Partnering for Healthcare Initiatives—Focus Cities Gain Educational Perspective

A key initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Making Connections was designed to move families out of poverty and toward a healthy future by linking them to economic opportunities, strong social networks, and effective services in their own communities.

By 2008, health-related issues were having a major impact on school-readiness, so the Casey Foundation employed healthcare consultants to conduct community health scans customized to focus on local conditions at eight city schools, while coordinating this initiative with all components of the Children Healthy and Prepared to Succeed in School (CHAPSS), a project to strengthen the school-readiness of children living in impoverished, high risk neighborhoods.
 
The neighborhood schools selected as pilot sites in each of eight communities that were geographically, ethnically, and culturally diverse included:

  • Denver, Colorado
  • Louisville, Kentucky
  • Providence, Rhode Island
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Seattle, Washington
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Oakland, California
  • Indianapolis, Indiana

Seeking to identify the healthcare needs, gaps in services, and challenges affecting the families living in each neighborhood, the Casey Foundation, informed by the results of the community scans, formulated a plan to implement new health strategies. To coordinate efforts of this initiative with all components of CHAPSS, the Casey Foundation asked The Mosaic Group to provide screening training, scoring, and analysis using the PEDS: Developmental Milestones(PEDS:DM) Assessment Version to assess results for 1,105 students from across four focus schools that that we scored and analyzed to ensure consistency and reliability of results. PED:DM assessed child development across seven domains: motor, gross motor, self-help, receptive language, expressive language, social-emotional, and academics. A complex scoring process produced a rich array of information on each child.
 
Marla Oros and the Mosaic team created spreadsheets that provided individual student scores and composite data presented in charts and graphs for each school.

“We spent considerable time and effort to bring all stakeholders to the table and request their active participation in and support of the initiative,” says Oros. “We met with school administrators, teachers, student support teams, school health professionals, health department officials, and community leaders in each target city to explain the project's purpose, the administrative process, outcomes, anticipated use of data, and strategies for ensuring confidentiality of student records. Then we customized our approach to their unique challenges and needs.
 
“We conducted one-on-one meetings with teachers and student support teams to present our findings and assist with the interpretation of data. Frequently, teachers reported that the results validated what they had suspected about a particular student: that a developmental delay was affecting his or her school success.”

The Mosaic team also examined wrap-around services already being delivered, such as speech therapy, individual or family counseling, reading assistance, or after-school programs.

Three critical issues resulting from the health scans underscored school readiness deficits at the target sites including:

    • an absence of healthcare insurance,
    • an absence of a medical home, and
    • a porous system of developmental screenings, particularly for low-income children, with results rarely available to the schools. 

     
    Lessons Learned from the Pilot Sites

    With analysis of Mosaic Group data, the CHAPSS healthcare component was able to validate how important access to care is to ensure that children enter school ready to learn. Looking ahead, long-term evaluation of students aged 4 to 7 will be necessary to determine whether the school-based screenings and follow-up services correlate to greater academic achievement over time.
     
    “In our partnership with the focus schools, we devised a comprehensive action plan tailored to each site,” Oros explains. “And we did so by understanding the needs of each community and, through our approach, gave the Casey Foundation a base from which communities can engage and partner with parents and healthcare providers to improve the long-term health and education of its children.