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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Programs Target Improving Economic Security for Missouri Families

Man working from home and taking care of his daughter.
Green Miles/Ljiljana - stock.adobe.com
About 227,000 Missouri kids live in poverty.

Part Three of a Three-Part Series on Community Partnerships in Missouri

Missouri has made strides in recent years when it comes to the economic stability of families, but advocates stressed there is more work to be done.

Missouri ranks 18th for economic well-being in the latest Kids Count Data Book, which also shows a drop in the child poverty rate from 21% in 2012 to 17% in 2020.

Melissa Stickel, executive director of the Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri, said their programs focus on reducing poverty by helping people attain the skills needed to earn a stable, supportive income.

"Whether that's through on-the-job training, formal education, technical training, or even college; we want people to be on this trajectory of self-sufficiency," Stickel explained. "Often times that's directly related to their ability to have skilled employment."

The rate of unemployed Missouri parents also dropped over the past decade from 7% to 3%. Stickel added because affordable housing is also a building block of economic stability, they are working to close gaps in the community through rental assistance and housing development initiatives.

As a member of the Missouri Family and Community Trust -- Missouri's Kids Count partner -- Stickel pointed out data drives the mission of the Community Partnership of Southeast Missouri. She pointed out it is a symbiotic relationship, where organizations work to strengthen each other, and the clients they serve.

"If there's a gap in this community we want to make sure that it gets filled, it doesn't have to be filled by our organization," Stickel observed. "Oftentimes, we aren't afraid to fill that gap if nobody else is filling it. You don't often see that in other organizations."

Stickel added their success is driven by the passion, diversity, and lived experience of its workers.

"We have a staff full of people who often have experienced homelessness or lived in poverty and have gotten to a place where they're able to back and help other people who have been in their situation," Stickel emphasized. "I think that makes us pretty special."

She noted they are leading the state in the number of father's employed through its Every Day Dad program, and there are over 30 people in their SkillUp program, which assists low-income individuals who lack skills related to a job.

Mary'Schuermann' Kuhlman is an Ohio-based broadcast journalist who joined the Public News Service team in 2008. Previous experience includes radio news reporting and anchoring for WHIO-AM in Dayton and WTAM 1100 in Cleveland. She’s produced hundreds of stories across the country for PNS over the years, served as an assignment editor and helped launch the PNS Daily Newscast in 2012. Mary currently covers beats in Ohio and other Midwestern states, and co-anchors 2021Talks, a PNS newscast tracking politics and elections.