Putnam Family Connection Sets Groundwork for Future

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By Lena Hensley
Thursday, January 12, 2023

The Putnam County Family Connection Collaborative met Jan. 4, in the reception hall of The Plaza Arts Center in Eatonton. Representatives from the healthcare sector, community programs, school system and local government attended the meeting.

“The most important thing in all of this is called communication,” Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Sharp said following the presentation.

According to the Georgia Family Connection Partnership (GaFCP) website (gafamilyconstg.wpengine.com) the organization brings together and coordinates the efforts of more than 3,000 local- and state-level partners in all 159 Georgia counties. The only statewide network of its kind in the country, GaFCP’s collective goal is working toward better outcomes for children, their families and communities.

Local GaFCP offices, named Collaboratives, provide partners with access to resources they need and help communities to find local solutions. The state’s designated KIDS COUNT grantee, GaFCP also provides state agencies and policymakers with current, reliable data needed for informed decisions.

“I support multiple counties in the state as part of the Youth Challenge program. We are involved with kids 16 to 18, so I look for indicators showing needs of kids in that age group,” said Earlene Hamilton, outreach coordinator of the Georgia National Guard Youth Challenge Program.

The story of GaFCP dates back to 1991, when Gov. Zell Miller established a two-year pilot initiative to coordinate services for the educational, social, economic and physical well-being of Georgia’s youngest, most vulnerable citizens. Fifteen communities volunteered to participate in the pilot with private funding from the Joseph B. Whitehead and Kirbo foundations.

In 1993, the state legislature appropriated funds to establish a state-level technical assistance system. By 2004, all 159 Georgia counties had voluntarily become part of the Georgia Family Connection Collaborative network.

Following an introduction by Georgia Family Connection Partnership Regional Manager Adam Swymer at the Putnam County meeting, GaFCP representatives Rebekah Hudgins and Kirk O’Brien led a conversation about local data for Putnam County child and family services and outcomes.

Over the course of the meeting, Hudgins and O’Brien presented several charts with Putnam County-specific demographic data compared to state statistics. Hudgins gave an overview of the source of data, explaining GaFCP collected data from its state partners. She said most of the data presented at the meeting was from the U.S. Census, American Community Survey, and Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates, dated 2016-2020.

“We have 50 indicators divided into five result areas, which are children born healthy, children ready for school, succeeding in school, self-sufficient families and thriving communities, and we only produce data that is publicly available,” Hudgins explained.

She added they would not have data for 2022 until about six months from now, since various indicators required different times to be cleared for use. She also explained GaFCP uses a five-year average for its census indicators and that small counties with population under 60,000 (including Putnam) don’t produce one-year averages.

O’Brien then talked about the Putnam County profile and its demographic data, such as the number of healthy children and children succeeding at school, among other factors.

“This is the birth-to-21 profile, which is nine of 50 indicators. You can see how it is compared to Georgia,” he said, describing one chart. He explained a red mark meant the county was more than 10 percent lower than the state level, yellow meant that county was within 10 percent better to 10 percent worse than the state, and green indicated a county that was scored 10 percent better than the state.

According to the profile, seven out of nine indicators were red for Putnam County. They included teen birth in ages 15-19, child abuse and neglect, child poverty, teens not in school and not working (ages 16-19), children whose parents lack secure employment, third-grade students achieving proficient learner or above on Milestones ELA assessments, and babies born to mothers with less-than high- school education. The indicator for Putnam students who graduate high school on time was yellow, while low birth weight percentage was green for the county.

O’Brien also addressed data about children absent from school for more than 15 days, high school dropouts, and children whose parents lack secure employment.

“We have to reset things around 2021 because everything has dramatically changed, and the context within the communities is so different,” he said.

Craig Williamson, pastor of First Baptist Church of Eatonton, said he appreciated the opportunity just to get to know about organizations available locally to help out Putnam’s younger citizens.

“I’m looking forward to sitting down and having more conversations around the table,” Williamson said.

Putnam County Family Connection meets monthly. The next meeting will take place at noon Feb. 1, again at The Plaza Arts Center. Meetings are open to all community members. For more information visit online at putnam.gafamilyconstg.wpengine.com.

Read the story on msgrnews.com.

Bill Valladares
GaFCP Communications Director

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