What should I eat to make sure my baby is born healthy? If my baby has a fever, what medicine can they have? Why should I read to my infant? How do I take care of a daughter with asthma?
These are questions new parents ask themselves. It’s difficult to find answers or even know where to look. They are just trying to keep up with school or pick up extra shifts at work while getting ready to take on one of life’s biggest challenges: being a parent.
Parenting is difficult for everyone. I know how much my wife and I work each day to make the best choices for our daughters. We are lucky to have people in our life for advice but many young families don’t have anyone to turn to when things go wrong.
And when things go wrong, they can go really wrong. Our Infant Mortality Rate in Hamilton County is devastating. According to 2010 statistics, we are over 60% higher than the national average. At 9.7 per 1000 births, we actually have a higher Infant Mortality Rate than many countries, including Russia, Lebanon, Serbia, Ukraine...and the list goes on.
On top of that, approximately 1,000 out of the 4,000 babies born in Hamilton County every year are at risk to not be ready for school. Single parents, low educational attainment by a parent, teen pregnancy -- these factors often result in a struggling family. Chattanooga has sub-regions where over 75% of births are to a single mother, over half are born into poverty, and almost 20% are not born at a healthy weight.
We must do better than this.
While Chattanooga boasts a number of agencies teaching parenting and developmental skills, the need is still great. That’s why the City is partnering with area nonprofits and the medical community to institute a Baby University. Through this initiative, we will provide parents the knowledge they need to keep their newborn healthy and happy, prepare expectant mothers and fathers to be a child’s first teacher, and ensure our young people grow into productive adults.
Earlier this week, I met with new moms and elementary school teachers to hear their everyday challenges. New mom Sarah talked about how hard it is for her to discipline her child because she suffered from abuse when she was young. Another mom admitted her concern when I asked what she doing to prepare her son for kindergarten, saying “you want to help them. You have a beautiful baby and you know they are depending on you, but you just don’t always know what to do.”
I listened as teachers explained the effects this lack of knowledge has once the child gets to school. One teacher from Hardy said a lot of parents think Kindergarten is playtime, but the standards have changed and kids need to come to pre-k with basic language and learning skills.
The stories from these educators and moms bears out what we know from research. Success for students starts long before they enter school, with over 80% of brain development occurring between birth and three years of age. We also know an investment in early childhood learning pays for itself down the road through lower incarceration rates, better skilled workforce, and less strain on our healthcare system.
These discussions only reinforced my commitment to support Chattanooga’s children from the cradle to career. Over the coming days, city leaders including Coach Lurone Jennings of Youth & Family Development will work with an Advisory Committee to determine next steps for Baby University. Drawing from successful programs in other cities, we will utilize volunteers and leverage private investment to ensure a critical focus on medical well-being and child development.
By providing the skills and resources to be an educator in the home, the City will invest in our parents and newborns. Not only will this investment improve lives today, it will provide dividends to Chattanooga for decades to come.
Yesterday, I met a little boy named Andrew who was born with no hands or feet. He was, however, born with an incredible and creative dad. Andrew’s dad makes prosthetics for his two year old on a three dimensional printer at Chattanooga’s Public Library. Andrew outgrows prosthetics so quickly that purchasing specialty products for him would be far too expensive. This way, Andrews dad can design and create simple prosthetics to help Andrew color and eat easier. There is a lot of buzz around the country about the “maker movement” but Andrew and Ezra show the power of giving real everyday people access to technology to empower them to change their lives.
Alongside, Andrew I met lots of other kids who were at the Library from our Youth & Family Development (YFD) Centers who were learning from other Chattanooga makers. There was a sandbox showcasing open-source topography that, with the touch of a hand, manipulates the ebb and flow of a virtual river. The sandbox was built in partnerships with area high schools and can now be used to teach about flooding. Kids learning about new technology from the people who made it is invaluable to the long term success of our community.
On June 18, Chattanooga joined The White House and cities across the country in an effort to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, and the next generation of manufacturing in the 21st Century economy. Here at home, kids from multiple Youth & Family Development Centers participated in innovative and interactive activities, showcased by “makers” from across the city. And today’s event was just a precursor. Mark your calendar for an all-day Chattanooga Maker Faire on October 11, at time for people to show what they are making and share what they are learning. Thanks to the Library and all our partners for making our Maker Day a tremendous success.
In the words of just one 9 year old at today’s Making celebration – “This is a magical place.”
Personally, I couldn’t agree more.
Mayor Berke Teams Up with First Lady and Mayors Across the Country to End Veteran Homelessness
Chattanooga, Tenn. (June 4, 2014): Today, Mayor Andy Berke joined First Lady Michelle Obama in committing to end veteran homelessness in Chattanooga. With today’s announcement of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, Chattanooga joins a growing number of communities across the country making the pledge.
Mayor Berke publically pledged to end chronic veteran homelessness in Chattanooga on April 21, 2014, during his first State of the City address. The next day, Mayor Berke signed an executive order establishing a community coalition to eradicate chronic veteran homelessness. Mayor Berke is expected to announce the members of this task force in the coming days.
“These men and women have served our country valiantly and it’s time we take care of them” said Mayor Berke. “Veteran homelessness is a problem across the country. But I look at the greatness of our city and know we can do better. We will work together -- businesses, community members, governmental organizations, and those who've served our country -- to ensure no veteran is forced to live on the streets, or in the parking garages, of Chattanooga, Tennessee.”
Chattanooga will work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and the National League of Cities to leverage federal resources and develop a local strategy to make sure every veteran in the community has access to stable housing and the support services they need to stay off the street.
Since 2010, when the Federal government launched Opening Doors, a strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, there has been a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among veterans. This reduction has been achieved through a partnership between the Obama Administration, local governments, non-profits, and the private sector. Through this final push to leverage momentum and strengthen our commitment, the goal of ending veteran homelessness in America is within reach.To learn more about resources for local veterans experiencing homelessness, visit https://www.onecpd.info/homelessness-assistance/resources-for-homeless-veterans/
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© 2012 Andy Berke. All Rights Reserved.
Paid for by Berke for Mayor, Cari Henderson, Treasurer Contact Andy