Danville’s first children and youth master plan complete. Now comes the next step: implementing it.

A master plan that officials hope will serve as a guide for ensuring children and youth have opportunities to thrive is now complete. The question now is how it will be implemented.

Danville’s Children and Youth Master Plan is the first for the city, and community leaders expect it to provide a foundation for future master plans to address young people’s needs.

“The Children and Youth Master Plan endeavors to serve as a blueprint for a youth-centered, community-based infrastructure,” Devanshi Patel, chief executive officer with the Arlington-based Center for Youth and Family Advocacy, wrote in the plan drawn up by the group.

Patel presented the plan to about 25-30 local officials and community leaders during a meeting Friday morning at the Danville Fire Department headquarters on Lynn Street downtown.

Work started on the plan in the fall of 2021 and included meeting with community leaders who work with children and youth in the city. Patel’s group met with more than 70 community members and nearly 40 stakeholders to collaborate on the master plan’s development.

Friday’s meeting was to formally present the master plan and “thank the community for all of their input, for their hard work.”

City Manager Ken Larking, Deputy City Manager Earl Reynolds and youth and gang violence prevention coordinator Robert David led the effort to bring together city agencies, groups, community leaders, activists, business leaders and service providers to address the needs of Danville’s children and youth.

“We researched the issues, deliberated on what was going on in Danville, looked at the data and then developed a plan based on the research and data to figure out where we need to put our resources,” Patel told the Danville Register & Bee.

The goal of the plan is to meet the needs of children and youth in Danville by:

Advising Danville City Council, the Danville School Board and the community on policies that affect children and youth;

Advancing strategies to promote coordination, alignment and collaboration by city leaders, government agencies, organizations, stakeholders and the community;

Researching best practices to achieve successful child and youth-focused outcomes; and

Guiding funding and investments to holistically meet the needs of the city’s children and youth.

Now that the plan is complete, the next phase is to implement it, Patel said.

“The next big step is identifying a community organization that going to be responsible for ensuring the implementation of this plan,” she told attendees.

When implemented, the master plan will help create conditions enabling children and youth to thrive across eight interrelated strategies, according to the plan:

Actions to achieve those conditions would include reducing barriers to food access, promoting health food choices for youth, improving housing security for underserved families with children and school-aged youth, increase literacy rates of the city’s school-aged population, fund no-cost programs to address pandemic-related instructional loss, develop an infant mental-health campaign and conduct regular mental-health checks of students and staff in Danville Public Schools, according to the plan.

“Most of these goals rely on cross-sectional collaboration,” Patel told attendees Friday morning.

John Moody, director of social services for Danville, pointed out that Danville has the highest rate of child poverty in the state. He said he read an article about it in the Danville Register & Bee years ago and “no one said a thing about it.”

“Who’s in place to do something about this?” Moody asked during the meeting, adding that it has been a long-time problem. “Something like this doesn’t dissipate.”

“You are 100% correct,” Patel responded.

Petrina Carter said it’s important to make sure the system of organizations to meet the needs of children and youth is in place with connections among those groups.

“You may be connected on paper, but not in practice,” Carter said. “The youth fall through the cracks.”

During an interview after the meeting, Danville Social Services family services manager Deborah Fitzgerald said the department was involved in development of the master plan.

“Our purpose is to make sure that our children that could potentially be DSS-involved are fed, safe, that they have safe homes, they have safe communities,” Fitzgerald said. “So it’s important to us because it would cut down on the number of children receiving benefits such as SNAP [commonly referred to as ‘food stamps’], things like that, as well as children being abused or neglected and coming into foster care.”

Shakeva Frazier, community liaison for the city’s Project Imagine program, expressed enthusiasm for what the master plan could do for the community’s youth.

Project Imagine is a program aimed at keeping at-risk youth off the streets and providing a job program and life skills.

“This is great potential right here to be something great,” Frazier said of the plan. “I’m going to meet with the youth on Monday to help start the facilitating and we did training last night, as well, so I’m very invested and I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going to go.”

Larking said he was pleased that there were so many community members who care about the young people here. The information provided by Patel was helpful, he said.

“The next step is to operationalize all these things and what capacity is necessary to make that happen,” Larking said. “So we look forward to having those conversations continue and see what the next steps are.”

Article By John Crane | Register & Bee