Maplewood, District 622 work on funds for children’s program

Goal is to have five adults responsible for every child

Maplewood is hoping to implement a new plan for children, and a fairly unique one at that.

“It’s going to be our own thing here in Maplewood,” Mayor Nora Slawik said.

In a project that Slawik referred to as an “integrated youth development” plan, which involves a five-adult-per-child rule, the community will attempt to connect five adults to help every child in the Ramsey County area.

This Rule of Five program “is really a community-organizing initiative,” Slawik said. “We’re a city that is not very connected because of geography and because of large differences in wealth measures. Part of it is a way for our community to connect and also to involve our schools.”

To help set this up, Slawik and other city leaders met with the North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District principals to work on a federal grant for the program.

Maplewood City Council adopted a resolution supporting the $500,000 federal grant request and is in the process of raising funds locally. Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell also is trying to get a Department of Public Safety grant for additional funding.

One major motivator for this new program is the loss of funding for the Maplewood Police Department’s D.A.R.E. program, which strived to prevent the use of controlled drugs and encourage kids to make good life choices. That left a gap in an area of education the city wanted to fill immediately.

“It’s really a focus to do outreach, to make sure people know about this, to get people to understand the concept of the Rule of Five,” Schnell said. “That’s our preliminary goal. As much as I think this is something that we should do, we can’t pull police for it.”

Another motivating factor is the poverty issue in Ramsey County. The county has 32 percent of the region’s federally subsidized housing units -- twice that of neighboring Hennepin County and 20 times that of other parts of the metropolitan area.

“Research has shown that school districts with concentrations of poverty have seen improvements with challenges” when children have positive associations with multiple adults, said Melinda Coleman, Maplewood’s assistant city manager. “It helps them move on with their lives and with school, and just having a better outlook with relationships as they move through adulthood.”

The program is still in its early stages, and as Slawik said, it all hinges on funding.

For that reason, a start date for the Rule of Five initiative is unknown at this time, but the goal is to roll it out this fall, if all the funding falls into place.

Tim Faklis can be reached at 651-748-7814, at tfaklis@lillienews.com, or on Twitter @tfaklisnews.
 

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