from Children First
(Asheville, NC) Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County recently achieved all Communities In Schools Total Quality System requirements for national accreditation, and has been awarded official designation as a Nationally Accredited Affiliate Organization. The Communities In Schools TQS system is a set of standards, policies and procedures for affiliate development. It is used as a national yardstick for continuous quality improvement and growth, and indicates “strong leadership, sound business practices, a commitment to rigorous evaluation, and effective integration of resources and services.” Children First merged with Communities In Schools of Asheville in 2003.
“A national accreditation validates the hard work of our organization, and clearly demonstrates that we meet both operational and programmatic best practices,” stated Allison Jordan, executive director. “Our hope is that this accreditation will help to advance the sustainability of Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County, so that we may continue to provide quality direct services and advocacy for low-income children and their families.”
Every year in America, 1.2 million students, or one every nine seconds, drop out of school and lose the path to a better future. Communities in Schools (CIS) is a nationwide network of nearly 200 local affiliates serving 1.25 million students in 27 states and D.C. In North Carolina there are currently 37 CIS affiliates, serving 44 counties. Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.
The TQS standards define expectations for effective non-profit business practices and for implementing the Communities In Schools model of integrated student support services at school sites. The site standards are based on a five-year, longitudinal national evaluation conducted by an independent, outside evaluator that documented the impact of the Communities In Schools model. The evaluation revealed that schools implementing the Communities In Schools model with high fidelity had higher graduation rates, lower dropout rates, and performed better than comparison schools in increasing the percentage of students meeting or exceeding math and reading proficiency in 4th and 8th grades, a crucial predictor of high school graduation.
Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County has two school-based CIS Success Coordinators – at Johnston and Emma Elementary schools – who connect students and their families to critical community resources that are tailored to their needs. They accomplish this by working with a site team (principal, counselor, social workers, and teachers) to develop a comprehensive site plan that includes services that address identified school-wide needs, or build and reinforce student assets. It also identifies services for specific students at high risk of eventually dropping out of school. This combination of services ensures that students are getting the academic and personal support they need to stay in school and achieve in life.
Here is just one example of what this means:
A student lost his mother to an illness two weeks after school began. He was absent for several weeks. Lisa Barlow, the CIS Success Coordinator at his elementary school and the school social worker made multiple home visits to the grandmother’s home, where the child was living. They brought the child’s school work and got services with Hospice set up for the first day he returned to school.
Lisa continued the home visits throughout the year, and provided his grandmother with resources for the family, since they were struggling to make ends meet on the grandmother’s Social Security income. Children First/Communities In Schools provided food boxes, Holiday Assistance, and school supplies. At one point the child’s glasses broke. Although he is a Medicaid recipient, he was ineligible to receive a second pair of glasses – even though he has a unique prescription and is almost blind in one eye. Through Children First/CIS, Lisa was able to obtain the eye prescription and purchase the glasses for him before his final exams.
Lisa reports that on a recent visit with the family the child’s grandmother told her that she was having a challenge with his teacher and school work. Lisa role-played scenarios with the grandmother on how to communicate in a positive way that would best support the child and his education. The grandmother and the child’s teacher had a successful meeting, and grandma saw positive results.
In addition to the CIS Success Coordinators, direct services programs at Children First/ Communities In Schools of Buncombe County include the Family Resource Center at Emma, Project POWER/AmeriCorps, and our afterschool Learning Centers. Children First/CIS engages in public policy advocacy campaigns to build a community-based advocacy voice for vulnerable children, youth, and their families.
“Too many children in our community arrive in the classroom with the weight of the world keeping them from being able to concentrate on learning and thriving,” stated Ms. Jordan. “By empowering students to achieve in school and life, we are building a better Buncombe County, where every person is capable of reaching his or her greatest potential.”
For more information contact Adrienne Ammerman at AdrienneA@childrenfirstbc.org or 828-259-9717 (w), 202-380-7848 (c).
Children First/Communities In Schools of Buncombe County is a local non-profit that provides programs to economically disadvantaged children & families. These include: Family Resource Center at Emma, Latino Outreach, Learning Centers, CIS Success Coordinators, Project POWER/AmeriCorps, and advocacy. Children First’s mission is to empower children and their families to reach their full potential through advocacy, education and services. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. To find out more go to www.childrenfirstbc.org.