The final draft of an assessment of the needs of children aged 0-5 in the Cully and Concordia neighborhoods is expected to be released in the next two weeks. The assessment could provide direction to numerous policy groups as they pursue development of infrastructure and community resources in those neighborhoods.
The Cully-Concordia Early Childhood Needs Assessment evaluates the current conditions in the two Northeast Portland neighborhoods in terms of child and daycare services, children’s programs and education. It also reflects the communities' hopes about how services can better serve to improve the lives of the neighborhood’s youngest children.
“We need to understand this environment considering how many young children there are,” says Debbie Bischoff, a senior planner for Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, who focuses on Northeast Portland.
Census data shows that 32.6 percent of homes in Cully and Concordia have children under the age of 18, compared with a citywide average of 9.5 percent. The area is also “one of the most racially and ethnically diverse populations” in Portland, with non-whites making up 37 percent of the neighborhood’s population, compared to 24 percent citywide.
The Cully-Concordia area is impoverished by several measures. According to data collected in the assessment, 80 to 90 percent of children attending the Faubion, Harvey Scott and Rigler Schools receive free or reduced-price lunches.
“This area has a lot more children, which means it really needs a lot more services,” Bischoff says. “Especially in Cully, they don’t have a big community center. There are no developed parks. There are no places for people to gather. Schools are the only centers of community.”
The needs assessment is a direct result of the Cully-Concordia Action Plan. The Portland City Council adopted the action plan in 2008. It proposes steps to increase the livability of the Cully-Concordia area.
The assessment recommends to increase the number of preschool programs in schools, provide better transitional services for children preparing to enter kindergarten, and the addition of more relief nurseries, day care centers, and more gathering spaces such as a Swap N Play.
Four focus groups drawing a total of 50 people, including community leaders, school representatives, service providers and parents, were held to determine the particular needs of the community.
Those focus groups revealed a number of concerns community members had concerning early childhood services. For instance, parents want more childcare services, day care, and relief nurseries because they often must rely on friends and family to provide child care services. Immigrant and minority communities have an even smaller network upon which to rely.
Parents also said that more preschools are needed because they believe that it is an integral part of public education.
Bischoff is currently briefing Portland Mayor Sam Adams, city and county commissioners on the needs assessment. The next step is for the Multnomah County Commission on Children, Families and Community, which oversees children and family policy in the county, to review the assessment and decide which of the assessment’s recommendations to implement first.
She says many of the recommendations call for changes that are broad and will take a significant amount of time and work.
“One of them is expanding the availability of preschool and child care programs. That’s huge,” she says. “That may be just one project. There is a lot that can happen underneath these bullets. It’s so broad.”