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City, schools fine-tune Youth Master Plan

Twenty-four percent of 7th graders at El Roble report having felt sad or hopeless during the past 12 months, and 29 percent of CHS freshman, 34 percent of juniors and a staggering 40 percent of students at San Antonio High and Community Day schools say they face despondency, according to a survey released by the Claremont Unified School District last week.

With statistics like these in mind, the Claremont Youth and Family Committee is taking action on a plan to improve the city’s overall mental and physical well-being in the coming year.

The committee’s plan—which received unanimous approval by the board at its quarterly meeting Tuesday—looks to bring a more concrete way of evaluating the effectiveness of the city’s overarching Youth and Family Master Plan. Members would like to implement a better way of tracking statistics not previously accounted for. Their course of action over the next year includes consulting with each of the city’s service providers to track the effectiveness of their programming, hosting a summit with those providers to hash out ideas on how to build on that service and embarking on a campaign to educate Claremont residents on the mental and physical health issues faced by the community.

“This is a key building block for creating a platform for collaboration and information-sharing across the community,” said chairman of the board Jim Wilson. “We want to make sure people are tracking their results and making themselves accountable to their own stakeholders for what they are doing and what they are spending money on.”

The Claremont Youth and Family Master Plan was first adopted in 2007 to help educate local families on Claremont’s local resources and service providers like National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Tri-City Mental Health, which offers mental health services and education.

“As cities come to realize how community resources impact the quality of life for their residents, Y&FMPs are central in strategically setting goals for outcomes and coordinating efforts to ensure communities have the assets in place,” wrote Butch Henderson in an introduction. “Not only will our plan make a difference for Claremont families, but it will make a difference beyond our community as it serves as a teaching tool for other cities around the nation.”

While the plan did indeed provide an important and comprehensive list of services for Claremont families, it lacked a means of tracking if those programs were actually helping those families, according to Mr. Wilson.

“The progress report was just a bunch of anecdotal things. There was nothing really quantitative that showed how we measured progress,” he explained. “We are trying to do that now.”

In 2008, the Youth and Family Committee gathered to re-evaluate the master plan. A number of new measures were adopted, such as the implementation of ClaremontConnect.com, an interactive website providing up-to-date listings on local social services and enrichment activities.

To fix the problem of tracking those services’ effectiveness, committee members also turned to methodologies like Results-Based Accountability (RBA), which evaluates a program based on its results rather than merely the number of clients coming in and out of the door.

“These charts have been able to shine a little more light on how these organizations are using RBA and have helped us in figuring out how all of these indicators fit into the goals we have established,” said intern Rachel Gordon, who presented the work plan at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Part of it is, in a way, giving the plan more structure. It’s not that the plan was a bad plan, it’s just that the methodology didn’t create natural metrics,” Mr. Wilson added.

With these goals identified, the committee plans to continue to work with the city’s providers over the next several months, creating program profiles to step through RBA and program evaluations in a more manageable way. The committee will reconvene in the spring to reassess their work and present its progress to the Claremont City Council.

While much work remains to be done, the committee remains focused on its goal: helping NAMI and Tri-City and other organizations in Claremont continue to build upon services for the community in need.  

“To me, it’s all steps forward.   Baby steps or giant steps, it’s all moving in the right direction,” Mr. Wilson said. “We are surrounded by great help here.”

—Beth Hartnett

news@claremont-courier.com

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