Communities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE)

BY FARRAH JACQUEZ, JAMIE-LEE MORRIS, & MICHAEL TOPMILLER

In September 2016, UC Psychology department faculty member Farrah Jacquez, New Prospect Baptist Church community organizer Jamie-Lee Morris, and American Academy of Family Physicians geographer Michael Topmiller were chosen as Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The IRL program brings together two researchers and a community partner to use the power of applied research—informing and supporting critical work being done in communities—to accelerate that work and advance health and equity. The team proposed research called “A Place-based Approach to Early Childhood Wellness in Carthage and Roselawn”, a project designed to organize community members in two Cincinnati neighborhoods to promote the well-being of young children.

The CAKE Leadership Team (Back row Michael Topmiller, Farrah Jacquez, Crystal Davis, Alexander Shelton; front row Cindy Wooten, Lakisha Best, Jamie-Lee Morris, Shanah Cole, Monica Arenas-Losacker). Not pictured are Alan Dicken and Giovanna Alvarez.

Over the past year, The IRL program has facilitated the formation of Communities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE), a team of early childhood stakeholders in the neighborhoods of Carthage and Roselawn.

CAKE has three primary aims to be accomplished over the next two years:
• Create a network of engaged community members, education providers, and stakeholders ready for action
• Develop a multi-level intervention with systematic input from across community sectors and with shared decision-making of Leadership Team
• Increase awareness of the value of preschool and preschool options available in Carthage and Roselawn

We plan to do this by:
• Creating a team of community members to collaborate with us on the research
• Using research to improve the health of young children
• Focusing our place-based approach on the communities of Carthage & Roselawn
• Focusing on approaches that address the multiple levels that influence a child’s life: individual, family, school, community
• Identifying the assets that already exist in Carthage and Roselawn and create ways to build on them

To begin our work, we first needed to find out what the people who live and work in Carthage and Roselawn see as the most important factors in the health and wellness of young kids living in their neighborhoods.

Photo from GLA

We conducted four participatory focus groups called Group Level Assessments with four diverse groups of stakeholders: members of New Prospect Baptist Church, members of San Carlos Catholic Church, members of Carthage Neighborhood Council, and Type B Childcare Providers. Through these four GLAs, we were able to talk with almost 100 community members from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise.

Photo from GLA

Based on the GLAs, we have started to identify the factors that Carthage and Roselawn residents believe are the most important in the lives of young children. Participants identified important drivers at the family, school, and community levels as being critical to the wellness of young kids. Several ideas emerged as ways to promote early childhood wellness, including supporting parent involvement in children’s lives and providing safe, high quality places for children’s activities.

For our next steps, will be interviewing up to thirty school stakeholders to help understand the educational context for preschoolers living in Carthage and Roselawn. By identifying the educational assets that currently exist in the neighborhoods, we hope to move toward building an intervention that builds on existing resources to provide the best possible environment for happy, healthy young kids.

If you’re interested in learning more about CAKE, keeping up with our progress, or getting involved, go to our Facebook page or email us at cakecincinnati@gmail.com.

jmalatCommunities Acting for Kids Empowerment (CAKE)