Mayor Calls on Community to Collaborate in Meeting Needs

In announcing the 2008 allocations of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, Mayor Tom Henry today visited with staff and students at CANI'€™s  Head Start program. Many of the students in Head Start classes will benefit from the United Way'€™s Ready Schools program, a program funded in part by CDBG monies allocated through the City.

“Many organizations throughout our community are focusing on closing the achievement gap between students whose families have sufficient socio-economic resources and those whose families do not,” said Mayor Henry. “All parents, regardless of their level of income, want their children to succeed and thrive. Programs like this help children be better prepared before they even enter schools so they can succeed in the classroom and do well in their academic pursuits.”

Ready Schools Overview

The objective of Ready to Learn/Ready Schools plan is to better meet the educational needs of our most vulnerable children.  Readiness for school and a child'€™s early school experience generally sets a pattern for their future success.  Children who have an unsuccessful experience in kindergarten are less likely to catch up and do better in later grades and are more likely to drop out of school.  A study sponsored by the National Center for Educational Statistics, indicated that about 20% of kindergarten children lagged behind in the cognitive area of development and 31% lagged behind in the social and emotional area of development.

The Ready Schools/Ready to Learn Initiative implemented by the United Way bridges the gap between early child care providers and kindergarten classrooms.  The program increases the awareness of early childcare providers in the school expectations and kindergarten standards.  Ready Schools also implements a system for documenting the children'€™s experience in the early child care setting and provides this information to the kindergarten teachers.  Perhaps the most important feature is the increased relationship between the parents and the schools.

The success of the Ready Schools initiative can be attributed to the unique collaboration between several community partners including:  Fort Wayne Community Schools, CANI Head Start, Early Childhood Alliance, MLK Montessori, Gingerbread House, Turnstone Center, Lutheran Social Services, Fort Wayne Urban League, Zion Lutheran Church & School, City of Fort Wayne, IPFW, Ivy Tech, and the United Way.

“While City government cannot be the answer to all the troubles in our community, we do have a role to play, “said Mayor Henry. “Our CDBG funds can be leveraged to help emphasize areas we, as a community, determine are priorities. Many organizations have decided to look at the area of this achievement gap and do what they can to address it. WE need to encourage organizations to collaborate on the issues facing our community, and this is an excellent example of a challenge that impacts many agencies, schools and families. Ultimately we are giving children a better start in school if we reach them early with this sort of program.”

CDBG: What is it?

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program provides annual grants on a formula basis to entitled cities and counties to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment, and by expanding economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate-income persons.

CDBG funds can be used for a variety of activities including public infrastructure improvements, rehabilitation, acquisition, clearance (demolition), economic development, and public services.

The City is allowed to spend a portion of the CDBG allotment on public services.  Public services include (but are not limited to) child care, health care, job training, recreation programs, education programs, public safety services, services for seniors, and services for homeless persons.

CDBG:  Where does it come from?

The City of Fort Wayne receives Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds annually from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In 2008 the City is receiving just over $2,000,000. 

CDBG: The City'€™s Grant Application Process

Each year the City takes applications from local non-profit organizations for funding social service programs.  The City receives anywhere between 30 and 50 applications annually.  Funding decisions are made based on a needs assessment completed as part of the five year Consolidated Plan.  The Consolidated Plan identifies what services the community needs and places a priority on those services.  The Plan serves as the basis for allocating the CDBG funds over the next five years and gets updated at least annually.