Q&A with Kimberly Welch
City of Residence: Macon
Occupation: Executive director, Kids Journey of Houston County
QUESTION: What is Kids Journey?
ANSWER: We have a tag line, A partnership for our future. That says a lot about what we are. Kids Journey is a legislatively mandated organization in Georgia that comes together with other agencies to better assess, evaluate and address community needs and childrens welfare.
QUESTION: Why did Georgia mandate Kids Journey?
ANSWER: Actually, Kids Journey is the Houston County divisions name of the statewide quasi-governmental agency called Georgia Family Connection Partnership. Kids Journey was one of 15 pilot programs Zell Miller initiated in 1991 after a nationwide study put Georgia 50th in the overall condition of children. It was designed to help change that.
QUESTION: So practically, what does Kids Journey do?
ANSWER: Were a building block for coordinating and strengthening the partnership between local service providers to better meet needs.
QUESTION: Needs such as ...
ANSWER: Social, mental, physical, educational and spiritual needs of children and families. Were not limited to just kids but include the whole family and life cycle of youth through seniors. We assess current needs to find what problems were facing and then sit down with government leaders and community agencies as partners to figure out how to best address those needs. We develop strategies and measurable objectives.
QUESTION: Who are some of the partners aside from county and city governments?
ANSWER: There are so many, about 50 really. Groups like Big Brother and Big Sister, Court Appointed (Special) Advocate(s) of Houston County, Connections on the Parkway, the Houston County Health Department, Rainbow House, the UGA County Extension Service, Warner Robins Recreation Department, New Hope International, the list goes on.
QUESTION: Georgia was 50th in the early 1990s. A recent study put Georgia 47th.
ANSWER: Were looking at the ranking and have some questions. For quite a number of years weve been showing drastic improvement, and in 2013 it reversed. In the 2012 Kids Count study released by the same group, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we ranked 37th. In the last year some of our databases have changed and are now managed by different agencies. Some are collecting data differently, and some areas may not be comparable.
QUESTION: So there may be some questions about the drop from 37 to 47, but what does it mean if that is the case?
ANSWER: If its accurate, I think it might reflect a statewide loss in funding to education and a change in where some funding is going. If its accurate, it means we have to work harder doing what were doing together as partners locally and statewide to see the ranking go back up. Its not so much the ranking itself, but what it says about our children and familys wellbeing. Whether 47th or 37th, we have work to do.
QUESTION: Still, indicators are that Houston County has fared well.
ANSWER: I dont have individual county figures from the study that Ive been able to look at, but other indicators have been positives.
QUESTION: Such as?
ANSWER: In 2011 and 2012, Houston County received 100 Best Communities for Young People Awards through Americas Promise Alliance. For lack of funding, the award went on hiatus for 2013, so who knows if we might not have gotten another. The award was applied for through Kids Journey and reflects a broad picture of our county with all the varied resources here. Were a closely knit community of county and municipalities, and that is a real strength.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.