This month we are very excited to formally announce the formation of the Island County Children’s Commission. This new commission will consist of 15 to 20 members with the time, energy, expertise and passion to continue to shape Island County as a wonderful place for children and youth to grow up. This has been a dream of mine since I first heard about the work of similar commissions in Snohomish and Kitsap counties.
The Children’s Commission is the result of hard work by the Island County Community Health Advisory Board (CHAB), the Family Support Alliance (FSA) and many other agencies and residents who believed children and youth need a voice in our county. For many years CHAB has worked on health issues focused on children and youth (such as youth support, early childhood education, and parent support). They made the recommendation to the Island County Commissioners to staff a Children’s Commission out of general fund dollars. We are pleased the commissioners have supported this request by providing $20,000 annually for the next two years to start a Children’s Commission.
This funding will support a part-time staff that is key to making such a coalition a success. We are very pleased to announce that Dan Bond, MSW, has accepted the position to start the Children’s Commission. A resident of Coupeville, Dan has a solid background in children and youth issues and was staff to the Snohomish County Children’s Commission for many years. During that time, he is most proud of the variety of issues they addressed and the many self-sustaining efforts that got their start by being key issues addressed through the Snohomish Children’s Commission.
I am often asked, “What will a Children’s Commission do?” There is so much to do. It is our vision that they will facilitate public forums to address children and youth issues, centralize and disseminate data about our children/youth, and bring partners together to creatively address priority issues.
The power of a collaborative group of impassioned, knowledgeable, commissioners who are able to engage in “big picture” planning on behalf of children/youth and develop effective, creative, community-based solutions is exciting! We envision a Children’s Commission that has the synergy to facilitate community-wide dialogue that results in timely solutions for problems or gaps in our communities.
Childhood is different than is used to be. Summertime is a good example. In my family we would sit down to breakfast, then my mother would basically throw open the doors, tell us to have fun playing and come home in time for dinner. She knew we would all immediately be engaged in active, creative play with neighboring kids and that neighbors would take care of us all. This is not the world of today. Many parents work, our neighborhoods are spread out, and our communities do not feel as safe as they once did, nor are there many well-known adults home during the daytime.
We need to address the stressful world our children are growing up in today. The events of the past (9/11, Virginia Tech, etc.) lend even more importance to the establishment of a Children’s Commission. We can directly influence the lives of children and families and agencies in our community that serve such a vital role in keeping hope alive for a safer, more supportive world. I want all children to feel as safe and supported as I did growing up, giving me the freedom to dream and feel confident in pursuing my own goals as an adult.
Our greatest need at this point is to recruit community members to serve on the Island County Children’s Commission. This role entails monthly meetings to explore and discuss issues, serve on subcommittees addressing priority issues, and spread the word about the work of the Children’s Commission and the state of children and youth in Island County. We are looking for people in positions who can impact system change; people with expertise and credibility in child/youth development, education, direct services; and leadership skills; and, most importantly, passion and energy to act on behalf of children and youth! If you are interested in serving on this exciting new initiative, you can find an application at www.islandcounty.net/health/.
For more information you can contact Dan Bond at 678-7884 or Carrie McLachlan at 360-221-8486.
Carrie McLachlan, MPA, is supervisor for assessment and community development for Island County Health Department.