Youth Master Plan ready for city board

Moore says city well-prepared for it

A year and a half of work by a volunteer citizen's committee and hired consultants is coming to an end as they prepare to present a Youth Master Plan to the city in two weeks, but this is really just the beginning, they said Wednesday.

The Youth Master Plan Advisory Committee met with the city-hired consultants from Advocacy and Communication Solutions LLC for the last time Wednesday.

The three-year plan that includes the committee's 18 months of input will be presented to the Little Rock Board of Directors for a vote at 6 p.m. June 7.

"This really is the foundation for the next 10 years. We are setting up so the next three years is the foundation for the future," said Rebecca Cohen with Advocacy and Communication Solutions LLC.

The plan deals with how the city's Community Programs Department will spend money allotted to various programs that work with at-risk youths in addition to how other city departments and the community work with children and families.

In addition to funding, the plan details marketing, community and youth involvement, best practices and how to evaluate a program's success.

City Manager Bruce Moore attended Wednesday's committee meeting to thank the members for their work.

"It's important work," he said. "I think it's going to have a significant, positive impact on our city as we go forward. I think it's critical that we get this right, and I can assure you all that it's going to be a priority from my perspective and my organization's perspective to implement this work that you all have come together and said what the future of our children and youth and families in our city [need.] This is critical and we are going to get it right. I give you my assurance."

Moore said development of the Youth Master Plan is some of the most important work the city has done in the past two years.

He added that Little Rock is already in a much better position than most cities because it has allocated funds for prevention, intervention and treatment programs since the 1990s. Most cities don't do that, he said.

Once implementation of the Youth Master Plan gets started, Moore said the city has got to do a better job of telling its story.

"There are a lot of positive things that are happening and have been happening in our community, and people in Little Rock don't know about it," he said.

Committee member Paul Kelly said it will be critical going forward for the city's leadership to stay involved and committed to bettering situations for youths and families in the city.

"A lot of elements in this plan require -- and will fail -- unless the leadership takes a role. It's got to have that level of backing, not just when it comes out and not just in the first year," Kelly said.

"The issues that face the children and families in Little Rock cannot all be dealt with with Community Programs money. [$5 million] is not enough to do that. My hope is that we will be a step closer to folks realizing that all departments within the city need to focus more on these vulnerable populations," he added. "It's food, shelter and other basic needs and safety, all of these things that go into it."

The Youth Master Plan suggests becoming more data-driven -- paying attention to numbers and program success rates, for example -- in meeting the needs of youths, increasing the quality of programs, enhancing communication, focusing on the future workforce and skills needed, and prioritizing children and youths by giving them a more intentional voice in the programs and city leadership.

Metro on 05/26/2016

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