Children’s Wellness Center

Family Life Education’s Children’s Wellness Center  will  have 3 components:  early childhood education, nutrition and fitness/movement.

Family Life Education Inc.

Our story

The overall goal of the project is to undertake renovations for the establishment of the Northeast region’s first-ever, community-based Children’s Wellness Center.  In keeping with First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” anti-obesity campaign, the Children’s Wellness Center’s aim is to reduce and prevent childhood obesity, and other chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, by improving access to physical activity, healthy foods, community gardens, cooking classes, and family-oriented exercise classes.  That being said, the foundation of the Center is cognitive and creative learning so as to ensure the intellectual growth and development of young children.
Designed to serve upward of 5,000 children ages 0-12 and their families each year, the facility is the only one of its kind in an urban community that is accessible to poor and low-income families, including its rapidly growing Latino population.  Its comprehensive approach, which embraces the “whole” child, has the potential to address the complex web of factors leading to language delays, lack of preparedness for school and poor nutrition/general wellness.  As such, the Center promises to become a model for children’s wellness in poor urban communities throughout the region.
Early childhood education:
  • Hands-on, age-appropriate, child development “centers” that help to foster cognitive learning, fine/gross motor skill development and creative thinking.
  • Child developmental screening at regular intervals to identify areas of deficiency, document progress and educate parents about keeping children on track.
  • Early Screening Profile assessments (includes testing of gross motor skills)
  • Education/referral for immunizations
Fitness:
  • Activity “centers” offering age-appropriate equipment, training, and movement for young children
  • Workshops in infant massage, yoga, music and creative movement, family Zumba, dance, and martial arts.
  • Outdoor activities in adjacent City park, to include tumbling, balancing, tricycle and bicycle riding, jungle gyms, swings, ropes, etc.
  • Family physical fitness classes
Nutrition:
  • A full-scale kitchen that serves as a teaching center for families about good nutrition, healthy food preparation techniques, and what foods to avoid.
  • Parent-child cooking classes, canning and freezing parties, preserving foods, pantry makeovers, etc.
  • Hands-on teaching of indoor gardening, including hydroponics
  • A community garden with raised beds for herbs and vegetables, access to small plots of land, education about growing fresh foods.
  • Access to free, fresh foods through bi-weekly visits by the mobile Foodshare truck and linkages with area farmers/farms.

 

Why it matters?

There is a dangerous overlap between poverty, hunger, low food security and obesity. Cognitive learning is also adversely impacted by these factors. What follows are some key facts illustrating this point:

  • 47% of Hartford children live below the federal poverty line, the highest rate in Connecticut cities
  • Connecticut household food insecurity rose by 27% between 1999-2001, and between 2002-2004.
  • 40,000 households, the majority in Connecticut cities, have experienced hunger in conjunction with food insecurity within a 12-month period.
  • In summertime, only 25% of Connecticut children who eat a free or reduced price meal at school get a meal.
  • Hartford children are NOT prepared for school. Poor students enter Kindergarten with a 400 word vocabulary; a middle class student enters with about a 1,000 word vocabulary.
Due to the quality of food consumed coupled with lack of physical activity, unsafe neighborhoods and the absence of public spaces for young children, childhood obesity rates have skyrocketed, particularly in urban communities. Nationally, there is an epidemic of childhood obesity among Latinos and African-Americans, which, without intervention, will follow them into adulthood. In Hartford, the situation is parallel:
  • 42% of Hartford three-year-olds are obese or at risk of obesity
  • Children who are obese at age 4 have a four-fold likelihood of being obese as adults.
  • For children who are obese at age 10, the risk is 28-fold to become obese as adults.
  • Physical activity among children is critical because of the related health–and learning– benefits, such as cardio-respiratory function, blood pressure control, weight management, cognitive development, problem-solving and emotional growth.
Delayed development, including poor development of gross motor skills and cognitive growth, are other consequences of obesity. Data from six citywide Brighter Futures family centers for last year showed that 54% of children had poor gross motor skills. At our own family center in the Parkville neighborhood, 51% of children had a developmental issue warranting referral to the State’s Birth-to-Three Program. Already, an average child growing up in a low-income family hears one-half to one-third as many words as a child from a more affluent family, meaning the brain is not being stimulated to its full potential and language development is compromised.
Though a clear relationship between obesity and academic performance has not yet been established, studies have identified a link between childhood obesity and self-esteem, which is often related to low academic achievement and attainment. Combined with lack of access to fresh produce, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise, obese and overweight children are not prepared to start school. Consequently, many will have difficulties succeeding in school, work, and life.
According to the National Institute for Literacy, “oral language development is a critical foundation for reading, writing, and spelling, and it is the ‘engine’ of learning and thinking.” Research tells us that oral language development includes critical skills that make it possible for children to communicate, understand the meaning of words and concepts they hear and read, obtain new information, and express ideas using specific language. These skills are essential for lifelong thinkers and learners. (Learning to Talk and Listen, 2010) Nobel Laureate economist James Heckman (2007) provides another rationale for investing in high quality early childhood education programs. Citing societal impact and a strong return on investment, he underscores the crucial role of early intervention programs in empowering young learners and closing the achievement gap.
In short, the fundamental basis for children’s wellness is cognitive learning, growth and development.

How will the funds be used?

Dr. Louise Loomis and her colleague, Dr. Doris Shallcross, are being retained as consultants for the Center’s cognitive learning component, which is being piloted this year.  With over 50 years of experience with children and their cognitive learning challenges, they are experts in the field and have already begun to research the best possible strategies to ensure the cognitive development among high-risk children.  Additional research will need to be conducted in order to formulate an appropriate assessment plan for the cognitive learning component being piloted in this project.  Already, positive evidence exists based on the nationally recognized Let’s Talk…..It Makes a Difference curriculum.  Our project advisors will review the measures utilized, and make recommendations for incorporating pertinent tools in assessment activities for the pilot.  Because each child in the pilot will also undergo developmental screening in the Parkville Family Center, the following outcomes will be employed:
  • 90% of children served will demonstrate age appropriate development
  • 100% identified with a delay will be referred
  • 100% of parents will learn the importance of early childhood education
  • 80% of families will show increased understanding of children’s language development
 Outcomes for literacy:
  • 100% of families will have access to children’s books at FLE and through the Hartford Public Library
  • 90% of families will obtain/use a Hartford Public Library card
  • 90% of families will participate in family literacy events at FLE
  • 100% of children will be read to by parents and/or FLE volunteers up to 5 times/week

 



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Updates

03/10/2015

Thanks to your generosity we reached our goal of $20,000 last week for the new Children’s Wellness Center.  Now, with your continued support we have established a “Stretch goal” of $1,500.  These funds will allow us to purchase two laptop computers to be used by inner city children for educational activities being offered as part of the Center.

We greatly appreciate your support in helping us meet this new goal!



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Givers

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Thank you for helping me to “believe”!

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I like your project. Good luck!

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Please help us support the Louise Earle Loomis Wellness Center

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Please help us support Child Wellness in Harford

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The team

Cándida Flores

A human services administrator for 35 years, Cándida Flores Flores brings a wealth of experience to bear from the non-profit, government and corporate sectors. She has dedicated most of her career to underserved populations, especially women and children. Ms. Flores was with the Hispanic Health Council for over 13 years, promoted to its CEO from 1987-1993. Subsequently, she served as Assistant to Governor Lowell P. Weicker for Urban Affairs through1995. During this period, she was instrumental in the development of the Puerto Rican/Latino Affairs Commission as well as in securing state funding for various community-based organizations throughout the state, particularly those serving youth and people with AIDS. After, she was the Executive Director of the Caguas Downtown Development Corporation, an economic development organization in Puerto Rico, where she founded INCORE, a housing service organization in one of the most impoverished neighborhoods in her hometown. Upon her return to Connecticut in 2000, Candida served as Chief of Staff for the Mayor of New Haven. In 2002, at the Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies, she was Director of ESP, a statewide Welfare-to-Work initiative and later Interim President and CEO. She is the recipient of numerous awards at the local and national levels for her dedication and commitment to communities in need.

Lani Davison

Director of Development

Lani H. Davison serves as Director of Development and Public Relations at Family Life Education. She has 35 years of fundraising experience in the non-profit sector. She has held positions at international women‰Ûªs policy, community health, arts, educational and human service institutions, including the Equity Policy Center, Hispanic Health Council, Guakia, Inc., the Artists Collective, and Trinity College. Trained as an applied social scientist, she has also conducted fieldwork and assessments in the areas of reproductive health, maternal-child wellness and perinatal drug dependency. She conducted her graduate studies at University of Connecticut/Storrs. Her strengths include strategy development, program design and conceptualization, organizational planning, budget development/monitoring and grantwriting.



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