Melody McCray-MillerWritten by Rep. Melody McCray-Miller
October 17, 2008

Young children in Kansas will soon reap the benefits of recent legislation that made $11.1 million available statewide to improve the lives of "at risk" children. In August, the Kansas Children's Cabinet issued requests for proposals for collaborative projects using proven approaches to early childhood services. The Birth-K Alliance of Visioneering Wichita was among the 36 collaborations that submitted proposals for review.

I am a strong believer in the value of high-quality early childhood programs and was pleased to champion the amendment that will bring additional financial resources to community doorsteps. The collaboration represented in the Birth-K Alliance proposal exemplifies what legislators hoped would happen in giving grassroots organizations an opportunity to formulate solutions to the distinct needs and resources of their region.

With an initial planning grant from the Kansas Children's Cabinet and a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation for continued planning efforts, the Birth-K Alliance convened early childhood partners in the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area (Sedgwick, Butler, Harvey and Sumner counties) to consider what additional supports would make a lasting difference in the lives of the more than 46,000 children ages birth to 5 living in the region. The resulting four-county vision will give families increased access to child care and higher quality care for their young children; provide increased access to needed mental health services for children with social, emotional and behavioral difficulties; and offer families support including home visitation and parenting education.

Recognizing that quality early childhood opportunities benefit society as a whole, the Kansas Children's Cabinet required a 10 percent local match for each funding request in order to encourage public-private partnerships. Again, the Wichita area's proposal exemplifies the intent of the block-grant request for proposals. A total of 16 agencies have committed to meeting identified community needs through grant-funded services not currently available.

The Wichita Community Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the K.T. Wiedemann Foundation -- plus the Wellington Community Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Butler County, the Greater Newton Community Foundation and other donors -- have stepped up to the plate and committed financial support. An additional $129,000 will enable the alliance to fully match its $3.9 million funding request.

I am heartened by what committed individuals and organizations can achieve when they come together to work on a common goal -- making Kansas the best state in the nation to raise a child.