By David Pendered

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal is slated to announce Monday that Georgia is creating a one-stop shop to help pregnant women and mothers of infants get all the assistance their communities provide.

Sandra Deal, Georgia's First Lady
Sandra Deal, Georgia’s First Lady
Sandra Deal, Georgia’s First Lady

The new initiative, Great Start Georgia, aims to promote the welfare of young children by helping their mothers and others who care for them. Mother and child will be guided through the process of locating and accessing existing programs.

The program intends to address the precarious conditions facing Georgia’s children. The state now ranks 37th in terms of child well-being, according to the 2012 Kids Count Data Book released last summer by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The Casey report had some good news: Conditions for Georgia’s children are improving in terms of health and education.

But Georgia had its share of bad news: The state’s children are economically challenged.

The proportion of children living in poverty has increased from 20 percent in 2007, which was the start of the recession, to 26 percent in 2011, according to the Casey report.

The proportion of children living in homes where neither parent has full-time, year-round employment rose by 7 percent during the same time period – from 28 percent to 35 percent.

Great Start Georgia has assembled a team of 13 entities to combat these challenges. Partners include:

Kids Count, 2012 snapshot
Headlines from the 2012 “Kids Count” report. Click for a larger version.
Headlines from the 2012 “Kids Count” report. Click for a larger version.
  • Department of Early Care and Learning;
  • Enterprise Community Health Start Project;
  • Georgia Association on Young Children;
  • Department of Behavioral Health and Disabilities;
  • Georgia Head Start;
  • University of Georgia, Center for Family Research.

Federal funds are paying for part of Georgia’s new initiative – a home visitation program.

It aims to promote maternal and child health, safety, and economic self –sufficiency of families, according to GSG’s website.

The home visitation will start in seven counties. DeKalb County is the only one in metro Atlanta. The other counties with pilot programs are: Clarke, Crisp, Glynn, Houston, Muscogee, and Whitfield counties.

The initiative had a soft launch in October, when the web page was made public and a toll free hotline was activated: 1-855-707-8277.

The first lady will put the power of her office behind the program during an announcement today at the Capitol. The event is slated for 9:30 a.m. at the North Wing.

Other officials scheduled to join Deal are: Katie Jo Ballard, executive director, Governor’s Office for Children and Families; Georgia’s public health commissioner, Brenda Fitzgerald; and Kirrena Gallagher, a former participant with Prevent Child Abuse Athens, Inc.

Gov. Deal has said he cares deeply about the state’s children. When the Casey Foundation released its latest Kids Count report, Deal was quoted as saying:

“This is a defining moment for Georgia—a mobilizing moment. While the news in this ‘Kids Count’ report is encouraging, it also reminds us that our work has just begun. I said from the beginning that I’m committed to our youngest Georgians, who are critical to our future.  I will continue to support communities in ensuring that children will thrive and become successful adults, despite the many challenges they face.”

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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