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Report Card On Danbury's Children Finds Hurdles, Solutions In Community

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DANBURY, Conn. –  The 2014 Community Report Card on Danbury’s Young Children highlights both the challenges faced by children in the city and the efforts of parents, educators, family support agencies, and health providers to improve their lives.

“This report card shows that while many Danbury children face hurdles presented by poverty, difficult home environments, language barriers, and lack of access to early education, the community is responding,” said Caroline LaFleur, director of Danbury’s Promise for Children Partnership, which prepared the report card. The partnership focuses on the well-being of the city's youngest citizens.

“We have a lot of work to do to make sure our young children are ready for success in school,” she said. “But the good news is the community is working together to give our children bright futures. More resources are coming into the community to support families and address the needs of our youngest citizens as the result of our partnership.”

Some of the data points of interest in the Report Card:

• 70.8 percent of children under age 6 have both parents working, yet 17.4 percent of children under age 5 are living below the poverty level.

• The number of Substantiated Child Abuse and Neglect Cases rose to 211 in 2014, up from 149 in 2013. Of those, 18 were physical abuse cases.

• 74 percent of Danbury children attended preschool, nursery, school, or Head Start before entering the Danbury Public School System. That means that more than 25 percent are not receiving any formal early education.

• Students who are eligible for free lunch are performing 31 percentage points below their more affluent peers on the 3rd Grade Reading Connecticut Mastery Test. This shows that Danbury, like other communities across the state and the nation, has a large Achievement Gap between low-income and higher income children.

• 25 percent of children in the sixth grade are obese (i.e., their Body Mass Index is in the 95 to 100 percentile).

“By keeping track of this data, we can identify the greatest needs, and work to bring in funding to provide services to address those needs,” said Juleen Flanigan, the partnership’s co-chair and director of early childhood services at Education Connection.

Flanigan cited examples such as the increased funding for home visitation for at-risk families that was acquired by the Partnership in 2013 and 2014.

The Partnership also identified the need for more training for preschool teachers, so that children will leave preschool and enter kindergarten with improved literacy skills. Funding was acquired through a private foundation to provide training to 19 preschool teachers using the Connecticut State Department of Education’s Training Wheels program. The training is implemented through a collaboration with the Danbury School Readiness Council.

“While some of the data is disturbing, this Report Card shows that by working collaboratively, we can begin to address the challenges our families face,” said Patti Keckeisen, co-chair of the Partnership and a founder of the Parent Leadership Training Program in Danbury.

“In the coming year, we plan to reach out to more parents — not only to inform them of the important role they play in their child’s early education — but to truly engage them in the community work we are doing to improve children’s lives and educational outcomes,” she said. “The schools, the family support agencies, the health providers — they are all important. But the parents are truly the key to making this all work.”

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