4 Wins from a Championship Playbook

We recently wrote about the opportunity for our community to take the heart, grit and grind that have come to define our civic psyche and tap into them to fight for the future of every child in our community.

There is no title more important that we can win than this one, because as champions for children, we are in fact winning a better future for Memphis and Shelby County. Like all championship teams, we have a playbook: our annual Data Book: the State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County.

Since we began publishing the Data Book, it has become the definitive source of information about children, and its data, its insights, and its spotlights of best practices have motivated early childhood development programs throughout Memphis and Shelby County.

Our community has demonstrated a growing interest in early childhood issues and programs. Often, it has been connected to a crisis, like funding for Pre-K or threats to Head Start, but to turn the tide, our advocacy and work for children cannot be seasonal, but instead, it must be a permanent part of our community life. Next week, we will be releasing the 2013 edition of the Data Book, and our hope is that it will fuel this higher level of advocacy and action.

The good news is that things are getting better, although slowly. The best news is that the Data Books prove that we can improve things, and now, we have the opportunity to supercharge progress. That’s why in coming weeks, we will be telling stories about children, parents, and families to bring to life the statistics of the Data Book and to illustrate the impact of sustained attention and action.

Exciting positive trends in the 2013 Data Book should galvanize and inspire us that even more can be done:

  1. The infant mortality rate has declined by about 25 percent in two years.
  2. The birth rate for teenagers has declined by 26 percent since 2008.
  3. The percentage of Shelby County mothers receiving no prenatal care continues to drop is now at a record low: 5.6 percent.
  4. Breastfeeding is increasing and reached a record high with the greatest increases taking place with African-American mothers (48 percent increase since 2004).

But, there's still work to do. Since our first Data Book was issued in 2006, poverty has been the highest hurdle to child development and brain development and that has not changed:

  • 39 percent of Memphis children live in poverty and more than half of Shelby County children face economic hardships.
  • 60.4 percent of Memphis children live in families headed by a single parent.
  • 32 percent of Memphis families with children live in poverty, compared to 7 percent in suburban Shelby County.

The Data Book contains many facts, but at The Urban Child Institute, we hold one fact above all others as immutable: as a community, we have no greater moral imperative than to protect children and to give each one a fair start in life.

Our work teaches us that there are no simple solutions. The only real solution is found in the power of a community joined together (Tweet this!) by its commitment to nurturing parents, high-quality early education, and quality child care that promote positive developmental experiences for young children.

The 2013 Data Book: the State of Children in Memphis and Shelby County is one of our contributions to a continuous, intense campaign to achieve these goals.