Funding and Fighting Child Poverty with a New Perspective

Posted on October 31, 2022

In partnership with The Canton Repository, every Monday, Stark Community Foundation highlights positive happenings in our community. Here’s to Good News Mondays!

Valuable lessons have been learned in the infancy of Protecting Stark’s Future, a Stark Community Foundation-led initiative to support collaborative, community-based solutions to reduce child poverty at the neighborhood level. Recently, a second round of funding was awarded to local organizations combating child poverty.

The Protecting Stark’s Future initiative grew from data-driven community research and the release of Protecting Stark’s Future: A Call to Coordinate Child Poverty Strategies, an eye-opening 2020 study of the child poverty challenges facing Stark County. While examining community data, it became apparent that every issue of concern was related to poverty. In particular, the high child poverty rates in our community demand increased and continued attention.

To spur community-based solutions and fuel lasting change, the Foundation provided nearly $430,000 in inaugural Protecting Stark’s Future grants to 12 organizations in 2021 to address child poverty in Stark County. 

While working alongside these community partners, the Foundation has learned several valuable lessons that will guide its future funding:

  • Literacy Challenges: An outstanding challenge faced by community partners when implementing programs is the lack of literacy skills among youth. Child illiteracy is borne out in headlines today based on the first nationally representative report comparing student achievement from just before the pandemic to performance two years later. Test scores in elementary school and reading have fallen to levels unseen for decades.
  • Chronic Absenteeism: Chronic absenteeism rates have persisted but worsened through the pandemic. Chronic absenteeism was the main theme in the current round of grant proposals.
  • Centralized Resource: Community partners that hoped to address childhood poverty through programming found that the programming already existed and identified the need for a better central resource to connect individuals with organizations.
  • Homeownership: Financial literacy education with the goal of homeownership/asset building is more powerful than financial literacy without a goal.
  • CARE Teams: CARE (Coordinates and Aligns Resources to Engage Empower & Educate) Teams and family support specialist models, which are designed to remove the barriers that prevent students from succeeding in the classroom, show a lot of promise in supporting families with pre-K children.
  • Neighborhood Partnerships: Promising partnerships emerged within the neighborhood approach of Protecting Stark’s Future, which requires projects to be considered at the neighborhood level and seeks input from residents engaged in the Stark County Neighborhood Partnership Program.
  • Broader Impact: Although Stark Community Foundation understands addressing immediate needs is essential, the Protecting Stark’s Future initiative seeks to incentivize projects that have the potential for broader impact in the county and further consider the root cause of poverty. 

For the second round of funding, Stark Community Foundation solicited the best ideas through a request for proposals process from organizations that partner with imaginative solutions to address child poverty at the neighborhood level. One-year planning grants up to $15,000 per project and one-to-three-year implementation grants up to $100,000 per project were considered from eligible organizations. Selected projects consider at least one recommendation from the "2020 Protecting Stark’s Future" study, engage one or more specific neighborhoods and involve multiple community partners. 

The second round of Protecting Stark’s Future grantees includes TomTod Ideas, The Wilderness Center, Tri County Jobs for Ohio’s Graduates and the University of Mount Union.

Learn more about Protecting Stark’s Future, lessons learned and 2022 grantees at www.starkcf.org/child-poverty.

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