Recently, a grassroots effort was put forth to get a very important initiative on the November ballot in Boone County. The initiative, dubbed Putting Kids First, calls for the creation of a community children’s service fund to provide support for children’s mental health services in Columbia and Boone County. With the help and determination of local volunteers and children’s nonprofit agencies, over 8,200 signatures were collected to surpass the goal needed to put the initiative on the ballot. I could not be more thankful!
A community children’s service fund will make sure that all kids have a place to go when they need help. It will make sure that all kids have support and resources available to help protect them against child abuse, neglect, substance abuse, homelessness and other damaging situations. According to the state of Missouri, the number of children reported as victims of child abuse or neglect in Boone County and our neighboring counties totaled about 5,300 in 2011, which is about a 20 percent increase from 2010. Numbers are likely much higher than this, as not all abuse or neglect is reported. It is imperative to the wellness and foundations of our communities that we take a stand for these children.
St. Charles, Lincoln, Jefferson, Lafayette and St. Louis counties, along with the city of St. Louis, have all passed local tax initiatives that now provide necessary funding for programs and services that protect their children and prevent future problems. As a result, all six have experienced steady and substantial improvements in these areas. It is time for us to give the children of Boone County the same support.
On the Columbia campus of Great Circle, we work with the vulnerable children of Boone County each and every day. We strive to provide a safe, nurturing environment where they can heal and grow to become stable, happy and productive community members. Yet all too often, the need is greater than current resources can cover. As a community, we must come together to help ensure that all children have access to safe havens and mental health services when needed most. We must come together to give them the chance to grow and reach for bright futures, because their futures are our futures. Please join us in Putting Kids First this November.
Vincent Hillyer is president & CEO of Great Circle, formerly Boys & Girls Town of Missouri. Great Circle served over 555 children and families in Columbia and the surrounding region in 2011. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.