Hundreds gathered Thursday morning for the State of Our Children Breakfast, an annual gathering for child-oriented agencies, school districts, and other entities in Fresno County that met for the first time since the pandemic forced a two-year hiatus.
This year’s event, held in a packed Liberty Ballroom at the Clovis Veterans Memorial District complex, introduced many for the first time to The Children’s Movement Resident Council, a relatively new group with a goal of having community members contribute to the conversation about how to make Fresno County a better and healthier place for children.
The breakfast also was part tribute to outgoing Fresno County Schools Superintendent Jim Yovino, whose work on behalf of children has resulted in a number of additional programs and services, such as mental health counselors in each school across the county, to benefit children.
In addition, the breakfast is the major fundraising effort for The Children’s Movement Fresno, a network of residents working to improve outcomes for all children in the county.
Linda Gleason, director of Fresno Cradle to Career (C2C), noted that The Children’s Movement began a decade ago with the “middles” — service providers, practitioners, middle managers — and later expanded to connect community leaders.
“There was still one important ingredient missing in our meetings and our overall efforts, and that missing piece was residents with lived experience,” she said. “I’m happy to report that because of significant philanthropic investment in 2021, TCM was able to hire a full-time director and launch the first-ever Fresno County Resident Council.”
Resident Council Held ‘Issue Caucuses’
The 100-member council is diverse, with five different home languages, Gleason said. The goal is for residents to help guide planning, policy development, and deployment of resources, she said.
In April the council conducted “issue caucuses” focusing on five areas of community interest for children: mental health, “schools as inclusive communities,” digital access, child care, and housing, Gleason said.
“Our intention is that we begin to build a foundation for transformative community engagement built on trust, collaboration, and shared decisionmaking,” she said. “This work is not easy, and building trust and shared understanding takes time. But we all have passion for change and shared purpose.”
Priscila Herrera, one of three Resident Council leaders to speak at the Children’s Breakfast, said community members lost trust and faith over issues that existed even prior to the pandemic.
Residents have not had the opportunity to be heard when they are concerned about issues such as mental health services or access to the internet, Herrera, an Easton business owner and mother of three, said in Spanish.
Mothers relate how they are tired of facing barriers to getting services for their kids, Herrera said, but through the Resident Council “we can break that iceberg that was in place between us and rebuild that trust.”