ROSWELL, Ga. — While North Fulton, on average, has a better environment for the success of its young than the wider metro Atlanta area, there are lower-scoring regions that may surprise residents.
United Way of Greater Atlanta, which fights for health, education and financial stability for everyone, has been tracking what are called “child wellbeing scores” in the area.
Regional Director Denise Townsend presented North Fulton’s numbers at the Roswell Rotary Club meeting at Roswell Area Park on Feb. 27.
United Way of Greater Atlanta started working with the Atlanta Regional Commission in 2016 to track how well the children, families and community are doing in terms of providing an environment that fosters success. The index uses 14 measures to calculate the score, including high school graduation rate, reading proficiency, unemployment rate and family financial stability.
In 2016, the Atlanta region’s overall child wellbeing score was 58.9 percent.
“That’s out of 100 percent,” Townsend said. “So, we’re failing as a region.”
United Way of Greater Atlanta’s goal is to raise the score by 10 points by 2027, and there has been some progress over the past two years. The score rose in 2017 to 68.9 percent but fell once again in 2018 to 61.8 percent.
In studying the overall numbers, Townsend said her team has identified location as one of the biggest factors in the child wellbeing score.
“It’s one thing to have really broad numbers, but as we know, our community is so diverse here in North Fulton,” she said. “And of course, when you talk about the region, there’s huge, huge diversity.”
That’s why United Way of Greater Atlanta has also calculated scores by ZIP code, and it has found results can vary significantly. The score between the 30075 ZIP code, 86.6 percent, and the 30350 ZIP code, 66.6 percent, differ by 20 percent.
The ability to dig down into the data and split it according to communities is invaluable to helping United Way be more efficient, Townsend said.
“We tie all of our data to ZIP codes and even to census tracts so that we can be better stewards and applicators of the funds that people invest in United Way to help target where the funds are going and what are the needs of particular areas,” she said.
The data, for example, has helped Townsend identify some of the top priorities for North Fulton, including lack of financial stability for families, student literacy at or above a third grade reading level and behavioral health in schools. United Way of Greater Atlanta has also created strategies to address these needs, which include spreading the 2-1-1 resource to help families in need, investing in early literacy programs and partnering with the North Fulton Mental Health Collaborative.
“There’s so many good intentions and good work of many, but we’ve got to work collectively,” Townsend said. “We’re here, I’m here, to be available to whomever is interested or already working in these areas. We want to connect with and support what you’re doing and take all of that impact to a higher level.”
United Way of Greater Atlanta will host a community meeting Thursday, March 26 from 9-11 a.m. at the Legacy Theater, 12150 Morris Road, No.7 in Alpharetta to share updates on child wellbeing in North Fulton. During the meeting, organizers will also present the 2020 Spark prize award in a “Shark Tank”-style competition that awards grants to fund projects addressing North Fulton’s greatest social challenges.