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Tisha Edwards, head of new Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success, starts listening tour of Baltimore

Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the newly created Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success are hosting community design sessions in each of Baltimore's 14 council districts, as well as a citywide design session facilitated by youth leaders. The city is shown, with City Hall and the Shot Tower, in this file photo.
Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the newly created Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success are hosting community design sessions in each of Baltimore's 14 council districts, as well as a citywide design session facilitated by youth leaders. The city is shown, with City Hall and the Shot Tower, in this file photo. (Jerry Jackson / Baltimore Sun)

Former interim Baltimore schools CEO Tisha Edwards, now the director of Mayor Bernard C. “Jack" Young’s new Office of Children and Family Success, has begun a listening tour of the city to hear ideas for how to best ensure kids thrive in Baltimore.

“Baltimore needs hope and Baltimore needs activation,” Edwards said in an interview. “This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for our city.”

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The Democratic mayor and Edwards are holding listening sessions, called “community collaboration design sessions," in each of the 14 City Council districts. The meetings are scheduled throughout August and September.

“We’re trying to get our kids from pouring into the prison system by offering other types of activities,” Young said Wednesday at his weekly news conference. “We’re looking at squeegee kids, we’re looking at a whole host of things.”

The Board of Estimates, the city’s spending board, voted Wednesday to grant the office an exemption from city ethics rules so it can raise money for children’s programs.

At his weekly news conference, the mayor pushed back on a question about whether the office should have received the ethics exemption, given the recent audit of the city’s Youth and Children’s Fund that found the organization hired to run it didn’t have sufficient records to demonstrate that it allocated a previous round of funding in a way that was “fair and transparent.”

The audit came after it was disclosed that the organization, Associated Black Charities, raised money to buy copies of former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh’s “Healthy Holly” books. Because of the audit and a ransomware attack on the city, Associated Black Charities has been delayed in issuing $12 million from the fund to nonprofit groups that help children.

Young noted that the Office of Children and Family Success is separate from the fund.

“The youth fund is for nonprofits to decide what they want to do, not what I want to do, or what you want to do,” Young said. “It’s what they want to do.”

Bloomberg Associates, a consultancy that aims to help cities around the world improve residents’ quality of life, helped the city create the structure for the Office of Children and Family Success meetings, said Lester Davis, a spokesman for Young. There is no additional cost to the city budget, Davis said.

“I believe that everything we need for success is right here in Baltimore. We don’t have a resource problem in Baltimore," Edwards said. "We have a leadership challenge.”

Edwards’ office is also offering an online questionnaire to survey residents on designing a strategy for the new wing of city government.

Feedback from the sessions and the survey will be used to write a strategic plan for the office, with a goal of releasing a plan by the end of the year.

Edwards also previously served as former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh’s chief of staff and CEO of BridgeEdU, which aims to help teenagers access higher education. She also has been a school principal.

The schedule of Edwards’ upcoming community meetings, which run from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., is below. Locations will announced as they are determined.

  • Aug. 22 – Council District 9, UM Bio Park Auditorium, 801 W. Baltimore St., 21201
  • Aug. 27 – Council District 3
  • Aug. 28 – Council District 12
  • Aug. 29 – Council District 7
  • Sept. 3 – Council District 11
  • Sept. 4 – Council District 8
  • Sept. 5 – Council District 4, 5225 York Road, 21212
  • Sept. 17 – Council District 6
  • Sept. 18 – Council District 13
  • Sept. 19 – Council District 5
  • Sept. 24 – Council District 14
  • Sept. 25 - Council District 2
  • Sept. 26 – Council District 10
  • Oct. 17 – Tentative citywide youth session

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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