The environments where children grow up have immense impact on their health and wellness. And places where children can thrive are places where all of us want to be. What do child-centered communities look like? And how might we work together to create more of them in America?
Over the past 9 months, Raising Places explored these questions in six diverse U.S. communities. This report is a synthesis of the trends, insights and lessons we’ve learned.
A healthy environment has an outsize effect on children. And places where children can thrive are places where all of us want to be. What do child-centered communities look like? And how might we work together to create more of them in America?
Children’s issues are community issues, but taking a child-centered lens on these issues changes the conversation, and ultimately the results, in ways both subtle and profound. Scroll down for a snapshot of insights and ideas from the Raising Places labs process.
Families with children are increasingly likely to rent rather than own their homes. With renting comes a host of challenges, particularly related to size and affordability. So many places like Seattle and San Francisco are responding with family-friendly affordable housing policies to attract and retain families.
Raising Places teams explored many ways to improve and stabilize housing for low-income residents:
This team developed a home revitalization program to improve the condition of existing rental housing. The program lends money to landlords to make repairs, offering incentives and recognizing property owners for their efforts.
This team is looking into the development of a community land trust, an alternative model that would develop and preserve affordable housing in perpetuity.
Learning happens everywhere children go, and educators are exploring a range of strategies to maximize children’s natural inclination to learn—both inside and outside the classroom. For example, teachers are making their classrooms more student-centered, and organizations like Urban Thinkscape are transforming community environments, like bus stops and sidewalks, into playful educational encounters.
Raising Places teams found ways to encourage learning all around their communities:
This team is piloting a garden that lives in the classroom during the winter, and outside during the summer. Native food and agriculture lessons are integrated into the preschool curriculum.
This team is piloting a program that teaches people about budgeting for and cooking healthy food. Classes are open to kids and adults, to encourage intergenerational learning, and taught by experienced community members.
Play is a vital part of children’s healthy development. Public spaces serve as an extension of homes and learning environments, and today many communities are reclaiming these spaces for play, with support from resources like Kaboom!’s Play Everywhere Playbook and the If Kids Built a City report.
Raising Places teams elevated the inclusivity and play potential of public spaces in a number of ways:
This team envisions a network of green spaces throughout their neighborhood, with flexible infrastructure for family-friendly events and activities. Their goal is to activate the large amount of unused land for community benefit.
This team is developing a parks plan to set guidelines for how parks should be designed in order serve the needs of children and families. The team is testing the criteria through a series of pop-up parks and events.
Transportation is often about connecting with other places, but children benefit most when they can move around independently within their own neighborhood. Independence looks different at every age—from young children walking to the store for a popsicle to teens getting to where they need to go, such as the Santa Fe teen mobility independence plan.
Raising Places teams designed a wide range of solutions to make mobility more child-centered:
This team is piloting a free shuttle that takes residents to and from all the neighborhood’s assets, enabling children and families to access local, high-quality food, employment, education, transportation and amenities.
This team identified a set of prioritized projects for connecting key destinations to make them more walkable. Their goal is to enable children and families to have an enhanced pedestrian experience within the town.
Economic opportunity is a fundamental driver of inequities in the U.S., and this is just as consequential for youth as it is for adults. To create stable environments for their children, parents need pathways to financial stability and family-friendly workplaces. And some communities are providing resources for young people just starting out, such as reshaping workforce development in Baltimore, or building ladders of opportunity for young people in the Great Lakes region.
Raising Places teams addressed economic opportunity through a range of innovative programs and partnerships:
This team is piloting a program to convene lending circles. They are partnering with their local credit union to enable residents to participate in the local economy by saving, borrowing money and building credit scores.
This team is leveraging digital tools to expand their town’s economic boundaries. The co-op provides artisans and craftspeople with the space to create, share and sell their work on both a local and international scale.
How a child sees her community impacts how she sees herself. And we’ve seen many communities start to recognize this, preserving their unique identities and civic health through placemaking or simple design strategies. This sends an important message: you are valued, and where you live is a place to be proud of.
Raising Places teams identified a variety of approaches to elevating their community identity:
This team launched a messaging campaign, both on physical signs and on Facebook, that shares positive messages with people living in town. The messages remind children and families to take pride in their Crow heritage.
With a committee of local residents, the team is exploring a community-based campaign that shares positive messages about the rich history, culture anddiversity of the Plymouth Avenue Corridor.