Community forum held at area YMCA

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Members of the Atmore community and surrounding area came together last Wednesday to discuss ways to invest in healthy infants and toddlers in a forum held at the Atmore Area YMCA.

The community forum was led by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life and the Escambia County Children’s Policy Council.

“The purpose of the forum is to educate the community on how to deal with toddlers ages 3-4, and how to respond to different situations,” County Children’s Policy Council Coordinator Karean Reynolds said.

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Reynolds said the forum came about from an Escambia County Drug Free Community grant.

The forum in Atmore was the second of three in Escambia County.

David Mathews Center for Civic Life Executive Director Cristin Foster led the forum, which was based on a study that examines three approaches that aid in investing in infants and toddlers. Dr. Ellen Abell, who is an associate professor and extension specialist at Auburn University, completed the study.

Representatives from Escambia County Schools, the Poarch Creek Indians and Save-A-Life, among others, attended the forum.

Foster opened the forum by asking what happens if a child doesn’t have the necessary things to develop?

Most of the answers revolved around children not having any language skills, not having any drive to do anything, a lack of socialization and having low self-esteem.

One participant said a key challenge in the county is that a lot of kids are being raised by their grandparents. This topic of discussion led into the first approach from Abell — Develop capable and caring parents, guardians and caregivers.

Some points of interest brought up include getting the word out that these services are available to parents; creating ways to entice parents to take advantage of the services; and making sure parents don’t feel isolated and alone if they do use these services.

A big challenge for younger mothers is finding quality daycare that’s affordable, one participant said.

The second approach is to create healthy and thriving communities.

One of the suggestions was to hold community forums and focus groups.

The third approach is to provide access to comprehensive high quality services for all children.

Transportation was an issue that was talked about, and a participant said ECATS provides free transportation for all residents in the Escambia County.

Foster said the David Mathews Center for Civic Life is holding community forums in every county in the state.

As of last week, the center had accumulated information from close to 50 counties, she said.

“We are hearing a lot of similar concerns in the state,” Foster said.

Foster said through her time visiting each county, she’s noticed that parental involvement is a common theme.

The David Mathews Center for Civic Life will finish the forums at the end of February, and will submit their findings to the legislature in Montgomery in March. The full findings will then be released in the middle part of the year.

For more information on the David Mathews Center for Civic Life and this forum, visit