Healthi Kids and Parent Leadership Training Institute Alumni Share Results of Candidate Questionnaires for Upcoming City of Rochester Primary Elections
Questions focused on children’s health and wellbeing issues
ROCHESTER, N.Y., September 5, 2017 – With primary elections in Rochester scheduled for Tuesday, September 12, 2017, the Healthi Kids coalition partnered with parents, residents, and alumni of the Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) to develop surveys to understand each candidate’s position on issues related to children’s health and wellbeing.
Healthi Kids and PLTI alumni have now reviewed and analyzed the responses and have created summaries for each of the following offices:
· City of Rochester Mayor;
· Rochester City Council; and
· Rochester School Board Commissioner.
The verbatim responses to the surveys are available online at playrocs.org.
“Elected officials in the City of Rochester can play an important role in supporting the health of every child across the city,” said Dina Faticone, Director of Community Health and Engagement at Common Ground Health. “By putting kids first, in both the school district and our community, our elected officials can promote healthier, vibrant neighborhoods and school buildings, improve educational outcomes, foster economic development, lower crime rates, and support community cohesion. These surveys are designed to help residents learn about each candidate’s plans for policy and investments regarding young children, their families and the Rochester City School District.”
Each of the three surveys included two sections: open-ended questions on a variety of topics related to children’s health and a prioritized ranking of solutions that are important to the parents who created the survey. Selected findings of each survey are below, focused on questions that were consistent across the surveys, under the topics of: supporting kids’ behavioral health; and supporting kids’ physical health.
“We were happy to see that candidates recognize and support children’s health and wellbeing, and based on their response, they are thinking of ways to make positive changes,” said Jini Figueroa, PLTI alumus. “For example, all of the candidates for School Board who responded support trauma-informed practices at the school building level and offered ideas on how to support the social and emotional health of children across the district. These questions and the candidates’ responses are important to parents and to our community.”
As a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, Healthi Kids cannot support or oppose any candidate for public office. The survey is meant to inform the community on where each candidate stands on the issue of whole child health in the City of Rochester. Candidates were informed that their responses would be published verbatim following analysis by the Healthi Kids Coalition.
Five of five mayoral candidates responded to the survey.
On supporting kids’ behavioral health:
When asked about their approach to reducing the impact of trauma and hardships many kids across the city face, candidates differed in their responses, with a division between the candidates on whether schools or the neighborhood are the center for a child.
While the responses indicated some differences in the candidates’ approach to behavioral health, analysis by Healthi Kids and PLTI alumni found several themes:
· A need for early screening, intervention and prevention of mental health and/or developmental disabilities for all kids across the city.
· Restorative justice and trauma-informed practices are key programmatic efforts that would support kids across the city.
· A growing need to centralize service and improve access to behavioral health services at a neighborhood level.
· Poverty is a source of trauma and more needs to be done to address poverty directly.
On supporting kids’ physical health:
All candidates agreed on the need for safer more accessible play spaces for every child, but differed in their priorities. Candidates focused on:
· The need for neighborhood play.
· Developing solutions alongside residents.
· Improving current facilities and programs (sports, R-Centers, parks and special use parks).
· Addressing neighborhood safety.
School Board Commissioner Candidates
Six of six School Board Commissioner Candidates responded to the survey.
On supporting kids’ behavioral health:
All School Board Commissioner candidates supported trauma-informed practices at the school building level. The majority of candidates agreed that staff need to be trained in this model in order to support the social emotional health of kids across the district.
Specific ideas from the candidates include:
· Additional mental health staff and social workers in buildings.
· Expanding the community school model with co-located services.
· Continuing to build upon the new Code of Conduct.
On supporting kids’ physical health:
The majority of School Board Commissioner candidates recognized the importance of recess. Three of the respondents identified they would, as School Board Commissioner, work directly with schools to understand the barriers to implementing the current policy of 20 minutes of daily active recess.
All but one School Board Commissioner candidate agreed that recess should not be taken away as a form of punishment for behavior or academic reasons. The candidates identified needs to:
· Clarify the current recess policy to administrators and staff.
· Provide teachers the tools for other modes of intervention.
· To keep building upon the current Code of Conduct.
Three School Board Commissioner candidates advocated for additional resources for the Department of Health, Physical Education and Athletics and/or the Department of Nutrition and Food Serves to help support the delivery of physical activity, health education, and healthy school meals across the district.
City Council Candidates
Eleven of 14 City Council candidates responded to the survey.
Supporting kids’ physical health:
When asked how they, as a member of City Council, would ensure every child, in every neighborhood had a safe and accessible place to walk, bike and play, analysis by Healthi Kids and PLTI alumni found that candidates shared four general themes:
· Improving current infrastructure of green space.
· Promoting a more walkable and bikeable city.
· Examining current recreation programs and auditing green space.
· Improving neighborhood safety.
The majority of City Council candidates identified the best way to increase healthy food access across the city was through expanding community gardens and urban agriculture. Many supported amending current land use and zoning policies to promote this expansion.
Supporting kids’ behavioral health:
Many young people in the City of Rochester have experienced trauma at an early age. When asked what policies or funding they would introduce to reduce the causes of trauma and/or support trauma-informed interventions the candidates all City Council candidates who responded agreed that addressing trauma is important for our youth to succeed. They shared several ideas including:
· Preventing trauma through improved public safety, community policing, and environmental changes.
· Increasing training opportunities for all adults who interact with young people to ensure they are using trauma-informed approaches that allow for understanding and healing.
· Expanding the mental and behavioral health workforce to ensure all children and families have access to social workers and professional services.
· Reaching children when they need it most by responding to traumatic experiences quickly and effectively.
More detailed summaries, as well as the full responses to the surveys, are available online at playrocs.org.