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Child Advocacy Group Says City’s Proposed $23.3 Million Allocation to Youth Programs is Necessary

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

According to information supplied by The Children’s Agenda (TCA) of Rochester, the city of Rochester’s proposed 2023-24 budget includes more than $23.3 million to support programs addressing certain needs of local youth.

This information is outlined in a TCA press release highlighting its analysis of the City’s proposed funding plans.

“Municipal government has an important role to play in child and youth development,” said Brigit Hurley, Chief Program Officer at TCA. “Children spend most of their time outside of schools. Having opportunities for enrichment and learning, building social relationships, and healthy environments in which to play and learn puts children on a pathway to a healthy and productive life.”

TCA is a not-for-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to advance policies and drive solutions for the health, education and success of children. The organization is especially committed to children who are vulnerable because of poverty, racism, health inequities and trauma.

Minority Reporter spoke with TCA’s communications director, Stephanie Townsend, Ph.D., about how the city’s allocation of money operates to further the positive outcomes and best interests of TCA’s target population– essentially at-risk children / youth.

“The way the city tries to make sure that services for kids are going to kids who need it most, particularly Black and Latino students and children, is by where they [the city] locate their services,” Townsend said. Funding for programs is “chosen based on who most uses particular R-Centers and what the demographics are of the neighborhood in which those centers are located.”

Townsend says the summer Learning Enrichment to Achieve Potential (LEAP) program is a great example.

“For example, you know, my budget includes additional services, expansion of this summer LEAP program, which is for children going into kindergarten; that one is being expanded to include the Trenton and Pamela Jackson R-Center and the Adams Street R-Centers,” she said. “With a lot of the children's programming the city chooses, how to make sure the services are most available to the children who need those services most is based on where they are located.”

Townsend also noted that, “TCA does not provide services or programs. So our role is advocating for good policies, regulations and public funds. So that's where we advocate with the city government, county government and state government. That's our role. We don't directly provide services to children.”

Following are excerpts from TCA’s press release highlighting its focus on four key areas of the city’s 2023-24 proposed budget funding:

Early Childhood – because early investments are smart investments [TCA]

  • $19,400 for a second SummerLEAP program site, making this 6-week educational program for rising kindergarten students available at the Jackson and Adams Street R-Centers

  • $244,500 for the summer food program to address food insecurity

  • $2.1 million for parks and playgrounds to promote healthy development

  • $2.13 million for Lead Hazard Control and $77,500 for a Lead Paint Initiative Grant program to prevent lead exposure that, when it occurs in early childhood, can result in irreversible damage to the brain and nervous system leading to lifelong educational and behavioral challenges

Youth Development and Mental Health – because no child should struggle alone [TCA]

  • $666,700 to contract with the Center for Youth Services to provide Health, Wellness, and Social-Emotional Supports at 4 R-Centers

  • Increased resources for R-Centers to fund 33 summer seasonal positions, extended summer hours, conversion of part-time positions to full-time to allow for relationship-building with youth, more consistent front desk staffing, and more enriched programming.

  • An increase to $2.6 million for Crisis Intervention Services, including the Person in Crisis Team that provides a non-law enforcement response to community crises

Violence Prevention – because supportive communities prevent violence [TCA]

  • 3.51M for Pathways to Peace

  • $1.17M for the Office of Neighborhood safety

Libraries – because they show children new worlds [TCA]

  • $8.27M for the Central Library and $5.19M for branch libraries

“I raised my children in Rochester and now am watching my grandchild grow up here,” said Isabel Rosa, TCA Community Advocacy Specialist. “We are a strong community that cares about its children, as this budget shows. There is also more we can do.”

In terms of more that can be done, TCA supplied the following list of recommendations:

  • Prioritizing home-based child care providers for support from the newly created Business Liaison position

  • Eliminating Rochester Police Department positions that have consistently been unfilled to free up City funds for more effective approaches to suppress violence

  • Reducing law enforcement-only response to mental health crises by decreasing the percentage of crisis intervention calls answered by Rochester Police Department officers alone, without Person in Crisis (PIC) team members

  • Fully committing to construction of a new library branch in the Northeast area of the city and adding Toy Library services to community libraries

Townsend encourages our readers, “if they want their voices heard on the city budget to reach out to their city council members, or show up the night of the vote on June 20 and speak during the public comment session. Okay, because their voices really can make a difference.”

To learn more about TCA’s analysis and report regarding the city’s proposed budget funding and its connection to services and programs for children, go to:

Editor’s note: Rochester City Council is scheduled to vote on the city’s proposed 2023-24 budget on Tuesday, June 20 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 30 Church St., Rochester, NY 14614.


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