By Marilyn Tinnin
Families First for Mississippi
Families have been the foundational social structure of civilization since the beginning of time. Strong families build strong communities, and strong communities ultimately create strong and cohesive nations.
There is a very promising initiative in Mississippi today, a partnership among public and private entities who are pooling their best talents, skills, and local face-to-face involvement. The goal is to tackle the entire list of factors that are blamed again and again for Mississippi’s consistent last-place finish in education measurements, health matters, economic issues, and family stability.
Just a little data that is well worth noting even though it is another one of those reports that highlight negatives about the place we call home:
- 32% of Mississippi’s children live in poverty.
- 37% (86,023) of children in poor families do not have an employed parent compared to 5% (25,381) of children in non-poor families.
- 66% (49,468) of children whose parents do not have a high school degree live in poor families.
- 76% (174,452) of children in poor families live with a single parent, and 5,980 children in the state of Mississippi at the moment live in foster care.
In every category listed above, Mississippi’s children fare worse than the national averages. It is easy to see the challenges for a child living in poverty are many. There is not just one issue to “fix,” but many. The problems are too big for one impersonal agency or program to address. Families First is ready, willing, and able to tackle each area and has enlisted amazing, qualified, and well-trained professionals who are passionate about empowering the individuals with whom they come into contact.
Almost every negative statistic has one glaring commonality. The family unit is not healthy, either because of an absent parent, a lack of employment, or a chronic dysfunction that keeps a child from being able to live with their biological parents. An unstable home life is a tremendous life stressor for a student and therefore can impede the learning process. Such a dynamic becomes a factor in educational outcomes.
The Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and the Family Resource Center (FRC) of North Mississippi have worked together for over 19 years providing youth development and parent education opportunities in schools, churches, and community centers. Their recent expansion of their core services addresses five major areas:
- Job Readiness
- Financial Stability
The goal is to use their partnership with other local and state organizations who are already addressing many of these areas. The synergy and cooperation are sure to move the needle significantly and give families a chance for lasting improvement in their quality of life. That translates into a legacy that can transform generations to come.
Underneath the headings of these five major areas are a myriad of free classes and relevant information that prepare and empower every member of the family with the tools to be a stronger and more successful family member, student, employee, and valuable contributor to the community. In the coming months, look for a spotlight on each one and someone who has found Families First to be exactly what they say they are.
Kudos to Dr. Nancy New, Executive Director of the MCEC and Christi Webb, FRC’s Executive Director in Tupelo for putting heart and soul into something that is sure to make a difference in real people’s lives. The green counties on this map identify the counties who have already opened their local Families First office. All the free services can be accessed close to home.
What an opportunity to see the “salt and light” effect as Jesus defined it.
Find out how your church or charitable organization can help. To learn more, see FamiliesFirstforMS.org or contact 601.366.6405.