United Way releases report: ‘Are the Children Well?’

By Tiffani Johnson

United Way of Waco-McLennan County is releasing a child well-being report. It is a research study to support the improvement of well-being for McLennan County’s children and families.

The McLennan County Child Well-being Movement is facilitated by United Way and is a partnership of 25 organizations or local residents. Collectively, this movement has identified community priorities to measure the well-being of children and their families. The research has found that roughly 14,000 McLennan County children are believed to be living in communities with low or very low child-well being scores.

Over the past seven months, the Child Well-being Movement has surveyed or interviewed over 600 parents, direct service providers, community members, stakeholders, and advisory committee members in an effort to better understand the child well-being landscape. This includes residents of varying race ethnicity and zip codes within McLennan County.

“The most striking theme we saw from the community conversations is that there are a number of underrepresented communities that have vanished from civic conversations as some have come to believe that their voice is unwelcomed”, stated Tiffani Johnson, senior director of impact and engagement. “The Movement is committed to championing the inclusion of residents within these communities to take part in decision making affecting their health and well-being.”

The organization’s CEO, Wendy Ellis, stated: “We want to extend our sincere thanks to Waco Foundation for funding this work, and for their initial first steps taken with the 2009 Childhood Quality of Life Index report.  There is a long-term, demonstrated commitment from this community at-large to truly understand how our children and their families are faring. Our production of this 2020 report is just one step in the journey. We will now move into the next phase of the work, which is to invite those who lent their voice for this research back to the table so that we can collectively build our community’s action plan.”  

The City of Waco is one entity that has had a seat at the table from this work’s inception. Deputy City Manager Deidra Emerson said: “COVID has only compounded the disparities and inequities in our communities of low or very low child well-being scores. The City applauds the McLennan County Child Well-being Movement’s effort to truly listen to what the communities have to say. If we are going to implement sustainable change, we need to give sincere credence to the voices of those we seek to serve.” 

To learn more about the research findings and key partnerships, visit www.unitedwaywaco.org

United Way of Waco-McLennan County strengthens the community by mobilizing resources to measurably improve lives. We envision a community where all people have the education, health and financial stability needed to achieve their full potential.

Tiffani Johnson is senior director of impact and engagement for United Way of Waco-McLennan County.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].

Tiffani Johnson enjoys Waco & its people

By Erianne Lewis

On any given day, Tiffani Johnson could be found doing something to enrich the Waco community, whether through her job at United Way or in her free time as a Wacoan.

Tiffani Johnson

Johnson, senior director of impact and engagement for United Way of Waco-McLennan County, has held this position with United Way since January 2018. After graduating from college, Johnson was undecided on what she wanted to pursue — due to her various interests — so she decided to serve in the Marine Corps for four years. 

“It was one of the most gratifying experiences and has greatly contributed to the person I am today, the leader I am today,” Johnson said.

Not only does Johnson care for the city, but she cares for the people within the community. Prior to working with United Way, Johnson worked for the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District and as a teacher in Waco Independent School District. She became teary-eyed when reminiscing on her days as a teacher in WISD. 

Her work with United Way, “allows me to do that work in a different way” with health and education. “But I am still able to connect with the community again to understand what it is that the community wants,” Johnson said. “To help convene local people to make sure that we can begin to help support families in a way that will benefit them and help them to thrive in the county.”

The complexities of Johnson’s position cause every day to be a different experience, which she said that she enjoys.

“There isn’t really a normal day, which I’m excited about,” Johnson said. “I think what draws me to the community is that no day looks the same.”

Johnson has lived in Waco for the last 17 years, having lived in major cities beforehand. She said she enjoys that the people of Waco are unlike people in other cities; they have a strong willingness to dream.

“I think the people of Waco have a vision for who we can be and where we can be, and I see people working towards that, that’s exciting,” Johnson said. “I continue to see people from various communities across the county come together.”

Johnson said she spends her time off enjoying Waco’s outdoors or being with family.

“My favorite places are really outdoors. If it’s not hanging at home with my kids, which is my absolute favorite place, it is being somewhere near water. If I can go sit by Lake Waco at Woodway Park, I will do that,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s love of Waco is evident in the way she lights up when speaking about it. One of the many things she enjoys about Waco is how accessible community leaders are, Johnson said. 

“[They are] really open minded, and they are of one accord about how we can make greater change here,” Johnson said.

Johnson said she tries to use her job to help the people of Waco to feel appreciated and loved. 

“It’s vitally important to me that there is an avenue with which people from various communities and neighborhoods throughout Waco can speak how they feel. They can speak their aspirations for what they want this community to be,” Johnson said.

Erianne Lewis is a freshman journalism major at Baylor University and hopes to work in print journalism after college.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email Ferrell Foster at [email protected].