CLOSING THE OPPORTUNITY GAP

EVERY CHILD DESERVES THE OPPORTUNITY TO REACH HIS OR HER FULL POTENTIAL – AND WE WANT TO INCREASE THAT OPPORTUNITY FOR THE CHILDREN OF SOUTHWEST ALABAMA

With the adoption of Closing the Opportunity Gap as a focus for our future, The Community Foundation of South Alabama will be at the forefront of narrowing the opportunity gap in Southwest Alabama.

Americans are increasingly segregated by class, and the opportunity gap is widening. Children in wealthier neighborhoods have access to opportunities that help them grow into productive members of communities and families. Yet children from low-income areas have less access to everything from quality early childhood education, enrichment activities that provide mentoring, and advanced placement courses in high school.

These children fare worse academically, are less likely to go to college and are far less able to grow into productive members of their community.

Community foundations are leading and investing in a variety of ways to increase opportunity for America’s kids, and our relationship with the Community Foundation Opportunity Network is key to making the biggest impact possible.

Community Foundation Opportunity Network is a national leadership and action network of community foundations committed to narrowing the youth opportunity gap. Participating foundations serve communities with a spectrum of geographic, demographic, racial, and socioeconomic diversity. Dr. Robert Putnam, world renowned sociologist and author of Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, is serving as a close advisor to the group, as are other leading thinkers on related issues of opportunity, mobility, and inequity.

Dr. Putnam believes that the starkly unequal access to opportunity facing America’s children has the potential to wreak social and economic havoc if something is not done to reverse current trends.

Our Closing the Opportunity Gap initiative will engage the community in three different areas aimed at helping financially fragile families succeed: family, education and work.

Here’s how we’ll do it.  We will focus on:

FAMILY:

  • Promote parenting skills and practices
  • Promote skill development, family involvement, and employment among young men, including non-resident fathers
  • Provide quality child care for low-income working parents

EDUCATION:

  • Increase public investment in two stages of education: preschool & post-secondary (including technical training and certification, and two-year college)
  • Educate the whole child to promote social-emotional as well as academic skills
  • Close resource gaps to reduce education gaps
  • Expand work-based learning starting in high school with technical education

WORK:

  • Expand opportunities for the disadvantaged by improving their skills- tie training to a job
  • Expand both work requirements and opportunities for the hard to employ
  • Make more jobs available

By leading the charge to bolster opportunity from infancy through college and professional training, we can make a marked difference in the course of our community for years to come.

In Alabama, 27.5% of children are living below the poverty level. Alabama has the fourth highest rate of child poverty in the country, and more than 300,000 Alabama children live in poverty.

In Baldwin County, 19.2% of children are living below the poverty level, a rate that soars to 28.1% in Mobile County.

A staggering 34.4% of children living below the poverty level in Choctaw County  and 29.8% in Clarke County.

In Conecuh County, 41.5% of children living below the poverty level in and 31.8% in Escambia County.

40.2% of children living below the poverty level in Monroe County and 25.7% in Washington County

The US has the second highest number of children in poverty than in all developed nations: 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line.

 

If you would like to donate to the “Closing the Opportunity Gap Initiative” click on the PayPal link below, or mail your donation to P. O. Box 990, Mobile, AL 36601.




 

Additional Resources

Our Kids, the American Dream in Crisis,” by Robert Putnam.

Closing the Opportunity Gap,” a series of follow-up white papers from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government with recommendations from experts convened by Putnam.

Opportunity, Responsibility, and Security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream,” from the American Enterprise Institute and Brookings Institution Working Group on Poverty and Opportunity.