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The Children's Initiative Report Card is out, how are San Diego County children and families doing? We take a look.

March 1, 2012 11:28 a.m.


Sandra McBrayer, CEO The Children's Initiative

Related Story: Report Card On Health Of San Diego Children And Families


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: This is Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. This week, San Diego County leaders received a report card on how San Diego kids and families are doing. The assessment comes from the children's initiative, led by my guest, Sandra McBrayer. You may remember Sandra as the 1994 teacher of the national. Her children's initiative how evaluates the success and the challenges faced by San Diego kids in a variety of areas. Welcome to Midday Edition.

MCBRAYER: Thank you very much.

CAVANAUGH: For our listeners who aren't familiar with your agency, can you explain what it is you do and who you serve?

MCBRAYER: Certainly. We actually were developed by a group of foundations to say how do we you've been the lives of children and families? Not just design programs, but look at policies, you look at services and gaps. So we actually spend our time talking to stakeholders, community residents and ask what's working and what's not. We look at data to have the data tell us where we need to focus our efforts. And we take that information and bring partners together and say how can we collectively improve these outcomes for kids? Low birth weight, juvenile crime, how do we come together and solve the problem?

CAVANAUGH: When you were a teacher at monarch, did you see a lot of problems not go attended to because there was no facility to figure out what was going on?

MCBRAYER: Yeah, and it would be one voice, often. One voice was saying this isn't working. And it wasn't enough power behind it to say how do we look at this? If we just look at what's in front of us and not look at how it got there, it can't be fixed.

CAVANAUGH: Tell us about the report card the initiative submits to county leaders. How often do you do that?

MCBRAYER: Every two years. And the reason behind that is because we're looking at trend data, which means we're looking at data over time, we don't want to react to a blip. Is this the trend moving in that direction? So every two years, the initially recommended release of a report card.

CAVANAUGH: And what cares do you assess?

MCBRAYER: What areas don't we assess?

MCBRAYER: We actually look at 25 indicators all the way from prenatal care to low birth weight to teens having babies, all the through not just health but education, academic achievement, school attendance, juvenile crime, all the way to when does crime happen, what types of crime? If we're going to deploy police officers, when and where is the most need at? All the way to infant and child mortality. So really across the spectrum for kids, we want to know how are you doing so we know where to put our resources, services and programs.

CAVANAUGH: Let's start out by looking at some of the good news in the 2012 report card that you submitted. What areas are showing improvement?

MCBRAYER: Teens having babies are declining over time, which is very significant. When a teen has a child, one, the child is more at risk. Often teens have low birth weight babies, premature babies. Also the life trajectory of that teen is also at risk. More teen moms drop out of school. They don't graduate from high school, they don't have a career as opposed to a job. So in the last ten years, our teen births have dropped 33%, which is quite significant because there's a lot of great activity in the community trying to steer our teens to the right path.

CAVANAUGH: Now, is this something in previous report cards you highlighted as a challenge being faced by kids in San Diego County, and that was sort of focused on and addressed?

MCBRAYER: Certainly it was. We actually highlighted that. And there's a group in San Diego called SANDAP, which is the San Diego pregnancy project. They have such amazing success. When teens have a baby nationally, their chance of having a second child is about 20%. With SANDAP, their chance of having a second child is 1.8%. They do intensive work with these teens to get them into school, graduate, have a career or college.

CAVANAUGH: What other areas are improving this year in this report card?

MCBRAYER: Academic success is improving for our kids. We're seeing great achievements for our kids in the achievement tests in our county. Also seeing improvement in nutrition assistance. More families are accessing nutrition assistance. We're seeing improvements in juvenile crime. Our juvenile crime is decreasing, which is very significant. It's keeping our kids safe, and our communities safe. And a very exciting indicator is our obesity rates among kids are going down. That means that more kids are getting active and eating healthy. And that's a lifelong behavior that needs to happen.

CAVANAUGH: For the past few years, all we've been hearing about is how fat children are, and what problems the obesity is going to cause them down the road. So how has the obesity number gone down in San Diego? What are schools doing or organizations doing to fight that?

MCBRAYER: Really exciting. And let me just back up for one second. Because the county is doing a project called 3, 4, 50. Which says three behaviors, poor nutrition, lack of exercise and smoking, cause four diseases, health disease, diabetes, lung disease and cancer, that contribute to 50% of all adult deaths. When you think about obesity, think of that trajectory. So Chula Vista elementary school district is doing an exciting project where they actually did the body mass index for their kids. They actually said where are our kids obese? If we have limited resources, we need to target the right place. But they took it a step further. They looked at the Zip Code, the residents, the schools. Then they overlaid it with the availability of fast food restaurants and parks to say how do we teach within this Zip Code or this school, how do we help parents make more healthy choices, work with the city to expand our parks and recreation so kids can have more -- if it's not available, have more space? Also districts are doing -- San Diego unified, and others, are doing breakfast in the classroom. They're providing a nutritious, healthy breakfast every morning for kids so they're starting off the day with the right choices.

CAVANAUGH: And it's working, apparently.

MCBRAYER: It is working. We have an obesity leadership in San Diego under the Board of Supervisors that is doing a garden to school initiatives for our schools. We're really trying to get out there. The county has worked hard to insure that nutrition, cal fresh and snap is available at farmer's markets so you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables for your kids.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Sandra McBrayer, and she is the CEO of children's initiative. They've just released their 2011 report card to county leaders, assessing in various areas how kids and families are doing here in San Diego. Now, how do you gather this information to be able to report all these statistics and so forth? Where does this stuff come from?

MCBRAYER: I wish it was in one place.

MCBRAYER: We actually spent 18 months building relationships with a variety of organizations, whether it's health departments, local law enforcement, local school district, the State Department of education, the State Department of health. You literally have to ferret out where with we find this data. Then we spend our 18 months building the relationships to extract that data from different entities. Sometimes we have to develop data. Sometimes we recognize there might not be data available. Domestic violence, while we and nationally report the number of domestic violence cases, San Diego wanted to know how many kids are living in those households? As you know, if you live in a household of trauma, whether it's your brain development, academic success, or later in life being both a perpetrator and a victim is greatly increased. But there was no data. We worked with our local law enforcement as they fill out their DV supplemental, we added on there, do children live with the victim or the suspect? So not only can we collect data of what Zip Codes have the highest instances so we can put services there, but once we listed children on that supplemental, they're now eligible for 25 hours of trauma counseling free from victim's witness.

CAVANAUGH: Not only do you have innovative ways of compiling the information but brand-new ways of getting information that's never been compiled before.

MCBRAYER: Definitely.

CAVANAUGH: Let's talk about some of the areas of concern for kids in San Diego County. What did your assessment find?

MCBRAYER: One of the things we saw in our county which we know we have to continue to work on is our immunization rates have dropped. We have gone from over 85% down to 76%. And while they're also dropping nationally, it's significant to San Diego because we've dropped below the national objective. So we need to continue to educate parents about the safety of vaccines. Our school districts are telling us that they are having more wafers requested from parents choosing not to vaccinate their children. Not only is that child in danger, but the entire region becomes in danger.

CAVANAUGH: Do you know why that is?

MCBRAYER: There was a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding that there were some studies that had been released that said vaccines were related to various diseases. That has now been shown not to be true. National, federal, international studies have said that's not true. So we need to get that information out to parents. We also need to make sure that vaccines are readily available. As you know, sometimes there's a backlog. So we need to make sure that they're there. The other thing we need to do is educate physicians. What happens is if you have children, you take your child for a baby checkup, and they get a vaccine. In low income community, they don't even go to the well-baby check. So we need to teach physicians, even if I child is coming who's mildly ill, we can still talk to parents about vaccines. They don't always get there when a child is healthy.

CAVANAUGH: Right. Another challenge in San Diego, 17% of children in San Diego County are living in poverty. Are there areas of the county that are more affected than others? I would imagine so.

MCBRAYER: There definitely is. And what we do in our report card, are the federal poverty level is $22,000 for a family of four. That's next to impossible to survive, especially? San Diego. We actually record 200% of the poverty level in our report card. So we're able to show in central San Diego, City Heights and those areas, 59% of our kids are living at 200% of the poverty level. 59%, as opposed to 18 -- or 28% in the coastal areas. It allows us to stay that's where we need to put more GED and high school diploma classes for adults, more job training programs for adults, tell those communities, those parents about the earned income tax credits, put more food stamp availability or cal fresh availability in those communities.

CAVANAUGH: So you're giving San Diego leaders a kind of a roadmap. If you've got things, if you've got programs, if you've got money to spend, here's the way you should spend it, and here's where you should spend it.

MCBRAYER: And it's also not just about budget allocation and program development, but it's also policy. How do we look at -- do we need to have more services in a certain community? If you think about law enforcement, do we need to have more law enforcement in a community to support families or more social workers in a certain community? So it's also policy decisions of how do we provide the services to families?

CAVANAUGH: Our education report, Kyla Calvert, recently did a 3-part report about the increasing number of homeless students in San Diego school system, and how school districts are trying to keep up with the increase. And I know that's an issue that you're very close to, coming from monarch school. Did you see any increase in homeless kids reflected in any of the statistics that you compiled?

MCBRAYER: The statistics on homelessness is very hard to compile because they're the voiceless. But you do see more families doubling up, where it's an apartment where two or three families. So the families don't necessarily have a permanent address. We also see more families living with relatives where you're having grandma who has their three grown kids and six grand kids living with them. And that also causes family instability. Those families tend to just move so quickly. So districts are really struggling because kids are going from one community to the next and moving schools rapidly.

CAVANAUGH: What happens to the information you compile?

MCBRAYER: I wish I could say we're done. But what we actually do now, the report card is sent out to every elected official in the county. It's sent to all of our congressional and state leaders. We go to commissions, task forces, advisories, to educate them on what their data is saying. So when you're in Chula Vista, we take 90% of these indicators and map it by Zip Code, gender or ethnicity so we did to school district, community groups, if you want to get involved, what's the three biggest issues in this Zip Code that need help?

CAVANAUGH: And what kind of reception do you get?

MCBRAYER: A great reception. The business community has really stepped up. One of our indicators is breast feeding. And we've actually provided breast feeding kits for the work place. How do you provide a safe, nurturing place, so women can return to work but still breast feed their child? Community groups have literally changed and focused their efforts. School districts, we say if you're going to write a grant, know what your problems are. If the federal government is release grants to teen pregnancy, is that your issue? Or is it your issue actually kids drinking and driving?

CAVANAUGH: How long have you been doing this?

MCBRAYER: This is our third rapt card. In 2006 the county health department had been producing a report card that was very much a data document. We don't have to think about how to prove an indicator. It's already been thought up. Then we make San Diego specific recommendations. Since 2006, we've taken the rapid cart from data and made it user friendly for everybody.

CAVANAUGH: And during that time, have you seen officials implement programs based on the data that you provided?

MCBRAYER: Yeah, definitely. I can do that. I can say that one of the examples here on nutrition assistance, the county has doubled the amount of eligible recipients in the last six years. And some of the recommends were to go to voice signatures, which 211 is now able to do. Instead of someone going to an office, they can call 211 for assistance, help them with their eligibility, and get it approved over the phone. Video interviewing which the county now deploys in rural areas so that those in rural areas who don't have public transportation can't get to an office they can do it in a close area to their home. In the last report card for every indicator, at least one recommendation was put into place. So for every indicator, at least one relation was put in place.

CAVANAUGH: It must be very gratifying.

MCBRAYER: It's exciting. The community really does the work. They hear of the problem then they step up with us and say how can we solve some of these problems for our kids?

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for coming in and speaking with us today.

MCBRAYER: Thank you, it's my pleasure.