ST. LOUIS For decades, an area spanning 4 square miles in north
St. Louis has statistically been one of the cruelest for young
The children of ZIP codes 63106 and 63107 are nearly twice as
likely to be born to teen mothers as the national average, while
also having low rates of prenatal care. Crime, poverty, substance
abuse and parental incarceration rates are high across the areas 17
Consequently, many of the children struggle to keep up in at
school, and sometimes go hungry or even homeless.
Today, these St. Louis children will get a boost when local child
advocacy leaders announce a $4.2 million federally funded initiative
to target the social and emotional needs of children under 8 in
these ZIP codes. The area to be served spans roughly from Delmar
Boulevard in the south, to Highway 70 on the east and north, with
western boundaries at North Grand and Fairground Park.
Sue Stepleton, director of a policy forum at Washington
Universitys George Warren Brown School of Social Work, said the
grant, awarded in partnership to the state Department of Mental
Health and a consortium of child welfare representatives in St.
Louis, was concentrated in a small area to have a higher impact.
Its really the state saying, We need a new way to learn from
communities whats going on, she said. So here is a significant
amount of money directed at a very targeted area at extraordinary
Stepleton, former head of Parents as Teachers International, was
a sponsor of the grant application and will head up a child wellness
council to oversee the implementation of the program.
The programs goal is two-fold: First, address basic social,
cognitive and emotional health needs of an estimated 1,335 young
children from the 17 neighborhoods. Thats about half of the children
that age living in the area. The funding, distributed over five
years, is expected to amount to $2,547 per child.
The money will be used to screen children for health,
developmental and behavioral issues. Families will then be offered
services and home visits.
Secondly, the neighborhood will act as a sort of laboratory to
build a model of emotional care for poor children that can be
The grant, called Project LAUNCH, was awarded by the federal
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Last
year, Boone County was awarded a similar grant the only other in
Sharon West, director of the of Grace Hill Clinic, says the
clinic sees firsthand the dilemma of treating impoverished children
from the St. Louis ZIP codes.
She said young children were often given immunizations and
treated for asthma and nutritional issues at the agencys Water Tower
Health Clinic, situated in the grant coverage area. …