Since 2009, Delta Directions has worked closely with Mississippi Kids Count, which is implemented through the Family and Children’s Research Unit at the MSU Social Science Research Center. Kids Count is a non-profit agency that releases an annual data book containing statistics about the health and well-being of children. Delta Directions recruits and supervises Harvard Law students through the Mississippi Delta Project to help Kids Count translate these statistics into policy recommendations for Mississippi.
In 2009, MS Kids Count focused on children’s health. Delta Directions and the Mississippi Delta Project prepared policy briefs about children’s mental health, maternal depression, teen pregnancy, and low birthweight babies. For 2010 and 2011, MS Kids Count focused on education and law students prepared policy briefs on education-related issues. During the 2011 – 2012 academic year, student papers focused on child abuse and transportation. These papers can be found below and on the Mississippi Kids Count website. Portions of them have also been excerpted for use in the annual MS Kids Count Data Book.
Building on their partnership with MS Kids Count, Delta Directions and the Mississippi Delta Project partnered to create the Child and Youth Initiative in 2012. The Child and Youth Initiative works to identify the most pressing issues facing the Delta region’s children and to help local stakeholders and policymakers develop realistic policies to address these problems. The Initiative’s publications and descriptions of its current projects can be found below, while summaries of its past projects can be found here.
Delta Directions has also been a leader in expanding Farm to School in Mississippi. “Farm to School,” which refers to any program that connect K-12 schools to local farmers, has been shown to have significant educational and health benefits for school children. You can learn more about our Farm to School initiatives on our food systems page.
Ongoing Projects and Initiatives
Evaluating Childcare Facilities in Mississippi
The Child and Youth Initiative is drafting a policy paper on the need to ensure that pre-K programs receiving state assistance meet high quality standards. Current proposed early childhood legislation requires that childcare centers seeking state funds have three or more stars on the Quality Rating Improvement System (QRIS) scale. The first section of this paper will provide an overview of QRIS and the ways it has been applied in Mississippi. The second section will examine pre-K eligibility standards and the uses of QRIS in other southern states. In order to contextualize these standards that have been proposed in Mississippi and adopted in other southern states, this paper will compare them to basic childcare licensure requirements.
Reducing the School to Prison Pipeline in Mississippi Schools
The Child and Youth Initiative is drafting a report on the potential for using restorative justice programs and principles in schools within Mississippi. Schools face a difficult challenge of managing discipline problems while also responding to the “school to prison pipeline.” The report will first explain what restorative justice is and how it works in schools. It will then provide an overview of the benefits of, and potential concerns with, restorative justice programs, along with a summary of the current conditions related to school discipline and the school to prison pipeline within the state. Finally, the project will outline best practices being used in other states and future areas of research needed in this area.