunity to live in safe, stable, and healthy environments.  Members of the Public Policy Committee are health care and social service providers, advocates, and community members who work directly with families.  This direct connection to families gives committee members a unique perspective on how public policies impact families as well as how policies should be designed to effectively improve outcomes for children and families, particularly those who are disadvantaged.

The Public Policy Committee conducts research on emerging issues that impact children and families, gathers information on responses of systems that address the needs of children and families, analyzes existing policies and programs, and develops position papers on relevant issues.  The Committee informs elected officials and other community leaders about the needs of children and families and recommends policies and programs that effectively address those needs.

Since its inception, the Public Policy Committee has met and worked with legislators and administrative officials to improve services for parents, particularly teen parents, and their children; youth aging out of foster care; W-2 participants; and those, particularly fathers, who are jobless.

The Committee invites anyone concerned about addressing the needs of children and families through the promotion of effective public policies to join the committee.  The Committee meets the second Monday of each month, from 2:30 to 4:15 p.m. at the United Way, 225 W. Vine Street, 2nd floor conference room.

To reach the Committee Coordinator, please call Mary Thomas at the Planning Council at 224-3083 on Tuesdays.

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Erin and I serve as the external evaluators for a unique project called Families Come First. This project is federally funded (by the Administration for Children and Families) and involves the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) working in close partnership with Meta House (a Milwaukee-based substance abuse treatment program for women and their families). The project focuses on providing early, family-focused services to women who are using drugs while pregnant and to women whose babies are born with drugs in their system. The project’s overall goal is to keep families together by providing services that support children’s safety and that enhance families’ capacity to meet their children’s needs. This project is part of a national effort in child welfare to intervene in supportive, collaborative ways with at-risk families.

Women who participate in Families Come First are first assessed by BMCW to determine whether their children are safe. The unique part of the project is that women also receive an assessment from Meta House to understand the extent to which their substance use may be contributing to people’s concerns about their children’s safety. After the assessments, everyone comes together for a family team meeting to develop a plan for ensuring child safety and for addressing the concerns about substance use. If needed, women are supported in their decision to enter substance abuse treatment and are guided through the process of engaging in treatment.

Our evaluation is designed to describe the collaboration between BMCW and Meta House and the services they provide. It will also document the project’s outcomes regarding child safety, substance abuse treatment, and baby’s births. By about the end of its first year, the Families Come First project had assessed 144 women. Most of these women (85%) were referred to the project because they had given birth to babies who had drugs in their system. At the family team meeting, the vast majority of the women (98%) decided to enter substance abuse treatment and/or to receive other supportive services. About half of the women (48%) planned to go to Meta House’s outpatient program and about one-quarter (26%) planned to enter Meta House’s residential family treatment program. At the time of the family team meeting, only 4% of the families were considered to need court involvement to protect the children.

Over time, Erin and I will be exploring more questions related to this project. Do mothers who participate in the family treatment program successfully complete treatment? Do children remain in their mother’s care in the year after entering the project? Do Families Come First families avoid new instances of abuse or neglect in the year after entering the project? Do these outcomes for child safety look different than the outcomes for similar families before the project was implemented? As time goes on, we’ll be looking forward to sharing the answers to these questions with the project team so they can learn more about the extent to which this new approach is making a difference in the lives of families.

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