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Children’s Agenda survey highlights struggles parents face in Monroe County

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Stephanie Townsend
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The Children's Agenda
Children's Agenda CEO Larry Marx presents the findings of a Monroe County parent survey on Wednesday.

The Children’s Agenda says mental health is a top concern for parents in Monroe County. The organization released findings from a survey on Wednesday.

Children’s Agenda CEO Larry Marx said about 400 parents of kids up to 18 years old responded to the poll, which asked families with school-age children to identify issues they're facing.

According to the survey, about 40% have lost income during the pandemic and have concerns about the cost of health care and child care.

About half said they need more mental health support for their kids, he said. Toyin Anderson, a parent and board member of the Children’s Agenda, said that's evident in the amount of violence reported in and outside of schools locally and nationally.

“These are because children’s social and emotional needs aren't met,” said Anderson, who is also on the council of the national organization United Parent Leaders Action Network. “So all this excessive fighting was a big factor in our children exhibiting social and emotional needs that aren't being met.”

Kimberly Dooher, a leader of Parents Helping Parents Coalition of Monroe County and a mother of a child with a disability, said the need for resources for children with disabilities is even greater.

“It is even more difficult to find child care, even more difficult to find after-school programming, even more difficult to find mental health supports,” Dooher said.

The Children’s Agenda recommends hiring more mental health counselors and providing other preventive measures, especially in the Rochester City School District. Marx said they want to see $40 million of relief funds allocated to restorative practices and mental health.

Among surveyed parents with children up to 12 years old, half said the pandemic has made it difficult to coordinate child care.

The Children’s Agenda also recommends that the state dedicate $5 billion to universal and affordable child care with livable wages for providers.

“We're calling for a major down payment on such a system this year, that's currently being debated by the legislature and we have a lot of reason for hope that there will be a major investment,” Marx said.

Dooher would also like to see more funding across New York state go to special education therapists and counselors — particularly when it comes to early intervention specialists.

Noelle E. C. Evans is an education reporter/producer with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.