And How are the Children..?

Liveblog: Panel Discussion on Replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone in Chicago

Posted on: February 25, 2010


3:30 pm

I am at Loyola University Law School, and the program in starting. The room is full, and there is quite a range of attendees, from college professors to high school students.

Loyola Sponsors: Loyola School of Law Street Law Program, Civitas Child Law, School for Urban Research and Learning, to name a few.

3:41 pm

I see Barbara Bowman is on the panel.  I don’t recognize other panel members by sight, I’m hoping that I’ll recognize their names.

Stat note: 12,865 homeless children in CPS currently.

Rob Wildeboer (WBEZ) is the moderator, he is involved with a project on juvenile justice, and has a background in criminal law.

Rob Wildeboer:  “We want to engage in the modest task of solving poverty is Chicago today”  He is a funny guy.  Personable, but clearly serious about the topic.

3:48 pm

Paul Tough is up now, discussing Geoffrey Canada, the man behind the development and management of the now famous Harlem Children’s Zone.  He’s telling some of his life story, and describes how Canada felt “like a failure” in spite of his all-american, beat-the-odds success story.  Creating the Harlem Children’s Zone was Canada’s response to this feeling of failure, feeling like too many poor children were falling through the cracks to failure and death.

Tough spent five years in Harlem studying Canada’s work, which resulted in his published work.  Now he is talking about the achievement gap between upper and lower socioeconomic groups and how it affects children’s education.  According to Tough, spending time talking to children and families in Harlem really brought the statistics home for him.

3:57 pm

Baby College, 3 yo Journey, Harlem Gems, Promise Academy.  Family counseling, after-school tutoring, and parent support.  These are the 2 tiers of strategy that Tough describes as making up the network that comprises the HGZ programming.  The first four are the programs focused on children.  The others are supports that shore up the other social systems that children exist in.

The White House has asked for 210 million dollars to fund Promise Neighborhoods, on president Obama’s initiative.  Cities across the country are interested and looking into ways to replicate the HCZ approach, says Tough.

4:23 pm (Barbara Bowman’s comments were not covered due to technical difficulties – sorry!)

Bradley Stolbach – expert on child trauma.

Per Stolbach: Can’t discuss trauma without discussing race and ethnicity of the victims… states a couple of statistics: On southside of Chicago an estimated 75% of children have witness robbery, assault or killing.  He is curious to know how Harlem’s Children’s Zone addresses such statistics in it’s own community.

Problem with HCZ: There are some deficits in these families that we need address; the HCZ model puts a lot on the children and families without addressing the need for society to take care of people, according to Stolbach.

I’m not sure that I fully agree with that statement…

Stolbach says, if HCZ says to children and families that they are worthy, in a world where they are often told they are not worthy, then he will be on board for it.

He also notes that less than 15% of the money funding HCZ is public money.  He is concerned that a “sliver” of interested funders are serving a sliver of children, and that this might let the rest of us “off the hook” for addressing the needs of these children and families.

4:29 pm

Azim Ramelize is the Asst. Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Dept. of Family and Support Services.  His first comment: I am that kid. Describes his background in the Bronx, violent past turned around.

Ramelize comments, “If someone from another treated our kids the way we treat our kids, we would go to war.”  (Said to much applause).  He says that it is “important to address every problem holding a poor kid back.” He says they are trying to do some of this in Chicago, cites it as the brilliant thing that Geoffrey Canada has done.

Describes how the standard of achievement is white middle class kids, and encourages us to think about the ways that we define the standard.

Says that any brilliant education system will not punish kids who know how to think (as opposed to knowing how to regurgitate facts).

Ramelize speaks as though he really has a heart for Chicago, and discusses the different kinds of communities.  Says that we really need to be smart and inclusive, citing different ethnic groups and communities that reside within Chicago.

Ramelize makes a special comment to the kids in the audience, encouraging them not to accept labels put on them, but to work hard to achieve what they want.

He says that in applying to make Promise Neighborhood grants that it “will not be business as usual,” and that it really is a different approach.  Next speaker…

4:42 pm

Chris Brown of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), here in place of Susana Vasquez.

Programming for their Elevate program does intervention with middle school-aged children.  Have supported 3 neighborhood orgs: Woodlawn, Logan Square, and Chicago Lawn.  Also sent some people to the HCZ conference.  Says they want to support people to plan well for applying for Promise Neighborhood funding, and hopefully bring several to Chicago.

Says one thing they are attracted to in HCZ model is “incredible dedication to accountability,” and also the way the program pays attention to the “joints in children’s lives,” places where children “often get dropped.”

One critique he offers is that HCZ doesn’t do enough to engage and support parents and the community-at-large, and feels that some feel as though the community is the problem and that they are saving children from the community.

He also states that there are concerns that the program costs a lot and there is little data on outcomes as of yet.

According to Brown, what we need to think about is:

  • Integration of current services: we have a lot of great services going on in Chicago, how do we incorporate them?
  • Leadership: Are there people in Chicago that can do this work?
  • Other communities: Will it suck up resources and be detrimental to others communities?
  • Maintaining high quality: How do we keep focus on high-quality over time?  Do people have the political will to do this on the scale it needs to be done?

4:52 pm

Q&A Session…

I am taking notes on the Q&A comments and will follow up with another post after the event is over so I can follow the conversation and make relevant comments on the remainder of the event.  Thanks for reading!

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1 Response to "Liveblog: Panel Discussion on Replicating the Harlem Children’s Zone in Chicago"

[…] Comment! These are my final thoughts on Replicating Harlem Children’s Zone in Chicago,  an event hosted by Loyola University last week featuring Paul Tough, and a panel of local human services and education experts.  Tough is the author of Whatever it Takes, a book chronicling Geoffrey Canada’s work creating and managing the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York.  I attended and wrote a live blog of the event last week. […]

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