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In 2007, the children of Shelby County, Tennessee were in crisis. So much so, that it was making national news: 30 percent of Tennessee’s children lived in Shelby County, and 50 percent of them were born into poverty each year. Additionally, in that same year it was also reported that 15 percent of births were to teenage mothers, 15 percent of students dropped out of high school, and the infant mortality rate for the county was at 13 percent (a rate even higher than Mississippi, the state with the worst infant mortality rate at the time at 10.32%).

With Shelby County’s children very visibly suffering, elected officials began to draw a critical connection—by ignoring the risk factors and policies affecting children they were not only hurting kids, but in turn depleting the investment for Shelby County’s future. In 2008, local child advocates and elected officials joined together to better protect Shelby County’s children by establishing an office on early childhood and youth. This new entity was given the directive to create an instrument to develop child impact statements in order to measure the effects of public policies on children.

Now, what exactly is a child impact statement? Perhaps it’s best described in the words of Shelby County’s Office of Early Childhood and Youth:

“Child Impact Statements are designed to improve the quality of information available to Shelby County decision makers. Oftentimes, political decisions are influenced by more than objective information. It is important, therefore, that policy-makers fully understand the consequences – the costs, benefits and distributional effects – of their decisions.”

Soon after the establishment of the Shelby Country Office of Early Childhood and Youth, the Child Impact Statement Report System (CISRS) was commissioned and developed. CISRS is a web based tool that helps users generate child impact statements, which in turn enables policy decisions to be made more easily with child well-being in mind. Initially this may sounds simpler than you think, but CISRS allows policymakers and staff to drill down into the intricate details of how a policy effects environmental and public safety, health, family income, and education. Recently, Shelby County Office of Early Childhood and Youth blogged about their new video , explaining the use and importance of child impact assessments:

We applaud the incredible work that the Shelby Country Office of Early Childhood and Youth is doing to make children a priority in local policy-making decisions.

For more information on The Shelby County Child Impact Assessment: