Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark A. Peterson announced a major expansion of Contra Costa County’s ongoing efforts to combat school truancy. The Thomas J. Long Foundation has awarded a $625,000 grant to the Lincoln Child Center to allow the Center to collaborate with the county in the effort to reduce chronic absenteeism. The county’s Behavioral Health Services will provide in-kind matching funds toward that effort. Thus, the total value of the increased effort to fight chronic absenteeism is $1.25 million.
Chronic absenteeism has been identified as one of the most serious, and life long, threats to our nation’s youth. Long term studies have repeatedly shown its devastating impact on our children, and on our society.
We know that 80% of prisoners in the United States are high school dropouts, and that chronic truancy is one of the best indicators of who will later drop out. We also know that if a child does not read at grade level by the end of the third grade, the chances he/she will later drop out are four times higher than their peers. This often dooms some of our most vulnerable kids to a lifetime of poverty, or crime. District Attorney Peterson stated “It is far better to keep a child in class today, than in a jail cell in the future.”
To address this issue, in 2015 Contra Costa County’s leaders developed a system-wide plan involving schools, the Office of Education, law enforcement, the courts, and the private sector. The Contra Costa Superior Court established a Parent Truancy Program to combat absenteeism in elementary and middle-schools by requiring parents of truants to appear in court.
Contra Costa County Superior Court Judges Rebecca Hardie and John Laettner have spent countless hours coaching parents on the need to get their kids to school. Often, truancy is a symptom of a much deeper problem, and many of the families are in desperate need of social services they cannot afford.
This grant will allow us to provide personalized assistance to the truants or their families to ensure the children get to school. This fund can be used for transportation services, therapy and coaching for the kids and their families, other services, or referrals to other providers.
The Lincoln Center’s mission statement exemplifies our county’s goal “To disrupt the cycle of poverty and trauma, empowering children and families to build strong futures.”
“We are truly grateful to the Foundation and Lincoln Child Center for joining us in this cause,” Peterson added.