In the south side neighborhood of Columbus, the percentage of people living below the poverty level is 17%; nearly 1 out of 5 homes is vacant; and the high school graduation rate is only 42%.
There is a strong network of public and private agencies that are working to improve these statistics and the lives of those living on the South Side, including the innovative initiative Columbus Kids: Ready, Set, Learn, led by United Way of Central Ohio.
As the work of Columbus Kids continues in the Central City, Weinland Park and Linden neighborhoods, plans are being made to move onto the South Side beginning October 1. The Columbus Kid's team identifies all 2 1/2- to 4-year-old children, screens them for any potential developmental delays and refers them for intervention and services when needed. The intent is to screen each child every six months until they enter kindergarten to ensure they have the skills to succeed. There are approximately 1,000 children in the target age-range who live on the South Side.
The Columbus Kids team will meet with staff from Franklin County's South Opportunity Center to schedule times to engage parents to participate in Learning Checkups. Early childhood professionals at Southside Learning & Development Center, Columbus Urban League's Head Start and other early learning centers will help identify children for the initiative who are enrolled in their programs. Lutheran Social Service Food Pantry and the Salvation Army Southside Service Center will also partner with Columbus Kids.
Columbus Kids has exceeded its goal for identifying children in Weinland Park and the central city, and it is anticipated that will be the case in the Linden area. More than 28% of the children in Weinland Park and central city who have been identified have been referred for additional evaluation or intervention services. That is so important -- find the children, refer them when needed -- before they enter kindergarten when precious time has already been lost and is difficult to make up.