2017 news

By Sarah Weihert sarahw@wdtimes.com

Every Child Thrives is an initiative spearheaded by the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation, which hosted Healthy Child, Thriving Communities on Monday at Turner Hall.

After talking to community members, Tina Crave, president and CEO of the foundation says they found out the foundation for lifelong health and success begins during pregnancy and the earliest years of life. Ninety percent of brain development happens during the first three years of life.

Strong and healthy relationships with caring adults is critical for children to thrive and the lack of those relationships or prolonged stress in a child's life because of emotional abuse or neglect can have a lifelong impact.

Every Child Thrives kicked off in the spring and is a collective of community members using their talents to use data to drive decisions and aligning resources to support what works.

The initial scope will include children ages prenatal through third grade and their families located in the Watertown and Dodgeland school districts. The initiative will look to drive long-term change in three areas:

  • All children healthy, increasing opportunities for positive social and emotional development to promote health and resiliency.
  • All children ready for school, children are physically, academically, socially and emotionally ready for kindergarten.
  • All children succeed in school, all children will be reading at grade level by third grade.

"Every Child Thrives will provide parents, families and organizations with the tools to help nurture children's minds," Crave said. "Every Child Thrives will also work to empower parents, helping them succeed as a child's first teacher."

The initiative will work to do early developmental screening and combat chronic absenteeism in schools. "These programs are key to improving children's health, reducing abuse and neglect and increasing readiness for school."

Every Child Thrives does not need money from volunteers.

"The good news is we are not asking for your money. We are simply asking if we can count on you to show your support for the work of Every Child Thrives," said Annette Thompson, Dodgeland superintendent. "That means that every child in Dodge and Jefferson counties will be given the opportunity to realize his or her full potential."

By Sarah Weihert sarahw@wdtimes.com

"There is no app better than your lap," says Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an associate professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health who practices primary care pediatrists, during the Healthy Child, Thriving Communities-Tomorrow's Workforce Develops Today event Monday morning at Turner Hall.

Navsaria was one of three speakers at the event discussing the impact of early childhood on lifelong health and occupational success. "Today we hope to engage your hearts and minds by investing in our children," said Tina Crave, president and CEO, Watertown Community Health Foundation. "The seed for Every Child Thrives was born when our foundation began to work with partners to begin to assess community needs."

The foundation is spearheading the Every Child Thrives movement in the area. After speaking with hundreds of people in Jefferson and Dodge counties, the foundation learned some staggering statistics. The cost of living for a family of four in the area is $59,000 a year. That number includes only the basics: food, housing, health care and child care.

"Forty to 60 percent of our working families have incomes that are lower than the cost of living in our community, which presents all sorts of challenges for them."

Fewer than one-third of children from economically disadvantaged families are reading proficiently in third grade. "Third grade reading proficiency is a routine predictor of both academic and career success. It is also a statistic that the U.S. government uses to predict future prison capacity."

Rates of child abuse and neglect have also risen by 30 percent over the last two years.

These socioeconomic factors are causing businesses to be short the skilled workforce they need. Further complicating the problem, over the next 20 years, the number of baby boomers leaving the workforce is significantly greater than the number of young people entering the workforce.

"With flat population growth predicted, Dodge County will experience a 10 percent decrease in our working age population," Crave said.

The other problem is readiness to enter the workforce.

"What percentage of Wisconsinites between the ages of 18 and 24 are not qualified to join the military, either because they don't meet the academic or fitness requirements or because they have an unacceptable criminal record," Crave asked.

Seventy-one percent of young Americans are not qualified to join the military, she answered.

"If 71 percent of our young folks are not qualified to join the military, how many of them are qualified to be employees or leaders in your companies?"

Child care in Dodge and Jefferson counties is at 98 percent capacity.

"How many workers are we losing because child care is either too expensive or is not at all available?"

How are children going to get the start they need to be successful future citizens, parents and employees? That's the question the initiative hopes to answer.

"We need every single one of our children to succeed so that our community and our businesses can thrive and prosper into the future," she said.

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation will provide the financial backing for the Every Child Thrives movement for five years. The partnership plans to initially serve the areas of the Dodgeland and Watertown school districts and has a vision of, "Every child thrives in health, learning and life," and a mission to "Engaging business, government, education, families and community partners to ensure that every child thrives."

The initiative has already garnered the attention of over 100 individuals and organizations in the area.

Navsaria, who has a degree in public health and is trained as a children's librarian, discussed the science of the brain and early childhood development and what happens when things don't go right for children early on in their life.

"Children are the future citizens. They are your future employees, your future employers, your future inventors. This is what their future holds ideally, so when we don't invest in the infrastructure of the early brain we are basically saying we don't think our society has a future," he said.

Brains are built over time but the first 1,000 days of life until a child is 3 years old are very important, Navsaria said.

"I don't want anyone to walk out of here thinking it's over and there is nothing you can do. Adolescents can change, young adults can change, even older adults can change. Is it a lot harder? Yes it is. There is not as much brain elasticity. It takes a lot more effort and a lot more work, but it is possible."

Where a child lives and who is around them play a big factor in how they develop. Experiences also play a factor in development.

"It is through relationships and connections with people not products that drive development. There is nothing a screen does for a child under 2 years of age, so don't put your kids in front of educational videos and apps. As one of my colleagues says, ‘There is no app to replace your lap.' They need to interact with people and that is what drives development."

Navsaria referenced a study where a mother plays and interacts with her baby and then for two minutes sits with the baby with a straight face, not responding to the baby's cues.

Navsaria says he doesn't believe there are parents anywhere who don't care about their children, or want what's best for their children.

"I think that's a universal. We think of this back-and-forth interaction as being natural or instinctual, but that's learned behavior. We learned it by watching other people around us doing it, so if you grew up in an environment where people aren't doing that how are you going to know to do it."

The doctor says in the last five years of his practice he has never found a parent who didn't know they should talk to and read to their child, but if it's not something they learned growing up it may start to feel awkward. "Are you saying the right things? What are you supposed to say? Maybe you aren't saying the right things. You didn't do so well in school, you struggled, you aren't going to tell your baby the right things, you are going to mess them up and they will turn out like you. Maybe they are better off in front of this learning DVD made by educators. You see how the parental self doubt can feed on itself?"

The brains of children who face adversity in their lives also change.

"There is no pill to fix this. That's why I'm here talking to you today. If we can catch it early on we can help these children," Navsaria said. "This is a problem not just for them or their family or community. It's a problem for all of us, which one of these kids under the right conditions would have thrived and figured out something that would help us all like a cure for cancer or Alzheimer's or how to get to Mars or world peace or something like that." Navsaria suggests making the solutions easy for parents, build parental capabilities, address the root cause and to use evidence guided solutions. He used the example of the organization Reach Out and Read, which gives away books and encourages parents to read to their children every day.

The organization gives parents the tool to build their capacity to engage with their children and helps to buffer toxic stress in their lives and improve their relationship with their children.

"We need to remember talent is equally distributed throughout our population but opportunity is not."

Navsaria showed the crowd a picture of his wife reading to their son many years ago and said it reminds him of the importance of those interactions.

"Children are made readers in the laps of their parents, and parents are their child's first and best teachers. We need to support parents in that role," he said.

Watertown High School alumnus Rob Grunewald, economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, discussed the high economic return of investing in early childhood opportunities.

Grunewald discussed a study from the 1960s that looked at investing in preschool education and whether that would reduce the need for special education, which is more expensive.

"They selected 123 children randomly, from low income families, to either receive the preschool or be in a control group for comparison," Grunewald said.

The students had a high quality experience at the preschool and the study followed the participants to the age of 40. The graduation rate of those who went to the preschool was higher and there was a reduction in the need for special education. Other notable differences in the two groups were homeownership rates were higher.

Grunewald says those who attended the preschool had higher paying jobs, contributed more taxes to society and had a reduction in incarceration.

The benefit to cost ratio is up to $16 returned for every $1 invested in sending the child to preschool, which in today's dollars cost $11,000.

Another study showed among the children's mothers there was stabilization of income and reduction in social welfare cost.

"When there is high quality child care system it allows parents to go to work and they are not worried about their child care arrangements during the day. There is less absenteeism and turnover which is a benefit to businesses. "Investing in our children is not free, but research shows that 10 or 15 years down the road it will pay off," he said.

Manufacturers and other skilled trades have been having a hard time finding quality workers for the last several years.

"If employers are struggling to find people today, it's going to get worse by 2020 and peak by 2025," said S. Mark Tyler, president OEM Fabricators, Inc. in Woodsville. "One of the problems we faced is back in the 1980s, we needed more four-year graduates, unfortunately the approach we took to getting people think about going to the universities, we demonized the trades. We basically said if you have a suit and an office and you work with your brain and not your back, you are a success, and if you don't then you're not." Tyler told the crowd it's important to implement career planning for high school students. He told the story of a student who was told to follow her passion, which was anthropology. She went to school, studied and graduated with a bachelor's degree, but she couldn't find a job. She ended up going to a trade school to become a welder and now is gainfully employed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, plumbers make over $68,000 a year whereas a professor with a PhD makes $65,000.

"I'm not beating up on fouryear degrees, we need more than what we have, but we need to be honest about where the opportunities are."

Tyler said honest discussions need to take place.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than half of careers in the future are going to need more than high school but less than a bachelor's degree, but the need for bachelor's degrees is also increasing. What that tells us is everybody will need education beyond high school. Right now the demand is in STEM careers.

About 36 percent of students are graduating from some kind of college but the need is more like 95 percent, Tyler said. He also said in Wisconsin incarceration rates are so high they are costing taxpayers almost $1 billion a year. "That billion dollars would probably do what we need to do in early childhood. I don't know that we will ever be able to get away entirely from incarceration, but that is a good pot of money we could access."

Although companies and company leaders know the answer to the workforce problem is in early childhood, Tyler says the message has not reached lawmakers.

"We have to get the message to lawmakers this is something we need if for nothing else than an least an economic perspective to support our workforce."

Tyler said even if a person is not involved in this movement there is something everyone can do.

"When you engage with a child the best way to teach is talk, read, play and sing," he said.

By Sarah Weihert sarahw@wdtimes.com

Local schools, businesses and organizations are coming together to positively affect the lives of young children in the Dodge and Jefferson county areas.

"Starting when children show up in kindergarten isn't starting early enough," said Tina Crave, president and CEO of the Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation. "Those early connections shape the potential for lifelong health, for lifelong success in school and career and we needed to look earlier if we wanted to make a difference in our community."

When Crave started her career she says she was convinced the secret to a healthier community was investing in physical activity and nutrition.

"I have to thank all of you," she said Monday to local schools and organizations. "When we went out and did about 100 stakeholder interviews and focus groups you told us we weren't looking upstream far enough. You told us brains are built, not born. In the first years of life there are millions of neural connections, more than any point in the rest of your life."

"It's critical that we partner alongside other agencies in helping kids succeed," said Jon Lange, YMCA CEO. "That's really important to me."

"I can tell you individual agencies produce isolated impacts and I can tell you when you bring schools and organizations and families and government and business and those with funding, all around the same table to collaborate there is an opportunity to move societal needles," he said. "In my 33 years of working in the nonprofit industry, I've watched us work tirelessly at stuff and not do anything and I've watched us work together with people and actually get some really good work done."

"If we join forces we can make a difference and that's what we are here to launch today," he said.

In Jefferson County about 10 percent of households are low income, about 1,700 children.

"All children deserve a chance to thrive. This is our mission and our vision in Jefferson County," said Kathi Cauley, Jefferson County Human Services director.

"There is a lot of talk about the federal poverty rate, but perhaps what we should worry about just as much are the families that make just above the federal poverty level," Crave said. "They don't qualify for many of the supports and their family income is not what it costs to live."

In Dodge and Jefferson counties it costs a family of four about $56,000 a year to live. Crave said 50 percent of families with two children are not making what it costs to live.

"When you get up into rural Dodge County, Reeseville, Clyman it's up to 60 percent. I can preach all day about the need to feed children five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but when you are making a choice between paying rent and paying a doctor bill that might not be an option."

She said those are some of the reasons many children don't have books at home and early learning opportunities.

Crave also addressed the increase in substance abuse by parents of young children.

"The family is every child's first teacher and more families are struggling and don't have the ability to help their child thrive."

School districts agreed the number of children who are coming to school unprepared to learn is increasing because of the stress at home.

"There are more 3 and 4 year olds in the state being asked not to come back to their childcare center than students expelled from K-12 schools."

"We know children that grow up in a stressful environment have delayed social and emotional development, in fact that's the number one reason children show up for kindergarten on the first day and aren't there ready to learn."

As children get older, those stressors at home can lead to mental health problems.

"In Wisconsin, one in six children in our schools has a diagnosed mental health problem and 12 to 17 percent of high school students have told us they have seriously considered suicide."

These types of disorders start early in childhood research shows.

"We now know a 5-year-olds social and emotional skills can pretty accurately predict his lifelong health and earning potential."

Crave said despite the challenges that some children in the community are going through they are resilient.

"There is a lot of research that says if we invest early we can make a big difference."

Early learning is driven by children having good relationships with adults. "Sometimes just one relationship can make a huge difference," she said. "We also know at-risk children who have the opportunities to have high quality early learning have significantly better outcomes."

Children who come to kindergarten ready to learn are twice as likely to master basic skills by age 11. Those children also have lower chronic disease rates later in life.

"If we can make sure every child has access to supportive relationships and high quality learning opportunities we can make a real difference in our community."

The effort piloted by the Greater Community Health Foundation will be called, "Every Child Thrives" and focus on the geographic regions of the Dodgeland and Watertown School districts and measure success in three areas:

  • All children healthy, increase opportunities for positive social and emotional development and community supports to promote resiliency.
  • All children ready for school, all children are physically, socially, emotionally ready for kindergarten.
  • All children succeed in school, all children reading at grade level by third grade.

The foundation is looking to bring together business, government, families and community partners to ensure children are thriving. The group has hired Michael Soika from the Center for Learning Communities and a founding member of Milwaukee Succeeds. He will serve as a consulting facilitator for the group's early efforts.

Crave says success in these areas will only happen if area organizations work together. The foundation will be organizing three action teams to identify the priorities and what works, as well as data and communications teams. Those teams will be led by a Transformation Council and on top will be a Community Leadership Council made up of CEOs, elected officials and those with authority to mobilize resources.

Carol Quest, foundation chairwoman and director of the Watertown Public Health Department, said getting businesses involved and getting those who the foundation would most like to impact on boards will be a challenge. "We struggle with that, but we are learning. We are committed to making sure this collaborative action moves forward. We are committed to make sure we set a reasonable pace so we can all participate," she said. "We want to be inclusive."

"We don't want to just be doing good, but we want to get good done."

Dodgeland District Administrator Annette Thompson, ended the remarks by telling those in attendance about a student new to the district last school year who transferred from another state to live with his mother.

The teen was subjected to terrible living conditionsvwith several brothers and sisters who were not being properly cared for or attending school. After several challenging months at Dodgeland High School the teen confided in an adult at the school about the abuse and neglect going on in the home and the mother was charged with two counts of felony physical abuse of a child intentionally causing bodily harm and one count of misdemeanor contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Afterward the teen attended the Challenge Academy at Fort McCoy, passed all five of his GED tests and graduated with the Dodgeland High School class of 2017. Thompson said the teen just needed someone to trust and believe in him.

"He was filled with maturity and pride at graduation," Thompson said. "He saved himself and the other children in the home."

"We have an opportunity," she said. "We have a dream about what this can be and you will make it a reality with your involvement."

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) this week announced awards for its inaugural grant cycle totaling nearly $831,000. The 55 grant awards support investments in Healthy Living and Healthy Child Development.

"In today's hectic world, all too often healthy choices are not convenient," said Tina Crave, President and CEO of GWCHF. "Our Healthy Living grants provide funding to create school, work and community environments that make it easy to make healthy choices."

"Healthy Living grants also provide funding to improve access to physical activity through walking and biking paths and outdoor recreation opportunities," added Crave. "Research shows that we are twice as likely to be active when we live and work in close proximity to safe places to be active, and we are happy to support efforts to make these opportunities more accessible for all."

GWCHF Board Chair Carol Quest is pleased that the foundation is able to support collaboration between community partners to enhance access to child development resources across the region. "The foundation for lifelong health is laid in the earliest year of life," said Quest. "Our grants will increase availability to services that are known to improve child outcomes, including home visitation, parenting education and early learning opportunities for children."

The foundation's inaugural grant cycle offered two grant opportunities: Changemaker Health Grants for awards up to $100,000 to fund programs that produce measurable improvement in health status, and Spark! Health Grants for awards up to $5,000 to fund initiatives that spark excitement for health transformation.

The GWCHF has awarded 12 Changemaker Health Grants. Awarded grants include:

  • 4-C, $68,000 for child development groups, screening and parent education in Dodge County
  • City of Watertown, $100,000 for Carriage Hill Drive Shared-Use Path
  • Fort Healthcare/Lake Mills Wellness Coalition, $37,129 for the Lake Mills Schools and Community Garden Project
  • Hustisford School District, $50,000.00 for Mental health Framework Implementation
  • Jefferson County Head Start/CESA #2, $84,829 for Family and Community Connections parenting education
  • Jefferson County Health Department, $16,578 for Parents as Teachers Home Visitation Program
  • Jefferson County Human Services, $9,438 for Incredible Years School Age Parenting Program
  • Jefferson County Parks, $100,000 for Jefferson County Interurban Trail
  • Recovery Support Center, Inc., $16,000 for Building the Recovery Community
  • The Gathering Source, Inc., $40,000 for Rural Healthy Lifestyles feasibility study
  • Watertown Unified School District Elementary Schools, $94,155 for Active Recess
  • Watertown Area YMCA, $50,000 for active recess and after school programming at Ixonia Elementary School

The foundation has awarded 43 Spark! Health Grants. Grant awards by category include:

  • Active Classroom
    • Dodgeland Elementary School, Fantastic Flexible Seating Options
    • Lebanon Lutheran School, Stand-Up Classroom Desks
    • School District of Jefferson, Flexible Learning Classroom/4th Grade
    • School District of Jefferson, Sullivan Elementary School, Flexible Seating Classroom
    • School District of Jefferson, Sullivan Elementary School, Third Grade Flexible Classroom Seating
    • School District of Jefferson, West Elementary School, Active Classrooms
    • School District of Jefferson, East Elementary School, Heart Rate Monitoring Fitness Technology
    • Watertown Unified School District, Webster Elementary School, Let's Get Moving in the Classrooms
    • Watertown Unified School District, Webster Elementary School, Movin' and Groovin' in Music Class
    • Watertown Unified School District, Douglas Elementary School, Building Core with Flexible Seating
    • Watertown Unified School District, Lincoln Elementary School, Active Classroom
  • Active Living
    • City of Lake Mills, Multi-Use Community Facility feasibility study
    • City of Watertown/Dorothy Steinhorst Micro-Park Initiative, Dorothy Steinhorst Micro-Park Initiative
    • Hustisford School District, Kayaks
    • Reeseville Public Library, Storybook and Community Yoga
    • DJHCP/Get Healthy Watertown, Walking and Bicycling Maps
    • Waterloo School District, Snowshoes
    • Watertown Park and Recreation Department, Scholarship Fund
    • Watertown Share The Road, Bicycle Re-Cycle program
    • Watertown Family Center, Inc., Summer Parent And Child Enrichment Playgroups in the Park
  • Emotional Wellbeing in Schools
    • Lake Mills Area School District, Trauma Informed Practices
    • Lake Mills Area School District, Mindfulness at Lake Mills Elementary School
    • School District of Jefferson, Suicide Prevention
    • School District of Jefferson, Trauma Sensitive Schools
    • Watertown Unified School District, Riverside Middle School, Panther Pause
  • Healthy Choices: Nutrition
    • Bread & Roses, Equipment and Dietician Services
    • Hustisford School District, Birdseed Backpacks
    • Johnson Creek Healthy Initiative Coalition, Water Bottle Refill Station
    • The Interact Club of Lake Mills High School, The Mill - Lake Mills HS Food Bank
    • School District of Jefferson, Making A Rainbow of My School Lunch Served From A New Salad Bar
    • School District of Jefferson, West Elementary School Garden Enhancement
    • The Gathering Source, Inc., Bridging the Rural Food Gap
    • Watertown Family Center, Inc., Cooking/Baking Workshops
    • Watertown Unified School District, Douglas Elementary School, Water is Life
    • Watertown Unified School District, Riverside Middle School, Try it Tuesday
    • Watertown Unified School District, Watertown High School, The Gosling Nest
    • Watertown Unified School District, Webster School Water Bottle Filling Station
    • Willows Christian Child Care Center, Healthy Eating with Power Foods
  • Other grants awarded include:
    • Reeseville Public Library, Dodgeland Collaborative Summer Reading Program
    • School District of Jefferson, Books on the Bus
    • Watertown Department of Public Health, Child Passenger Safety Seat Distribution Program
    • Watertown Area YMCA, Great Escape
    • Watertown Area YMCA, Teen Nights

    In total the foundation received 72 applications requesting over $1.1 million.

    Quest said the foundation was thrilled with the amount of grant requests it received.

    "Because this was our first grant cycle, we were unsure how many applications we'd receive. Not only did the number of grant requests exceed our expectations, but we were pleased to see all grant requests fell in line with our mission," she said. "We were truly impressed with all applications and the hard work among organizations to create health in our community."

    The GWCHF serves the residents of Dodge and Jefferson Counties with priority given to projects impacting the communities served by the school districts of Dodgeland, Hustisford, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Waterloo and Watertown.

    Formed out of the 2015 joint venture between Watertown Regional Medical Center and LifePoint Health, the foundation is an independent non-profit that invests in creating health in the community. The mission of the foundation is to inspire collaboration, mobilize resources and encourage innovation that measurably contributes to the wellbeing of our communities.

    To learn more about the foundation and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.

The Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation (GWCHF) announced this week 5 grant awards for the community of Lake Mills totaling nearly $52,000. The grants were awarded for the purpose of promoting and enhancing healthy living and healthy childhood development.

The foundation's inaugural grant cycle offered two grant opportunities including Changemaker Health Grants for awards up to $100,000, to fund programs that produce measurable improvement in healthy living and or in healthy childhood development and Spark! Health Grants for awards up to $5,000, to fund projects that spark excitement for health transformation in our community.

One Changemaker Health Grant in the amount of $37,129.00 was awarded to the Fort HealthCare/Lake Mills Wellness Coalition for the Lake Mills Schools and Community Garden Project - Mobile Greenhouse and Outdoor Classroom.

"Receiving this grant has created tremendous opportunity for the Lake Mills School Garden Project," said Bridget Monahan, Fort HealthCare Community Health and Wellness Manager. "It allows us to have a greenhouse on site, providing the students with a year-round growing season. The vegetables the students cultivate will be used in the school lunch program. Our hope is by engaging the students in multiple ways, such as planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting, it will create a lifelong interest in healthy food options. With this grant both the garden and our students will flourish."

In addition, four Spark! Health Grants were awarded, including:

  • City of Lake Mills for a multi-use community facility feasibility study
  • Lake Mills Area School District for mindfulness strategies
  • Lake Mills Area School District for Trauma Informed Care training
  • The Interact Club of Lake Mills High School for The Mill - Lake Mills HS Food Bank

"Emotional health is a critical component of healthy living and is a top priority of every school district in the state," Carol Quest, Board Chair and Grants Committee Chair explained. "We are pleased to support the Lake Mills Area School District in implementing programs and practices that build resiliency in young people."

In total, the GWCHF Board of Directors approved 12 Changemaker Health Grants and 43 Spark! Health Grants to provide nearly $831,000 in support across Dodge and Jefferson Counties.

The GWCHF serves the residents of Dodge and Jefferson Counties with priority given to projects impacting the communities served by the school districts of Dodgeland, Hustisford, Ixonia, Jefferson, Johnson Creek, Lake Mills, Waterloo and Watertown.

To learn more about the foundation and supported initiatives, visit www.watertownhealthfoundation.com or Facebook at Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation.