It’s our job to protect, guide, and nurture children, no matter their stage in development.

Thriving Kids

Thriving Kids — Every Child Supported

Our community faces tremendous challenges in terms of our youth. The average age of Rochester’s gang entry is 13, and homicide is the leading cause of death for our city teens. Education is a crucial path to health. But children can’t learn if they’re not in class, and learning shouldn’t stop after 3:00 PM or in June.

Research is clear that enhancing positive youth development can help deter juvenile delinquency and risky youth behavior. When children participate in quality after-school and summer learning opportunities, they form relationships that keep them safe and engaged—and they perform better academically. Prevention works, and investing in what is effective is critical.

Our goals across the continuum of childhood development—and strategies to achieve them:

Improving attendance

In the 2013 school year, about 38 percent of Rochester City School District children were chronically absent, defined as missing more than 10 percent of class days in a school year. Average daily attendance masks the severity of the problem for individual students.

Our best solution: We support the city school district’s focused efforts on “attendance blitzes,” where staff and concerned citizens visit the homes of chronically absent students to identify and mitigate barriers resulting in their poor attendance. The attendance blitzes aren’t punitive. They support mechanisms used to improve school-community relations. Led by the Rochester City School District, ROC the Future’s Attendance Collaborative Action Network ensures the success of these blitzes and has already seen some progress.

Supporting children outside of school

As family work dynamics have changed over the last few decades, many children end up unsupervised after school. In 2010, 11 percent of Monroe County children ages six to 17 living in working families in the city participated in after-school programs with at least minimal quality standards. Teens unsupervised after school were four times more likely to have committed a crime and have used illegal drugs than teens in after-school programs.

Our best solution: The Children’s Agenda is committed to working with the community to increase access to quality after-school and summer learning opportunities. We are an active member of the Greater Rochester After-School Alliance (GRASA), an initiative of the Rochester Area Community Foundation. In partnership with GRASA, The Children’s Agenda has completed an inventory of out-of-school (OST) opportunities in Rochester. This report is an update and expansion on previous inventories of after-school programs in Rochester.

Children’s Social Emotional Health

“All health emerges from emotional behavioral health” — Dr. James Hudziak
As documented by a new report from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation’s Commissioner on Children’s Behavioral Health in the Finger Lakes, the prevalence and severity of childhood mental health issues in the U.S. and in our region has increased dramatically. The top five reasons for childhood disability are now mental health related. Twenty percent of children and youth under the age of 18 meet criteria for a behavioral health diagnosis in a given year, yet only a fraction of those—estimated at 1 in 4—get the necessary treatment. Responsibility and services for children’s social emotional health are currently divided among an array of NY State, County, nonprofit, and private agencies that are fragmented and often overwhelmed. Children and youth who do receive care enter through multiple doors and receive treatment and interventions that, when available at all, is of variable quality in various systems with little coordination among them. Furthermore, the existing “system” is not well prepared to reach children and families preventively or to reach those with less severe needs who might be helped more expeditiously and thereby avoid more severe illness. This dysfunction replicates and reinforces, of course, the lack of coordination already remarked on by the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative and the recent IBM Smarter Cities Challenge report. Thanks to the support of the Greater Rochester Health Foundation, The Children’s Agenda will organize parents and professionals in a new advocacy campaign to improve children’s social emotional health throughout the region. Those improvements must come from the leadership of families who are most directly affected by the problems, drawing on the wisdom of professionals on what “works best” and what kids “need most.” Half of all lifetime cases of mental illness have begun by the age of 14. In addition to poor adult mental and physical health, the consequences of lack of prevention and effective treatment are myriad and include school failure, criminal justice involvement, drug and alcohol abuse, homicide and suicide. The estimated cost of lost productivity and crime spending related to mental illness for children and youth alone in the U.S. is estimated at over $200 billion annually, according to the Institute of Medicine. To get more involved, join us.  

Arming youth with effective coping mechanisms

One particularly important component of a comprehensive after-school system is addressing violence and aggression in youth. Our best solution: We champion the evidence-based Coping Power Program, currently in place in several Rochester City schools working with children in grades four and five who have aggression issues. These schools have seen a dramatic decrease in violence and aggressive incidents school-wide. We believe further implementation should include Coping Power as one piece of an after-school system, combined with other evidence-based programs, including the following:
  • PATHS (Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies), a social-cognitive developmental program for all students, now in place at 20 City of Rochester elementary schools.
  • Primary Project, an effective one-on-one behavioral program for students too young for Coping Power (K-3).

Combating childhood obesity

More than 40 percent of children and adolescents in the City of Rochester are overweight or obese, placing them at higher risk for a host of serious illnesses and other potential issues like poor academic performance, increased drug and alcohol use, and a stronger likelihood for risky sexual behavior.

Our best solution: The Children’s Agenda provides staffing support for Rochester’s Leadership Council for Healthy Weight, a convening organization that builds upon existing local strategies and partnerships to address our city’s need for health, nutrition, and physical activity. Specifically, the Council focuses on improving health practices in early childcare settings, promoting water consumption over sugary drinks, and continuing First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge for Rochester to reverse the trend of childhood obesity as an official “Let’s Move!” city.

Contact Rachel Pickering at or (585) 256-2620 x2605 to learn more about healthy weight initiatives supported by The Children’s Agenda and how you can get involved.
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