Improving Health for Kids in Residential Care

Black Family Development Inc. (BFDI), as a proud member of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, is working to make real, systemic changes when it comes to the health and well-being of our children.

As a Care Management Organization for Wayne County Juvenile Justice Services, we oversee the care of hundreds of children through partnerships with residential care providers. BFDI is working with these providers, who provide 24/7 care to Detroit children, to increase children’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and to increase the amount of physical activity that is part of their daily routine. We will eventually make this part of our contractual expectations for our providers through a three-step process, which began this year.

First, I explained to our care providers that BFDI, as a member of the Detroit Food & Fitness Collaborative, has taken a robust advocacy role in educating our youth and their families on the importance of adequate daily intake of fruits and vegetables and daily physical activities. I told them that we want to create a culture of health and wellness for the children in our care, which, we believe, will enhance their quality of life.

Since the providers are serving youth daily and want the best outcomes for them, we requested that they join our robust advocacy efforts to ensure that the children in their care have access to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables daily and rigorous physical exercise. I believe that focusing on these critical health and wellness issues is part and parcel to improving outcomes for children – we are not just providing housing services, but are responsible for every aspect of a child’s care.

Second, I asked our providers to complete a self-assessment on the extent to which they have internal policies that advocate rigorous attention to health and wellness practices, including appropriate consumption of fruits and vegetables and daily physical activities. These care providers develop menus and purchase food, but many of them may not meet the expectations we have for an abundant supply of fresh fruit and vegetables daily.  And while the children are involved in activities, many of the providers can greatly improve daily physical activity.

So, that said, our third and final stage for change will come this Fall as we begin drafting our annual contract agreements, where we will include very specific language on the expectations for access to an abundance of fresh produce provided to children through meals and snacks, and the amount of physical exercise we expect our providers to offer children.  Once this is in the contract, BFDI staff will monitor the compliance of our new nutrition and exercise expectations, along with all other aspects of the contract.

When we state something in a contract, it becomes a very powerful piece.  If agencies choose not to comply with our new health and wellness standards, we have cause to find an agency that will.

Thanks to our work with Detroit Food & Fitness, we are making real, systemic changes in the health and well-being of the children in our care.

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