Smart Start Program Is Positive Beginning to Improving Child Health Care in Michigan
Few towns in America have had a tougher time in recent years than Flint, Mich., where profound changes in the auto industry left a once-thriving community with staggering unemployment. In this environment, the Smart Start program is building on the hidden strengths of families and neighborhoods to improve the health of Flint's children.
While most health and social services programs begin with financial screening procedures that force a family to prove how badly it needs help, Smart Start avoids procedures that label clients as dysfunctional or disadvantaged. Instead, Smart Start services begin with a "strengths assessment," emphasizing those characteristics the family already possesses that could help parents succeed in making a better life for their children. Building on that foundation, Smart Start works with the families through the elementary schools where their children attend classes, offering a wide array of support services for the whole family.
Who is served?
The project serves children and their families living near two inner-city elementary schools in adjoining districts. At one school, Smart Start serves children from infants through sixth grade; at the other, infants through fourth grade.
How does the project work?
Smart Start has set up a family resource center at each of the two schools. Each has a separate outside entrance so parents using the center can come and go freely. These centers offer comprehensive, preventive health and family support services in a warm, non-threatening and culturally appropriate setting. Activities include medical screening; counseling; information about and referrals to Medicaid, food banks, clothing programs, and shelters; and classes for parents, such as family finance, aerobics, and cooking. The centers also offer easy-to-read materials about common health and parental concerns. Staff includes a site manager, family outreach worker, volunteer coordinator, Americorps workers, and volunteers from the community.
Smart Start also has influenced several initiatives in the wider community. These new efforts have adopted Smart Start's collaborative process and model of school/neighborhood-based strategies. Several participants in Smart Start's development now serve on Genesee County's new collaborative body that is working to integrate services for children and families.
How is the project financed?
In its first three years, Smart Start received funding from the county health department, school districts, the local substance abuse agency, and community and foundation sources. Since 1994 the project has been funded principally by Mott Children's Health Center, the two local school districts and the Community Foundation. Smart Start also receives grants from the City of Flint and a local HMO, and many donated services. The project is working to develop financial relationships with managed care providers and other community funders.
Quotes About the Project
"Developing and implementing the Smart Start project provided invaluable insights into how diverse community partners can collaborate on behalf of children and families. It also taught us the difficulties and complexities in enacting system changes."
Dorothy Reynolds, President, Community Foundation of Greater Flint
"The Dailey Smart Start Center has made a real impact on some of our children and families, especially in terms of school attendance, prenatal participation, and neighborhood support."
Ira Rutherford, Superintendent, Beecher Community Schools
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Smart Start: A Comprehensive Health Delivery Strategy to Remove Categorical Barriers to Care
Community Foundation of Greater Flint (Flint, MI)
- A School-Linked Program of Prevention-Oriented Services in Flint, Mich.
Amount: $ 493,540
Dates: September 1991 to March 1995
Libby Richards, Project Director
Report prepared by: William D. Hobson
Reviewed by: Teri Larson
Reviewed by: Crystal Tetrick
Program Officer: Michael P. Beachler