Partnering with Faith Communities to Tackle Inequality

State: WA Type: Promising Practice Year: 2015

:

Clark County Public Health (CCPH) is an LHD in southwest Washington State that serves about 435,000 residents. Our Partnerships for Healthy Neighborhoods program uses a creative, collaborative, upstream approach to mobilize residents and community partners to work together to improve the health and safety of children and families living in an area of central Vancouver where children are at a greater disadvantage than kids in surrounding neighborhoods.

A 2011 community health assessment found that children in central Vancouver have a greater risk for poor health due to poor birth outcomes, high rates of chronic disease, poor socioeconomic factors, lower rates of readiness for school, and high risk for neglect and abuse. Informed by data from this assessment, CCPH focused on improving conditions and building community and family resiliency in this area. When looking for community partners to engage, we identified an opportunity in the faith communities represented in this area. In partnership with Trinity Lutheran Church, we invited local faith partners to a meeting that we called Faith-Based Coffee (FBC). After sharing our data with them, these organizations committed to supporting a collaborative mission of building safety and resiliency for families and children who lived in the area.

Every month since the initial meeting in March 2012, faith communities, public health, schools, mentoring programs and other community partners have met over coffee to educate themselves and determine joint strategies to address and mitigate the impact of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) on children and families. Approximately 35 people attended the first meeting. Today, FBC meetings draw more than 70 participants.

FBC meetings serve as a conduit for results that take place outside of meeting time, when connections forged at FBC lead faith partners to work hand-in-hand with schools and other partners. Together, these organizations and individuals are successfully building and supporting the development of protective community factors such as parent/family resilience, social connectedness, concrete supports, the social/emotional competence of children, nurturing/attachment, and improved parenting skills and their knowledge about child development.

:
Clark County Public Health
:
Partnering with Faith Communities to Tackle Inequality
Clark County Public Health (CCPH) is a LHD in southwest Washington State that serves a population of about 435,000 residents.  Partnerships for Healthy Neighborhoods (P4HN) is part of our Chronic Disease Prevention unit.  P4HN uses a creative, collaborative, upstream approach to mobilize residents and community partners to work together to improve the health and safety of children and families living in central Vancouver, an area of our community where children are at a greater disadvantage than kids in surrounding neighborhoods. A 2011 community health assessment found children in central Vancouver have a greater risk for poor health due to poor birth outcomes, high rates of chronic disease, poor socioeconomic factors, lower rates of readiness for school, and high risk for neglect and abuse.  Getting a healthy start in life was more challenging, children were 30% more likely to have a low birth weight and mothers were 10% less likely to seek first trimester prenatal care.  One third of the children enrolled in Head Start and ECEAP were overweight or obese and in an elementary classroom of 30 students, only 9 were physically active for the recommended amount of time.  Two out of every seven children lived in poverty and one in seven residents unemployed. Twenty four out of 30 students were on subsidized lunches compared with 13 out of 30 students in Clark County overall.  Academic success was at risk with only 56% of the kids meeting 3rd grade reading standards compared with the Clark County average of 72% and a mobility rate of greater than 30%.   Forty of every 1000 children experienced child abuse and neglect compared with 27 out of every 1000 in Clark County as a whole. Informed by these statistics, CCPH focused on improving conditions and building community and family resiliency in central Vancouver. When looking for community partners to engage, we noticed that although there were many churches housed in the neighborhood, many of them didn’t know what was happening around them or have strong ties to the residents that lived there.  This was due to the fact that most of their congregants drove from other areas of the community to attend church and did not live in the surrounding neighborhood.  During our outreach, we connected with Sue Hoeffner, Parish Nurse with Trinity Lutheran Church.   Together, in partnership, we invited local faith partners to a meeting that we called Faith-Based Coffee (FBC) so that we could share our data with them.  Faced with data about the neighborhood’s disparity and vulnerability, these organizations committed to support a collaborative mission of building safety and resiliency for families and children who lived in the area. Every month since the initial meeting in March 2012, faith communities, public health, schools, mentoring programs and other community partners have met over coffee to educate themselves and determine joint strategies to address and mitigate the impact of Adverse Childhood Experience (ACES) on children and families. Approximately 35 people attended the first meeting. Today, FBC meetings draw more than 70 participants. Every meeting includes an initial half-hour of introductions and announcements, an hour-long program on a topic of interest to the group, followed by networking. Topics have included mental health, family emergency preparedness, health ministry formation, ACES, school attendance, and others. FBC meetings serve as a conduit for results that take place outside of meeting time, when connections forged at FBC lead faith partners to work hand-in-hand with schools and other partners. Together, these organizations and individuals build and support the development of protective community factors such as parent/family resilience, social connectedness, concrete supports, the social/emotional competence of children, nurturing/attachment, and improved parenting and child development wisdom. FBC participants weave connections built on trust and cooperation to create protective factors at home, in schools, and the community.  As a result of FBC, we have been able to track over 40 different new partnerships that have been formed in our community and have begun to capture the stories of impact.    Due in part to FBC, the number of community partnerships for Vancouver Public School’s Family Community Resource Centers has grown from 22 to 659 and annual in-kind and monetary contributions has increased to $3.5 million. Recognizing the value of these relationships, Vancouver Public Schools committed staff resources for an annual Faith-Based School Partnership breakfast meeting which allows faith leaders to meet with school leaders from the Superintendent down to the principals.  This year, a second school district, Evergreen, was included in the breakfast.  Evergreen has asked us for help to implement a FBC effort to support their schools and families.  
Clark County Public Health (CCPH) is a LHD in southwest Washington State that serves a population of about 435,000 residents.  Partnerships for Healthy Neighborhoods (P4HN) is part of our Chronic Disease Prevention unit.  P4HN uses a creative, collaborative, upstream approach to mobilize residents and community partners to work together to improve the health and safety of children and families living in central Vancouver, an area of our community where children are at a greater disadvantage than kids in surrounding neighborhoods. A 2011 community health assessment found children in central Vancouver have a greater risk for poor health due to poor birth outcomes, high rates of chronic disease, poor socioeconomic factors, lower rates of readiness for school, and high risk for neglect and abuse.  Getting a healthy start in life was more challenging, children were 30% more likely to have a low birth weight and mothers were 10% less likely to seek first trimester prenatal care.  One third of the children enrolled in Head Start and ECEAP were overweight or obese and in an elementary classroom of 30 students, only 9 were physically active for the recommended amount of time.  Two out of every seven children lived in poverty and one in seven residents unemployed. Twenty four out of 30 students were on subsidized lunches compared with 13 out of 30 students in Clark County overall.  Academic success was at risk with only 56% of the kids meeting 3rd grade reading standards compared with the Clark County average of 72% and a mobility rate of greater than 30%.   Forty of every 1000 children experienced child abuse and neglect compared with 27 out of every 1000 in Clark County as a whole. Informed by these statistics, CCPH focused on improving conditions and building community and family resiliency in central Vancouver. When looking for community partners to engage, we noticed that although there were many churches housed in the neighborhood, many of them didn’t really know much about the neighborhood around them.  Congregants often drive to church, attend service, and drive away without ever interacting with anyone who actually lived in the neighborhood.  When we began to share our data with them, they were shocked to learn about the level of need for children and families living in central Vancouver.  This was a stakeholder group that we thought had the potential capacity to not only meet material needs for children and families in central Vancouver but more importantly help us meet the relational needs for children and families in the forms of volunteers, mentors, etc. Historically, local faith communities have supported cold-weather shelters for the homeless and aiding children in foster care.  Public health as a concept was not new to many of them, as many have served as both safety net and health resources for our community.  However, these organizations often limited their involvement and had limited experience collaborating across denominations or with governmental agencies such as public health or schools. FBC has changed that.  FBC broke through barriers that previously separated faith communities from one another and from partnership with schools, public health and other community organizations. This has revealed a loyal and devoted resource with gifts and talents to share.  FBC has also linked caring adults who live outside of vulnerable communities to the people who live in the neighborhoods where they worship. FBC is an innovative way to bring partners of diverse backgrounds (religious denominations, public health, schools, mentoring programs, and social service agencies) together in a way that allows time for shared learning, relationship building and problem solving.   
Before convening our faith-based partners, CCPH established the following goals: To educate faith partners of all denominations that congregate in and near central Vancouver by sharing data about the needs and concerns of children and families who live in the area. To determine the level of interest among faith organizations to work collaboratively to address the needs and concerns of people living in central Vancouver. To identify strengths and assets of local faith communities and to learn about programs already underway. To encourage health ministries to inform faith partners of policy and environmental changes that they could make to influence the health of their own congregations. When we initiated FBC, CCPH focused on establishing a strong relational foundation. Through a six-month group process, we established up-front ground rules to honor the separation of church and state. Then, we focused on developing a level of trust and respect that had not existed previously between differing faith organizations or between faith organizations and government agencies.  Lastly, by honing in on opportunities to put faith into action by meeting the needs of surrounding communities, FBC overcame traditional barriers to school-faith partnerships. In this process, CCPH served as convener, facilitator, and educator, but resisted the temptation to direct action, allowing supportive activities to grow organically. As relationships grew, linkages formed between faith communities, local schools, and the surrounding community.  Then, success stories began to emerge. In one of the first examples, Ogden Elementary School was identified as having no faith-based partner support and yet other schools in the area with similar needs had 5 or 6 faith partners supporting them.  So at FBC, we brought up this issue of inequity and asked the group what they thought of this.  Crossroads Community Church responded and paired with Ogden to help boost attendance at curriculum night.  This event historically had poor attendance with fewer than 100 people attending.  School administrators knew that food would draw greater participation, but the Ogden PTO didn’t have the resources. Crossroads Church met this need by preparing and serving a full spaghetti dinner, and participation grew to more than 440 people.  And while they came for food, more importantly they stayed and learned about the curriculum and met their child’s teacher.  This has become a typical story at many other schools. Over time, we have expanded the conversation to include topics such as ACES, 40 Developmental Assets, Mental Health, Emergency Preparedness, and other topics. This has led to new and expanded partnerships including: Local churches now offer parenting classes. Faith partners teach nutrition classes at the local middle school. Differing denominations now collaborate to support a single school Faith partners have joined community coalitions such as Safe Communities Task Force (gang prevention) and the Healthy Neighborhoods Coalition Faith partners are mentoring children at local schools Faith partners have started community gardens Congregations have implemented policy/environmental changes such as healthy food policies. The network of FBC-facilitated connections has become a highly effective conduit for meeting critical and emergency needs for families in crisis and resulted in a community alert system called Neighbor Linkup.  This online program allows trusted partners such as faith organizations, public health, schools, child protective services, and others to post needs for families.  These needs are then sent out via an email alert to the community and individuals that can help with the request can then respond.  More than 75% of family needs communicated through Neighbor Linkup have been met. FBC has also introduced health policy ideas and spurred faith communities to examine policies that impact the health of their congregation. The process of forming FBC involved the following stakeholders: CCPH NW Parish Nurse Ministries Sue Hoeffner – Parish Nurse with Trinity Lutheran Church Vancouver Public Schools – Family Community Resource Center staff Go Connect – David Bilby Division of Children and Family Services – Peggy Hayes and Jeff Babcock with the Hazel Dell Faith-Based Coffee group Faith partners School Partnership Network Our initial costs included staff time already dedicated to community engagement efforts, and a minimal fund for coffee and healthy snacks.  Keys to the success of Faith-Based Coffee: Leadership representation from both public health and the faith community. Established foundation of strengths and assets. Initial ideas to generate collaborative thinking, followed by structure and support as partnerships mature. Time reserved for relationship building at monthly meetings – including facilitated table top discussions and inclusion in other activities not limited to Faith-Based Coffee.  
The initial goals for Faith-Based Coffee were the following: Bring faith partners of all denominations together to hear our data and about the needs and concerns for children and families in central Vancouver. See if they were interested on working together to address these needs and concerns. To identify strengths and assets – to learn about what they were already doing to support the community. To talk about health ministries – organizational changes that faith partners could make to influence the health of their congregations. We discovered that faith partners are keen to serve the community.  Public health is not new to them, as many of them have been doing public health for years in the form of safety net resources and implementing health programs to meet the needs of the community. They are invaluable stakeholder partners that have a desire to be included in community partnerships. Once informed by data, resources, and education, they have the capacity to make a huge difference in the community.  Our initial objectives have been exceeded. Not only do these faith partners come together for meetings, but they continue to convene to share learning and engage in solution-motivated conversations and actions. Each year, the number of faith organizations participating in FBC has grown. The number of new connections to support local schools and other public health outreach efforts has multiplied. This year, the faith-based model is spreading to an entirely new area of Clark County and will be initiated with a faith-based breakfast meeting in January 2015. Evaluation of this effort is ongoing and developing.  We currently track process measures such as the following: Number of attendees at meetings – we have doubled in size since 2012.  We started with an average attendance of 30-35 which has grown to 75-80.  The attendance demographic has changed as well from just faith partners and public health to and now includes additional representatives from schools, mentoring programs, many different social service agencies and community partners. Number of new partnerships formed – this is difficult to track and always changing but so far we have been able to track over 40 on-going, sustainable partnerships that have formed between faith communities and schools, mentoring programs, and other agencies. Anecdotal stories of success – we continue to gather stories of partnerships and impacts.  Recently, we saw the partnerships that faith communities had formed with schools spill into the community.   Realizing that many of the students are food insecure over the summer, six different faith partners stepped up to participate in the Summer Lunch Program offered by SHARE, a local hunger response agency.   They provided volunteers to serve lunch 5 days/week for 7 weeks in local apartment complexes where a lot of the families lived.  In addition to lunch, the also had positive adult interactions with kids – playing games, making arts and crafts, and having fun.  This has led to several new opportunities for partnership between faith partners and apartment complexes to serve families and build a sense of community. Now we have faith partners helping support families at apartment complexes through after-school programming, movie nights, and community barbeques. In 2015, we plan to use Social Network Analysis to help us measure the potential reach, impact and dynamics of the partnership relationship of FBC.  
By addressing the separation of church and state at the onset, we have clarified our relationships and avoided misunderstandings.  This issue will be revisited as needed. A core group of team members who are actively involved in planning and supporting on-going FBC efforts is essential to drive this work. Our team includes public health, faith partner representatives, and community partners. There is a high level of commitment from all partners.   Due to the high motivation and minimal cost involved in maintaining this practice, sustainability is highly likely. We started with a limited inventory of assets: a few hours from one public health nurse and one parish nurse. We pulled in faith communities, schools and other partners, mixed in some coffee and snacks, and our community has been thriving on the outcome ever since. The partnerships and results continue to multiply. We have plans to expand and duplicate this successful model in 2015 in the Evergreen School District.  We will be identifying key leaders to take on the core group planning members and provide technical assistance as they begin to implement their own model of Faith-Based Coffee.  
 
Processing...


Driving Walking/Biking Public Transit  Get Directions