By Oshrat Carmiel, Courant Staff
May 17, 2005
By Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez's estimate, there are
about $110 million of federal, state and city money being spent
this year on the health and education of his city's youngest
children. But the mayor also estimates that that money isn't
being used efficiently -- and isn't doing much to prepare children
for school or to ensure that they are receiving adequate medical
care in their formative years.
So on Monday, the mayor proposed creating a new city agency,
under the auspices of hisoffice, that would attempt to synchronize
the 305 different programs and services that cater to the city's
children from newborns to age 8.
``We don't have to re-invent the wheel, we're looking to enhance
it,'' Perez said after a formal announcement of his ``Blueprint
for Young Children.''
The announcement was a congratulatory affair, with Perez and
educational leaders and specialists saluting their plan to better
the welfare of the city's 18,000 children age 8 and younger.
Robert Henry, the superintendent of schools, estimated that
50 percent of the city's kindergartners begin school unprepared.
Others cited studies that show that access to prenatal care and
infant health care in the city is worse than most other places
The mayor's solution: create a city Office for Young Children,
with a paid staff of four, whose mission would be to ensure universal
access to prenatal care, early childhood medical care and preschool
Under the mayor's vision, the office would be far-reaching,
with a say in the day-to-day development of all children in the
city. He envisions medical professionals visiting homes of families
with children under 5, and all families with young children enrolling
in literacy courses and parenting classes.
The Office for Young Children, which will have its own director,
will be required to submit an annual ``children's budget'' and
issue a bi-annual report card on the status of early childhood
in the city of Hartford.
The mayor is also proposing to create his own ``Cabinet for
Young Children,'' an expert group to advise him on children's
affairs. This group includes the superintendent of schools and
representatives of programs that offer health care, education
and philanthropic support to the city's young children
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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