From the Co-Directors 2015-16
Major highlights of the year include the following new activities:
The Office’s Local Advisory Board has been restructured. It is now chaired by Kevin Kearns, Professor in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs and a specialist in non-profit management. Further, several new members have been added. A major task for the Board is to contribute to strategic planning for the Office, and three committees have been created for this purpose: The New Pittsburgh, Scholarship, and External Affairs. The major purpose is to chart the current and future needs of children and families in Pittsburgh and how the Office should contribute to improving their welfare.
The Office, the School of Education’s Center for Urban Education (CUE) and its Supporting Early Education and Development (SEED) joined to form the Race and Early Childhood Collaborative which produced a needs assessment regarding Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education (PRIDE). The report found racial identity begins in the first few years of life, parents and teachers have difficulty promoting positive racial identity among African-American children, and there are very few materials available to help them. The report was widely publicized, and the partnership is currently creating materials for parents and teachers that will facilitate adult-child communication and promote positive racial identity.
Pittsburgh Public Schools’ Arsenal PreK-5 and the Office are partnering to pilot a text messaging intervention with the dual purpose of 1) reducing chronic absenteeism among pre-k to third grade students and 2) improving school-to-family communication. Messages are positive and include information about the child’s school day, school updates, and helpful tips. By the end of the first intervention year, the average absence rate decreased by 17% and chronic absenteeism decreased by 25% in pre-k and first grade.
The Office conducted an assessment of the needs of military families in Pittsburgh. Many services are offered to families living near a military base, but one is not close to Pittsburgh. The study revealed several issues that local military families face and produced an agenda for action.
The Office’s international activities were extended when the co-directors were invited to Kazakhstan to conduct a two-day workshop and consult with a variety of providers of services for mothers and young children. A report outlined several courses of action that could be considered.
As always, we are indebted to our wonderful staff and funders who support and carry out these and many other projects.
Christina J. Groark, Ph.D. Robert B. McCall, Ph.D.