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Thursday, August 16, 2018

One of 2018’s Four Great Living Cincinnatians is Your Neighbor!

A Feature of Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?  
By Cynthia Smith

It’s no wonder Judith B. Van Ginkel was named a Great Living Cincinnatian in February. The mystery is why it took so long for her to receive the honor.
Since moving to Wyoming in 1964, Van Ginkel has served in a long list of leadership roles around Greater Cincinnati. She
led successful levy campaigns for Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Drake Center, and University of Cincinnati Hospital, 
spearheaded the turnaround of Drake Center, and obtained funding to start the medical incubator BIOSTART, 
chaired the boards of WGUC/WVXU, Hoxworth, and the Cincinnatus Association,
served on the boards of Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, United Way of Greater Cincinnati, the International Visitors Council, Thinkronize, Inc., and three startups, and
was named Woman of the Year in 1997, and a Career Woman of Achievement in 2003. 

Never one to rest on her laurels, at age 60 Van Ginkel became the founding president of Every Child Succeeds (ECS), which has since provided 700,000 home visits to ensure an optimal start for high-risk children from birth to age three. 
For this work, Van Ginkel earned the Purpose Prize in 2010, which honors innovators across America ages 60 and older who tackle challenging social issues in their encore careers. She donated the $100,000 prize to ECS.

Judith during a photo shoot in the Every Child Succeeds office at Children’s Hospital Medical Center upon winning the Purpose Prize in 2010.
It Started with a Book
ECS came about because of a book. Procter and Gamble’s John Pepper (also a Wyoming resident) read a Pulitzer Prize-winning book called Inside the Brain by Ronald Kotulak in 1998, which explained why babies need more than warmth and diaper changes. He came to United Way, where Van Ginkel was a board member, and challenged the agency to address the issue of early childhood brain development locally. 
Pepper provided a loaned executive from Procter and Gamble. Leading the team, Van Ginkel looked at best practices across the country, then approached Children’s to partner. The hospital agreed, as long as the program had a strong research and evaluation component. The Cincinnati-Hamilton Community Action Agency was selected as a third partner, and ECS opened its doors in 1999. 

Helping At-Risk, First-Time Moms Gives Babies a Better Chance
Van Ginkel outlines how ECS works. “We send 70 trained home visitors to see over 1,600 families two-four times each per month. They focus on brain development, providing parenting guidance, and bonding assistance. Moms can stay in the program until their babies are three years old. The program is free and voluntary. We assume everyone wants to be a good parent, then build on their strengths. Importantly, the home visitor and mom develop a good relationship.”

Over the years, Van Ginkel has never stopped being impressed with the resilience of the moms ECS serves. “They are very busy and have lot of stresses, such as being single, poor, and young. They are sometimes unable to access prenatal care, and/or may have a history of substance abuse or domestic violence. 
“But in spite of it all, with a little guidance, they and their babies can thrive.” ECS has served 27,000 families since its founding. Robust research has shown great outcomes, and the program is considered one of the best of its kind in the nation.” 

Judith Van Ginkel visiting Every Child Succeeds participants.
Learning and Growing
Within the first year or two, it became obvious to ECS’s home visitors that clinical depression left over half the ECS moms little to give to their babies. Van Ginkel and fellow Wyomingite Dr. Robert Ammerman, ECS’s scientific director, developed a new offering called Moving Beyond Depression. In this program, a therapist makes up to 15 home visits, separate from the home visits to help the baby, to address the mother’s depression. 
Moving Beyond Depression became so successful, it has been sold to 10 other states. “It’s an example of how we are able to learn and improve the program,” notes Van Ginkel. 

Van Ginkel with family and friends at the 2018 Great Living Cincinnatians ceremony, standing left to right: Tim Miller, M.D. (son-in-law), Don Mooney (son-in-law), Judith Van Ginkel, Leigh Levy (daughter), David Van Ginkel, M.D. (husband), Marilyn Thomas (47-year neighbor), Louise Cullen (niece); seated left to right: Jennifer Mooney (daughter), Dr. Norman Thomas (47-year neighbor) and Nancy Miller (stepdaughter).
A Public-Private Partnership
Expectant moms find ECS through their doctors, at prenatal clinics, or through social services. Children’s has the management contract, and services are delivered through 10 social service agencies under ECS supervision. The agencies employ the home visitors—usually former social workers, child development specialists, or teachers—who receive 90 hours of training to start and more later. Home visitors are paid, and each has a caseload of 25 families. They see about three families each day. 
“It’s a very collaborative program,” shares Van Ginkel, “delivering two state-level efforts; in Ohio we are part of Help Me Grow; in Kentucky, the program is called HANDS. We enhance what Help Me Grow and HANDS offer with a literacy curriculum, Moving Beyond Depression, and trauma-informed care, which is special training to help home visitors manage crisis situations. 
The home visitors coordinate the social services that each mom needs or wants. “They try to keep it from being so fragmented,” Van Ginkel explains. “There are so many issues: housing, Medicaid, school, jobs.”
In Kentucky, funding comes from Medicaid; in Ohio it comes from the general revenue fund. United Way provides additional support.
“Funding is always a challenge,” notes Van Ginkel with a sigh. “We only serve 20% of eligible families.” ECS’s 2018 budget is $9 million. 

A Family of Pediatricians
When she was a child growing up in Charleston, West Virginia, Van Ginkel went with her doctor-father on house calls. Her husband David is also a retired pediatrician. With degrees in English, health planning/public administration, and political science/public administration, Van Ginkel is now a professor of pediatrics at Children’s. Her teaching style is interactive. “Residents at the hospital come see us to learn about what we are doing at ECS so they can understand patients better,” she says.

Wyoming: “An Extraordinary Community”
Van Ginkel and her family originally lived on Fleming, then moved to Oliver Court in 1971. Her daughters grew up here and still consider friends they made at Wyoming High to be their best friends. Her older daughter, Jennifer Mooney, and Jennifer’s husband Don live in Clifton. Younger daughter Leigh Levy lives in Chicago.
“Wyoming is an extraordinary example of what a community can be,” says Van Ginkel. “That’s been true from the day we moved here. It may be considered old-fashioned, but what resonates is that people care for each other. There’s something remarkable about going out for a walk and seeing people you know. You can stop in at Robby the Tailor, the Pastry Shop, or Half Day Café and see friends. 
“One of the problems of the 21st century is isolation. People live far from their nuclear family. Wyoming creates a sense of family. When you don’t have children in the schools, it grows into something different, but equally comfortable and welcoming. 
“Wyoming feels like home. When you go away and drive back in, it feels right. In the fall, drive up Reily Road; it glows!” 

Judith Van Ginkel visiting Every Child Succeeds participant.
From Data to Policy
She hopes the new science about brain development will translate into governmental policies that support our youngest children more. “Children are our future. If you don’t accept that they need help on emotional grounds, there is scientific evidence that what happens in the first days, months, and years of life affect a person forever. 
“People with a good start become contributing citizens. Those who have six or more traumatic episodes in their young lives are likely to be less productive, have worse health, more brushes with the law, and life expectancies up to 20 years lower than average. What a waste!
“Damage happens at the cellular level, in the immune system. If we can get the early part of life right, it pays off for both the individual and society.”

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