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The mission of Invest in Children is to mobilize resources and research to promote the well-being of all young children in Cuyahoga County.  We provide a continuum of targeted services, prenatal to kindergarten, for children and their families; build awareness; advocate; and measure our impact.  We aim to achieve equity in access to services and eliminate racial/ethnic disparities in child and family outcomes.  

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Celebrating the Wins! Invest in Children Success Stories

UPK's "Two-Gen" Approach Makes Preschool a Family Affair

One Mom's Story
November, 2018

Invest in Children recognizes that family engagement offers an opportunity to go beyond traditional notions of what happens in preschool. Our Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program (UPK) has 66 participating preschools in Cuyahoga County and provides resources and technical support to those centers to help build and maintain a high-quality experience for the child and family. UPK’s new “two-generation” approach seeks to pair the child’s high quality UPK education with opportunities for training, education, and employment for the adults in their lives.

Doing the best you can for your young children is stressful for any mom. Imagine the additional stress of being a new arrival in a foreign county, when you have two young children and know very little of the local language. You are unemployed, and you are trying to get a divorce due to an abusive relationship.  One young mom recently found herself in this situation. As she enrolled her children in preschool at the Clifton Early Learning Center, the staff quickly realized the depth of her needs.

The center’s staff helped her re-do her resume, find a doctor and health insurance for her children, and helped her get signed-up for county-funded tuition assistance.  They also linked her with other needed resources, including Asian Services In Action, which helped her with legal advice concerning her divorce, and who also assisted her in finding new housing – all in her native language. This determined young mom now holds two jobs, and her children are doing well, with one now in Kindergarten. Through regular engagement at the center, her whole family is also improving their English language skills.

Invest in Children believes the UPK program’s “two-generation” approach is working for families, and through strong partnerships with great providers like the Clifton Early Learning Center, together we all making a difference in ways both big and small.

UPK Safety Net Scholarships Help Mom in Need

Tonesha’s Story
June, 2018

Tonesha’s son Ayden is four years old and is currently attending the Early Childhood Enrichment Center, an excellent preschool that is helping prepare him for Kindergarten. He faces some extra challenges and has some very serious medical conditions that require frequent medical care and hospitalization.
Tonesha is Ayden’s sole caregiver, and coordinates all of his medical care and other needs. Many employers have limited time off for parents in her situation, and she’s had to change jobs several times due to needing to be available for his care. Because of this, there have been gaps in her income that have made it difficult for her to pay for his preschool, and have made them ineligible for some of the types of assistance they  might otherwise qualify for.

Cuyahoga County’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten program has helped bridge the gap, and has allowed Ayden to stay in preschool.  He has been provided one of UPK’s “Safety Net Scholarships” that are intended to provide temporary help during challenging circumstances that are not always considered by other assistance programs.

Ayden has so much disruption in his life, that it’s very important to him to have a stable preschool experience, and for his mom to not have to be worry each day if she has to find some other arrangements for him.

The Universal Pre-Kindergarten Program’s Safety Net Scholarships are just one of the many ways that Cuyahoga County’s Health and Human Services Levy is making a difference for thousands of families.

MomsFirst Builds Resilient Families

Tkeyah's Story
March, 2018

Tkeyah was expecting her first child and attending East Tech High School when she became enrolled in the MomsFirst program and met her assigned Community Health Worker, Deedra.  Deedra supported her throughout her pregnancy and into the baby’s very early childhood. When Tkeyah graduated, Deedra continued to help by providing resources for job and job training and housing information. By the time her baby was two, Tkeyah was working and had her own stable housing.

More than two years passed when Tkeyah reached out to Deedra with the news that she was expecting again and wanted her and the MomsFirst program to be a supportive part of her second pregnancy.   

Tkeyah delivered a healthy baby girl, and started attending Remington College, from where she graduated with an Associate Degree in Medical Assistance.  In August, 2017, she started working at Cleveland Clinic as a Medical Assistant, and is now back in school and working towards a nursing degree.  

Tkeyah and her children are still in the MomsFirst program and doing well. Deedra continues to help her with different situations to control her stress, and to stay focused on her goals. By supporting pregnant women and new moms in a holistic way, that is built on trusting relationships that are sustained over time, the MomsFirst program is not only helping women have healthier babies, it is helping to build resilient and nurturing families in which those babies will live and thrive.

Bright Beginnings Keeps Parents Connected

Kiana's Story
August, 2017

Bright Beginnings' Parents As Teachers program uses home-visiting services to support the healthy development of children from birth to kindergarten. Visits include developmental screenings, parenting and health care information, and early learning activities. A Parent Educator visits eligible families and helps them with all areas of the child’s growth. If there are concerns identified, families are connected to the help and care they need. Importantly, the model recognizes that parents can also help each other.

The Parent’s Connect component of Bright Beginnings uses a moderated private Facebook page to allow the parents and families in the program to connect with other families to share ideas, resources, and sometimes just provide another perspective. It was through Parents Connect that one mom got some additional help that she needed, and was in turn, able to help other families.

Kiara needed some help. Her baby was due soon, and she didn’t have many of the things she knew she would need. Working with her Bright Beginnings Parent Educator, Kiara was linked into the Parent’s Connect private Facebook page, where she posted a short description of her situation and what she needed. Several families who regularly participate in the group discussions, jumped in and rounded up many of the needed items. Not only did this help Kiara with her immediate needs, but she stayed connected to other families and has herself now been involved in providing resources and support to other moms in need.  

When programs tap into the power of people to help other people, they unleash more support than they could ever provide themselves. Bright Beginnings is doing that with each new family it supports.

UPK Scholarships Keep High-Quality Preschool Within Reach

The Winchester Family's Story
February, 2017

Family Life Childcare Center of Lakewood is one of Invest in Children’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) sites. Along with a central focus on enhancing the quality of the preschool experience, UPK works to keep high quality early care and education accessible to both lower and moderate income families by providing scholarships. These scholarships are what make the difference for many families in their effort to ensure their children have the best possible start on the road to Kindergarten. Here is one local family’s experience in their own words.

“When Family Life Childcare Center of Lakewood approached my husband and I about the UPK Scholarship, we really didn’t think that we would qualify for the support, as both he and I work full time. We were so surprised and felt so fortunate that we did... education is something we value and we wanted Anna to have a strong start. It was such a blessing to know that we could afford a high-quality preschool education, and that she could remain in the center she had been placed in since she was 18 months old.”

In 2016, the UPK program made available 2,000 high quality preschool slots that were eligible for scholarship assistance to families earning up to 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Simultaneously, a successful public and private fundraising effort was undertaken to double this number. Invest in Children is very pleased to announce that beginning with the 2017-18 school year, that goal will be realized.

MomsFirst Gives Caring and Hope to Mother in Crisis

Paulette's Story
September, 2016

Paulette was pleasantly surprised when she learned she was pregnant. Already the mother of two boys, she celebrated the news that she was expecting a girl, and chose the name, Andrea.  Unsure of what the journey would bring, she turned to the MomsFirst program for support and caring. MomsFirst receives a portion of its funding from Invest in Children.

Maria Lane, a MomsFirst Community Health Worker at Lexington Bell Community Center, helped Paulette make wise choices during pregnancy.  “Ms. Lane encouraged me to make my appointments on time. I could hear her voice ringing in my head. I knew she would be on me if I didn’t go”, she said.

Joy turned to concern when Paulette’s doctor realized there was excess fluid around her stomach. An appointment was scheduled to induce labor. Paulette was determined to make her due date, but after consulting with Ms. Lane, she knew that proceeding with the induction was the safest decision.

When Paulette’s water broke, she became very weak. “I remember a call, people coming from everywhere, rushing to my bed, calling out numbers, checking me.” She recalls being rolled out of the room quickly.

After being in a coma for two days, she was finally able to breathe on her own.  The doctors explained that she had experienced Amniotic Fluid Embolism, a life threatening condition that occurs when amniotic fluid enters the mother’s bloodstream.  It took its effects on the baby. Andrea was diagnosed with Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), brain damage that stems from a reduction of oxygen and blood.

It was a week before Paulette was able to hold Andrea, and she asked the doctor if Andrea would live. “He said he really didn’t know. He told me once they bring her temperature up, they’ll see how she takes to oxygen.”  Andrea proved to be a champion, and there was hope she would be okay.  “I am glad I listened to Ms. Lane because I am sure it would have been over. This program is wonderful. “

After arriving home, continued support from MomsFirst made recovery easier.  Ms. Lane gave her another shoulder to lean on, helped her find baby items, and even helped direct her to employment.  Paulette says of Ms. Lane, “She was like having a family member come and check on me, like my own sister.

Maria Lane loves knowing that she is keeping families together, providing resources, and seeing positive outcomes. Paulette’s story is one of triumph and thanksgiving. “She had a rough delivery. Today she is alive; her baby is alive and thriving.” says Lane.

Paulette was inspired to help other women in her community become healthier and stronger.  She was directed to Birthing Beautiful Communities, a team of community doulas who provide education and support to expectant mothers, where she is currently in training. Inspired by Ms. Lane, she decided to make her own impact.  “Some people don’t have family, so then there is the community. Ms. Lane demonstrated that.”  In the community, there’s MomsFirst!

Newborn Home Visit Had Unexpected and Lifesaving Benefits

One Mom's Close Call
August, 2016

Cuyahoga County’s Welcome Home Program, funded by Invest in Children and implemented by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, makes possible a home visit by a Registered Nurse for eligible moms and their babies.   Being a mom with a newborn is always a stressful time, and can be a time when certain health problems begin, or become acute.

During one recent visit, the Welcome Home nurse noted that the mother’s blood pressure was elevated to a dangerous level.  The reading was serious enough she took it several times to make sure it was correct.  She strongly encouraged Mom to contact her doctor immediately to be evaluated.  Mom was having headaches and a lot of swelling in the lower extremities, but she didn’t seem overly concerned and it appeared she might not act on the nurse’s urgent advice.

Recognizing how precarious Mom’s health was, the Welcome Home nurse kept pressing the importance of the issue and that she should contact her doctor.  Eventually the mom asked, “Could I die from this?”  The nurse explained that untreated blood pressure in this range was a very serious risk factor for a stroke or heart attack, either of which could be fatal or leave Mom with a life-changing disability.  The seriousness of her blood pressure was now fully understood and Mom looked alarmed.  She immediately shifted her attention to who could take care of her children, while she sought care.

A few weeks later the nurse circled back with Mom for a short follow-up call, and Mom was extremely appreciative for how concerned she had been.  She told the nurse that later that day she had called EMS to take her to the hospital because she was now very worried.  When EMS came they smelled a gas leak in her apartment.  The fire department had the gas turned off to prevent an explosion.  Mom also stated that she was admitted to the hospital for 3 days due to her elevated blood pressure.

The gas leak has been fixed, and Mom’s blood pressure is under control.  A long list of serious problems were averted through the simple act of a home visiting nurse stopping by to check on a mom and her new baby.

ABC Program Assists Family Affected by Domestic Violence

One Family's Story
June, 2016

The Attachment and Biobehavorial Catchup Program (ABC) funded by Invest in Children provides coaching and support to parents and caregivers of young children who have experienced maltreatment, disruptions in care, or other trama. The following is one family’s story. The sensitive nature of this program requires us to not include any identifiable information or photos.

Recently, a mother with boys one and two years of age, became involved with Children and Family Services due to domestic violence incidents that were witnessed by the children. The family entered the ABC program to help mom learn, process, and effectively respond to the negative effects witnessing domestic violence was having on her children’s social and emotional development.

Several dynamics were playing out between the mother and her boys. The older child frequently became physically aggressive with her and with his younger brother. When this would happen, the younger child became passive and withdrew from interactions.

In the ABC Program, video-feedback and real-time coaching is combined with traditional therapy techniques to assist clients. The therapist will videotape interactions between parents and their children, and then play them back to the parents while pointing out certain behaviors seen in the actions of both parent and child and giving instruction on alternate approaches.

The ABC therapist helped mom understand how the children's behaviors stemmed from the violence they had witnessed, and that the boys were feeling scared, unsafe, and confused. They were unsure how to signal their needs. She also explained how the passiveness in the younger child was his way of withdrawing and not getting too close to mom. He didn’t want to upset his older brother and then be turned away when she needed to respond to his aggressiveness.

Mom soon began responding to the children differently. She started to offer herself to the older child and tried providing nurturing attention when he became upset, versus distracting him. Mom also began setting limits when he would dominate toys, food, and her attention. By the end of the intervention, the younger child was more interactive in the family setting and the older child was much less aggressive -- expressing his needs more clearly with words.

The safety and well-being of the children looks more promising now due to the effective delivery of the ABC Program's intervention technique.

Welcome Home Program Supports Very-High-Risk New Mom

"Denise's" Story
April, 2016

It is often said that babies don’t come with instruction manuals, but in Cuyahoga County they can come with tech support! 

Through the Welcome Home Newborn Home Visiting program funded by Invest in Children, and implemented by the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, eligible moms can receive a visit from a registered nurse and learn about the health and growth of their baby. The nurse also helps assess other pressing needs and provides coordinated assistance and referrals.  Consider the recent case of “Denise.”

Denise is an 18-year-old, first-time mom who recently “aged-out” of the foster care system. While still in the hospital, she was approached by the Welcome Home Childfind Specialist and offered a home visit. She accepted, and the visit was scheduled by Susan Collins, a Welcome Home registered nurse.

During the visit, Susan quickly realized that Denise was facing a number of critical issues that could affect her health, and the health and safety of her baby. Denise and her partner were living in a sparsely furnished apartment that had only a mattress, some plastic lawn furniture, and a baby swing – meaning there was no safe place for the baby to sleep. Also, Denise was suffering from post-partum depression and experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety. Susan conducted a short assessment and Denise scored 23 points on a 30 point scale, where any result over 10 suggests that professional support is needed. Susan coordinated with Ohio Guidestone for Denise to get counseling.  She also made arrangements for Denise to receive a free portable crib through the Cribs for Kids program so the baby would not need to sleep on the mattress with Denise – a risky practice often seen in sleep-related infant deaths.

Denise’s situation was precarious enough that Susan scheduled a follow-up visit where she reviewed the importance of a safe sleeping arrangement and the use of the crib. Denise was also provided information on family planning options and how to access other community resources. Importantly, Susan was able to confirm that Denise was working with her counselor, feeling better, and doing better for herself and her baby.

Mom and baby have a long road ahead, but the Welcome Home program has helped point them in the right direction.

How SPARK Helped A Whole Family Help Its Youngest Member

Mark's Story
March, 2016

Mark’s family emigrated from Uganda to the Cleveland area when he was one. His parents each speak a different dialect of their native language, as well as read and write in basic English. His older brother and sister also speak multiple languages. The transition to a new home in America, as well as multiple languages spoken in his home, combined to limit Mark’s English proficiency, even at the early age of four. Mark was an ideal candidate for SPARK -- a program for 3 and 4 year olds who need additional help getting their early literacy skills to a level that allows them to be fully ready for Kindergarten. In Cuyahoga County, SPARK is an Invest in Children program expertly implemented by Family Connections of Northeast Ohio.

Mark was a typical four-year old boy. Like some children his age, his language and literacy skills were lagging a bit behind his peers -- enough so, that when his parents went to enroll him in a preschool, the school’s evaluation suggested the SPARK Program. Supporting Partnerships to Assure Ready Kids (SPARK) is a home-based early literacy intervention program focused on helping parents to further advance their child’s school readiness.

A SPARK Parent Partner was assigned to help Mark’s whole family help him catch up. Instruction was provided, appropriate reading materials were given, and ongoing coaching was conducted to ensure total support by all of those most close to him. The whole family did the SPARK lessons together, with amazing results.

Mark’s mother recently shared with their Parent Partner that she and SPARK, “…helped Mark build an excellent foundation.”  She added, “The guidance you gave, together with the free reading material you provided, really pushed Mark as an emerging reader. In one year our child went from knowing his letters and a few letter sounds to reading at Kindergarten level.

Mark is currently enrolled in Kindergarten, and his latest report card shows his reading and comprehension are above semester grade level! If not for SPARK, and the dedicated follow through of his family and Family Connections, Mark would have entered Kindergarten well behind his peers, and may have never caught up. Congratulations Mark!

The Important Role of Special Needs Childcare Technical Assistance
E.W.’s Story
February, 2016

Few things can be as stressful and difficult as raising a young child who has acute medical special needs. One of the most worrisome times is when turning the care of your child over to someone else, even for just a few hours. As a parent, you have spent endless hours learning about your child’s condition, getting specialized training in their care, and controlling their environment to minimize risks. Now it’s time for your child to begin preschool. You are worried, but you are not alone. Your child’s preschool teachers are also apprehensive about their ability to give your child all of the close attention and care they need.  Invest in Children’s program of Special Needs Child Care Technical Assistance works to ease this important transition point. Consider the recent case of E.W. of Cleveland.  

E.W. is a 3 year old who was recently diagnosed with epilepsy, and who has just started to attend preschool.  Having no previous experience caring for a child with epilepsy, the school requested seizure training for the staff.  To get that training, they contacted Starting Point – lead agency for Invest in Children's Special Needs Child Care Program.

A Registered Nurse first met with E.W.’s mom to obtain consent and a medical history, and spent extra time discussing seizure first aid since the diagnosis was so recent.  All of E.W.’s seizures had occurred while he was sleeping or napping, so his mother was concerned that he would have an unwitnessed seizure during nap time at preschool. The nurse reviewed with her the training his teachers would receive, and told her she would suggest to the staff that E.W.'s cot be moved close to the teachers. She also told her the staff would be trained to record any abnormal behaviors or occurrences and share them with her, so she could inform his doctor.

At the first Technical Assistance training session for the preschool’s staff, the teachers expressed their concerns about caring for E.W. They were nervous and "unsure of what to expect." The nurse spent time with all of the teachers and staff who would interact with E.W. to review what a seizure may look like, seizure first aid, and training on the use of a special intervention if the seizure lasted longer than 5 minutes. The staff asked for and received additional training, just to make sure everyone knew what to do.

Within a few weeks of the training, E.W. had a 5+ minute seizure while at school. The staff provided proper first aid and was able to correctly give E.W. a needed treatment and transport him to the hospital. The preschool staff have shared how thankful they were for the considerable amount of training they received on how to handle this very situation. E.W.’s lead teacher stated "Even though I was scared and nervous, I just kept repeating in my head what I had learned!" E.W. is back at the center with his friends and teachers, and his mother takes great comfort in knowing the staff can meet this needs when she is not there.