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Parents asked: What do you need?
Hillsborough's Children's Board wants to know about families' challenges.
By KEVIN GRAHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published August 20, 2007
Pat Cruse, left, and Aisha Wahed participate in an open discussion with the Children's Board of Hillsborough County during a community meeting at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area.
[Daniel Wallace | Times]
[Daniel Wallace | Times]
Denise Sloan, left, talks to Dr. Peter Gorski, director of program impact and innovation for the Children's Board of Hillsborough County, after a community forum at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area
TAMPA - Imam Mohammad Sultan raised his hand and responded simultaneously.
Children these days lack life's basic skills, he said, like knowing how to write a check or balance a bank account.
"They are only trained to get A's," Sultan said. "We are failing on life issues."
Dr. Peter A. Gorski nodded as he listened. Someone seated nearby took notes, careful not to miss a single concern.
This is how Gorski and a small team with the Children's Board of Hillsborough County have spent their summer, asking parents to share the problems they face raising a family today and promising to partner on those issues and help.
"Being a parent is harder today," Gorski said. "Everybody is working more, traveling farther for work. Families are more distant than they used to be."
Gorski wants parents to tell him:
- What are the biggest challenges families face today raising their children?
- How would you rate Hillsborough County as a place to raise children?
- Who do you believe has the most influence on the future for children and families in our county?
"This is a concentrated effort on rebuilding communities," Gorski said. "We are trying to help neighbors take back their lives and communities."
The Children's Board commissioned Gorski and his team in May to hold dialogues across the county. They've met in Ruskin, Town 'N Country and Brandon, at barbecues, mosques and community centers. Gorski will start putting together a report later this month to present to the board.
"Too often, where a child lives or is born, what his parent does for a living affects his hopes and it shouldn't," Gorski said. "Every child is born with unlimited hope."
Valerie Goddard, Children's Board chairwoman, says the talks are one of the largest community engagement projects ever undertaken by the agency.
"If you listen with your hearts and minds, parents will tell you what they need to be successful," Goddard said.
Once Gorski completes his report, Goddard said the taxpayer-financed Children's Board will be able to spend money on new programs that address concerns. But that may not always be the response.
Some at the meetings have begun to collaborate on ways they can change their neighborhoods. At one meeting, a parent and teacher joined to offer after-school tutoring. In Brandon, where young people complained about lacking transportation options to do things, parents organized a "Summer Teen Bash." Close to 50 showed up to play games and hold a youth forum.
Among the issues raised at the meetings:
- Parents have said the media have more influence on their children than they'd like.
- When teens have personal problems, they turn to their friends, not their parents.
-When a child wants attention, he acts out in a way that gets his parent to notice. Sometimes, that means faking an illness or misbehaving.
"I love this idea," Aisha Waheed said about one recent discussion at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay. "I could really see that this was a genuine effort."
Gorski said these talks aren't a one-time thing. His team plans to visit these communities often, and as new needs emerge, the Children's Board plans evolve with them.
Hillsborough County voters passed a levy in 1988 for up to 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value for children's services aimed at problem prevention and early intervention. Children's Board members include a circuit judge, a School Board member and school superintendent, a representative from the Department of Children and Families and a county commissioner.
Have your say in the future of Hillsborough's children: To give input on the challenges families face or have the Children's Board facilitate a discussion in your community, call (813) 229-2884 and ask for the communications department.
To learn more: Log onto the Children's Board of Hillsborough County's Web site at www.childrensboard.org.