The Springfield News-Leader has launched a public-service journalism project to focus public attention on critical challenges facing children, foster discussion and build on existing initiatives. You can read Executive Editor David Stoeffler's introductory column for more information on the project.

The recently created News-Leader's Every Child community advisory committee -- with representatives from the business, government, education, nonprofit, law enforcement, health and faith sectors -- will play an important role. It will educate and advise journalists and help engage other stakeholders and the general public in a discussion and, ultimately, action.

Woman escapes domestic violence to help build a better life for her son

September 16, 2013

Beth is working third shift and secretly hoarding her paychecks. She has a plan to leave, to escape. She thinks of all the things she would later tell a judge: how the man tried to kill himself in front of her and her son, how he threatened her with a knife, how he has slapped her.

Many of the foster-system reforms have helped, but some have hurt

September 16, 2013

Dominic James should have been nearing his 12th birthday by now. He should have been in middle school. He might have grown out of his habit of waving at every passing car when he was outside. Wrestling with his father would no longer be cool.

Smart recalls details of harrowing ordeal

September 16, 2013

Elizabeth Smart, abducted in Utah 10 years ago, often is asked: Are you completely healed? To arrive at an answer, she did a personal inventory. “I feel wonderful,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been happier,” she added.

At school: Parents can also star — or fail

May 14, 2013

Parental involvement is crucial to a child’s success in elementary school. Not only must parents monitor and help with homework, they have to be a stable enforcer of bedtime in the evening and out-the-door time in the morning.

Springfield's children: key statistics

May 14, 2013

Key statistics about local children reported during the News-Leader’s Every Child public service journalism project, which started more than a year ago.

'It feels never-ending'

May 12, 2013

Weller Elementary teacher Shayla Bernelis arrives an hour before the first bell.

Third grade: How are Springfield students faring?

May 12, 2013

Experts call third grade a pivotal year for children: the first year of standardized testing; the transition to the A-F grading system; applying skills instead of simply learning them.

Community leaders ready to innovate

May 5, 2013

No time to waste. That phrase came up over and over as Springfield community leaders described the urgency they feel about helping young children prepare for success in school and life.

Working to ensure consistent quality

May 4, 2013

As part of the Springfield conversation about preschool expansion, a frequent question comes up about how to ensure a consistent level of quality among different early childhood programs.

Preschool expansion had broad support

April 28, 2013

Outspoken business leaders, legislative champions and a committed advocacy community created the momentum that led to Arkansas’ major preschool expansion nearly a decade ago.

Ticket to a better life

April 28, 2013

On sign-up day each spring, parents of young children arrive at the Springdale Early Childhood Center long before the sun rises.

Preschool advice for Springfield

April 27, 2013

Those involved in the state’s preschool program — at multiple levels — offered advice to the Springfield community.

Can your 5-year-old do these things?

April 20, 2013

Based on a survey of Springfield Public Schools’ kindergarten teachers, here is what children are expected to know and be able to do on the first day of kindergarten:

Head Start braces for cuts

March 20, 2013

Fewer of the Ozarks’ neediest children will be able to enroll in Head Start next year.

Turning ideas into action

January 20, 2013

It’s time for action. It’s time to work together better. It’s time to develop a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of Springfield children. That was the pitch given last week for creating an umbrella coalition.

Act together for our kids

January 20, 2013

It is time to come together to act. Make our community a great place for kids, where every child grows up safe, happy, healthy and successful.

Families looking to a new year

December 30, 2012

In late September, News-Leader readers spent time with five Springfield families struggling to make ends meet. They were profiled in the ‘Children in Poverty’ series. They included a family living in a garage.

Improving lives

December 9, 2012

Springfield has developed a talent for pinpointing — in citizen committees, strategic plans and community reports — the most critical challenges facing its children.

Getting results

December 9, 2012

Springfield community leaders weigh in on what it would take to usher in significant changes to improve the lives of children and then sustain those changes:

Break the barriers to being a blessing

December 8, 2012

‘I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’ (Genesis 12:2 ESV) These words to Abraham serve as a reminder that those who are blessed by God are blessed to be a blessing.

Give the young self-reliance for best outcome

December 8, 2012

The year was 1969. A 13-year-old girl and her two youngest siblings came home to an empty house. This young girl was suddenly without her parents. Her mother and stepfather had run away … run away from home.

Important to open eyes to the poor

December 8, 2012

In his 1960s comic strip, ‘Pogo,’ Walt Kelly penned, ‘We have met the enemy, and they are us.’ This Pogo-ism comes to mind when I think about the real and potential roadblocks we may encounter in our local efforts to overcome poverty.

Addressing the roots of poverty is never simple

December 8, 2012

When it comes to addressing difficult challenges that face our community, the primary obstacle we face is not related to a lack of goodwill, but rather to the fundamental way we understand the nature of the problems we face.

Protecting kids fleeing difficult pasts

December 7, 2012

The story of Jacob’s House revolves around another story, said Rich Watson, assistant director for the nonprofit. It’s a story of people trying to protect a child’s innocence.

Poverty is center stage for Care to Learn

December 4, 2012

Many people could live their entire lives in the Springfield area and never see the stifling poverty engulfing children, said Morey Mechlin, executive director of Care to Learn.

Bridges for Youth: Providing love and acceptance

December 3, 2012

For children such as 15-year-old Crystal of Marshfield and others in north Springfield neighborhoods where Bridges for Youth Centers welcome them every day after school, “not enough” is in long supply.

Children must be bottom line

December 2, 2012

Lara Webb Fors is struggling to keep up with 2,300 child support cases while losing more than 16 percent of the financial support for the Springfield Regional Prosecutors’ Child Support Office.

Equipping young parents

December 2, 2012

As a high school junior, Garrett Roney could barely think beyond his weekend party plans when circumstances demanded he make a decision about the rest of his life — he and his then-girlfriend Ahna thought she may be pregnant.

Child pays in many one-parent homes

November 24, 2012

If poverty in the Ozarks is a ‘social time bomb,’ then the unencumbered growth in single-parent households is the match that lit the fuse. Parenting is difficult enough for married couples.

'Why didn't I see a sign coming?'

November 18, 2012

Trevor Reynolds has been in the ground for four months. His stepfather, charged with first-degree murder, is locked in the Greene County Jail. His mother, filled with grief and second-guesses, remains alone in the little blue house the three shared on East Livingston Street.

'In God's Care'

November 17, 2012

On July 9, a van leaves Springfield, headed southeast along the same route Trevor Reynolds’ mom took when she moved him to Springfield three years earlier. The van is carrying his body home to Alabama.

News-Leader poverty series wins top honors

November 17, 2012

The Springfield News-Leader won a special ‘Best in Show’ in the third-quarter Gannett Awards of Excellence contest for its recent series on the effects of poverty on the lives of children in the Ozarks.

'What have you done?'

November 16, 2012

A little after midnight on July 5, Trevor Reynolds dials the phone. He’s in Room 231 at the Americas Best Value Inn, at the corner of Glenstone Avenue and Kearney Street. The 14-year-old is alone and bored. Devon Earnhardt agrees to come over. Trevor catches Devon up on what happened after he left.

'A big personality'

November 14, 2012

Trevor Reynolds makes a few close friends at Pleasant View Middle School, but doesn’t feel like he fits in. He mouths off at a bus stop. He gets into a fight. A school official thinks Trevor might respond well to an alternative program, where he will receive more attention.

'He wanted her attention'

November 13, 2012

In southeast Springfield, Trevor Reynolds moves into the apartment his mother shares with Kevin Salerno, just off Sunshine Street. Falecha Reynolds takes her 11-year-old son shopping for all new clothes and shoes. He needs school supplies. She buys him the newest video games.

'He's my son'

November 12, 2012

In Springfield, Falecha Reynolds works as a cashier at Kmart and settles into a routine. She and new boyfriend Kevin Salerno are happy. She inks his name on her right shoulder. She goes shopping with his young daughter. But she misses her son. Falecha sends a pre-paid cell phone to her 9-year-old.

'A lovable little boy'

November 11, 2012

Trevor Reynolds’ mama is the first to hold him. On the first morning of Trevor’s life, she is taken by his brown eyes, soft skin and curly patch of hair. His long body reminds her of a cat. But Falecha Reynolds recognizes something in the sweetness of his face, in the shape of his head.

Cultural issues in the Ozarks

November 4, 2012

For the first nine months of the Every Child project, the News-Leader and an advisory board of community members have shined a light on issues affecting children in the community.

Kids speak

November 3, 2012

It’s easy to see bruises on a kid. It’s easy to see dirty faces, no socks, no shoes. But some things hurting kids are not so visible. Low expectations. Generations of hopelessness. Prejudice. Attitudes so ingrained they are rarely even acknowledged.

Group pursues solutions for ending poverty cycle

September 23, 2012

As the News-Leader’s special project on childhood poverty unfolded, the president and CEO of the United Way of the Ozarks developed an “emotional attachment” to the children profiled. Jennifer Kennally carried the newspaper with her to meetings last week and tacked it up.

No easy answers

September 23, 2012

If the number of additional poor people in Greene County, going back to 2001, were gathered for a symposium on how they might work their way out of poverty, no venue in southwest Missouri could hold them. Not even the Missouri State University football stadium, which seats 16,600.

A home of their own, at last

September 22, 2012

The cozy blue house with white shutters is so small only a loveseat will fit in the living room. A queen mattress fills most of the floor space in the smaller bedroom. But none of that matters to Loriebell Cork and her three young children.

No normal

September 22, 2012

Loni Brewer remembers what it was like to feel out of place and unsure as a child, to believe everyone around you just knows: That you’re different. That your family isn’t like everyone else’s. That you’re poor.

Families share their plans and hopes for the future

September 22, 2012

For the past week, you’ve had a glimpse into the lives of several Springfield families struggling with everyday issues - housing, clothing, food, transportation and the peace of mind that comes with knowing the children are safe and happy.

We need the will to combat poverty

September 22, 2012

The old proverb says it best: Where there’s a will, there’s a way. When it comes to addressing the issues of poverty in our community, my belief is that leaders here generally know the way.

Readers offer families food, clothes, help

September 22, 2012

Hours after Sue Ann Cantwell read about how the children of two families “doubled up” in a center city house were surviving on little food this summer, she loaded up her car with bags of groceries.

Not in Springfield

September 22, 2012

The problems of poverty — nationally and locally — may seem overwhelming. But the solutions start with you. Act now to express your outrage over the conditions being experienced by a growing number of children in the Ozarks.

Life on the move takes its toll

September 21, 2012

It’s been hard for Brice Barnett to find peace. The 22-year-old Parkview High graduate was born here, lived all over and then returned four years ago. A childhood of instability — and poverty — left him living on the streets of Springfield.

No peace

September 20, 2012

Shelby and Ellie Ammerman know they’ll be OK as long as they have their mom. They’ve seen one obstacle after another crop up. Each time, their mother finds a way around, over or under. Carmen is proud the girls are resilient and optimistic, even when the outlook is bleak.

No car

September 19, 2012

When 11-year-old Ellie Ammerman asked to enroll in a center-city middle school because of its rigorous academic program, her mom’s heart sank just a little.

No food

September 18, 2012

A fourth-grader getting off the noon bus from summer school is handed a bowl of macaroni and cheese, the instant kind out of the blue box. The noodles were boiled, and the powdery cheese mix was added, but without the benefit of milk or butter. Those ran out days earlier.

No shoes

September 17, 2012

Ashley Kelly beamed as she talked about how her dad took her to the store, let her pick out seven outfits and told her to take them all to the register. It was his treat. So how much did he spend? “About $30 bucks,” she said.

No home

September 16, 2012

They take turns sleeping next to their mom on a fold-out couch pushed against the cement block wall and on a covered loveseat nearby. A lamp, plugged into the wall near the makeshift bed, stays on to keep the roaches at bay. The flies are everywhere.

Poverty has children here in its grasp

September 16, 2012

We all can get a bit nostalgic in thinking about our childhood days. Even memories of hardships can fade with time. I am sure that my older siblings could tell you stories about how I was the ‘baby’ of the family, the youngest of seven and probably always

Families in poverty seeking better lives

September 15, 2012

In the week ahead, you’ll get to know more about these families and how they struggle every day to give their children what it takes for them to be safe and happy. But first, let’s introduce them to you

‘It’s not as simple as you think it is’

September 15, 2012

“The vast majority are doing the best they can. They’re trying. There have been a few … that I felt like ‘What are you doing to help yourself? You could be doing so much more,’” said Brooke Ash, social worker with the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.

No way to live

September 15, 2012

All over Springfield, families are scraping to get by, and children bear the brunt of the impact. Poverty is a thief, robbing children of what they require to thrive.

State neglecting children

June 30, 2012

If the state of Missouri were a parent, it might be rightly charged with neglect. In what has become an all-too-familiar story, we learn once again how the state is failing in its duty to properly and quickly investigate child abuse and neglect reports.

Every Child continues to teach

June 23, 2012

It was the kind of photo that made you want to turn your head away, or simply turn the page. Published with a story Feb. 5 as part of our Every Child series, the picture conjured up thoughts of starving children in faraway Third World countries.

Habits for good dental health start early

June 18, 2012

Parents may not realize it, but in this area, sweet tea and juice seem to be contributing to cavities, said Nick Hein, a dentist at the The Children’s Smile Center in Ozark.

Read the nutrition labels, go for variety

June 16, 2012

If you give kids the opportunity to make healthy choices, they often do, said Allison Halter, a nurse at a local school that has implemented a fresh garden bar. The children at St.

Poor nutrition in childhood can lead to lifelong health problems

June 16, 2012

Angela Jenkins has seen firsthand the effects of poor nutrition on children in the Ozarks. Within the past year, Jenkins, a registered dietitian at CoxHealth, had as a patient a toddler with metabolic syndrome, a precursor to Type II diabetes.

Grants, volunteers lift Heart of the Ozarks

May 27, 2012

Heart of the Ozarks was founded in 2004 by Philip Wilson. At that time, Dayspring Church operated a food bank and Christmas program but couldn’t sustain them, so Wilson offered to take those programs over and fold them into Heart of the Ozarks.

Nutritious options don't have to cost much

May 26, 2012

Many low-income families struggle to feed their families healthy food when they’re on a tight budget. But there are nutritious buys for less than $1 a serving and many are 50 cents a serving (less than a candy bar).

Keep kids safe from common risks

May 26, 2012

Twenty-five children die every day in the United States from injuries from drowning, falls, fires or burns, poisoning, suffocation, and transportation-related injuries. Think about it, one entire classroom of children dies every day from injuries.

Program puts focus on importance of healthful foods

May 26, 2012

Sometimes we need to rethink and relearn what we should be eating, says Torrie Bedell, mother and stepmother of four. This realization came after Bedell went through Family First, a pilot program under the nonprofit Heart of the Ozarks.

Program puts focus on importance of healthful foods

May 26, 2012

Sometimes we need to rethink and relearn what we should be eating, says Torrie Bedell, mother and stepmother of four. This realization came after Bedell went through Family First, a pilot program under the nonprofit Heart of the Ozarks.

Nutritious options don't have to cost much

May 26, 2012

Many low-income families struggle to feed their families healthy food when they’re on a tight budget. But there are nutritious buys for less than $1 a serving and many are 50 cents a serving (less than a candy bar).

Parents as Teachers pays dividends

May 19, 2012

The Mayor’s Commission for Children is a citizen advisory board with the purpose of studying the needs of young children in our community.

Shortcomings must be met

May 13, 2012

In a community that prides itself on being a “great place to raise kids,” we have plenty to crow about, and plenty to fix. The state of mental health care, especially for children, offers us both opportunities.

Survivor: It's hard to ask for help

May 6, 2012

Dawn Rodman was a cutter. There’s a scar on her left arm and multiple scars on her right leg above her knee. Sometimes Dawn, now 22, would cut herself with a buck knife, going as deep as an inch. Sometimes she used a piece of glass.

Care funding comes, goes

May 6, 2012

Burrell Behavioral Health partnered with Springfield Public Schools for four years to provide mental health counseling in the schools to at-risk students.

The basic skills for kindergarten

April 29, 2012

Springtime signals a new beginning for many things. Nearly two thousand families in Springfield will have a kindergartener to get ready for school this fall.

Grant for asthma care runs out in '13

April 21, 2012

Children in Springfield Public Schools miss more school days for asthma than any other health condition. The district’s experience is representative of problems nationwide, said Jean Grabeel, the district’s coordinator of health services.

Medicaid coverage is no guarantee of care

April 21, 2012

Adults on Medicaid in Missouri have to be blind, pregnant or in a nursing home to qualify for dental care. It’s better for children. The federal government requires dental coverage for children on Medicaid in Missouri and other states.

Abusers work to find victims

April 13, 2012

The truth of the matter is, many adults who prey on children for sexual gratification are smart. They know where they’ll be trusted. They know who will look the other way. They know the kids who won’t tell.

Knowledge helps curb child abuse

April 7, 2012

Nearly 10 years ago, Community Partnership was looked to for help in developing a coordinated mandated reporter training for Greene County.

Community school concept excites many

March 31, 2012

Twice in the past 12 years, families at Robberson Elementary fought just to keep the school doors open. They successfully defeated efforts to close the landlocked, three-story building on busy Kearney Street, just a block west of National Avenue.

Schools are the life of the neighborhood

March 31, 2012

Much higher test scores. Happy kids who are excited to learn. Supportive parents involved in decision-making. That’s what “community schools” have achieved in some of Tulsa’s poorest neighborhoods. Now, Springfield hopes it can happen here.

Tulsa-Springfield connection continues

March 31, 2012

Years before Springfield school officials went to Tulsa to look at the “community school” concept, Tulsa was looking to Springfield for inspiration.

Principal foresees a successful future for Robberson

March 31, 2012

Kevin Huffman talks about Robberson Elementary as “my school” and the students there as “my kids.” He has been the Robberson principal for 16 years, the longest stretch any current Springfield principal has been at a building.

Greene County juvenile officer's job a balancing act

March 24, 2012

Every juvenile who ends up under Morgan Galloway’s supervision has committed a sexual offense. As the sole Greene County juvenile probation officer for “sexually harmful youth,” she manages 30-35 open cases at any given time.

About 80 youth on confidential registry

March 24, 2012

State law requires Greene County to maintain a registry of juveniles who have committed the most serious sex offenses. But unlike the adult registry, it’s not accessible to the public.

Parents key to Informed Supervision initiative

March 24, 2012

Greene County wants to improve the way it works with “sexually harmful youth” by expanding its Informed Supervision initiative and providing more support for families.

A big embrace

March 18, 2012

Feb. 23 was a big day for Zoe. But while her new family celebrated her adoption, she was far more interested in animal crackers. At 2 years old, sugar is a lot more exciting than a courtroom and a guy in a robe.

Working to keep children in their homes by helping families

February 26, 2012

Maribeth Primm has been known to wash cockroaches out of her hair because of her job. She’s pulled up carpet that’s been matted to the ground with dog urine. Her work? Helping families keep their children from being removed by the state.

Woman overcoming meth abuse for her kids

February 26, 2012

Jennifer Daly thought at first that meth made her a better mom. She wasn’t depressed all the time and had the energy to take her two children to the park or on walks. That was before the arrest … before her two children were taken away …

Children exposed to meth

February 25, 2012

Police went to a south Springfield house earlier this month to check on the welfare of an 80-year-old woman. What they say they found were two boys, ages 4 and 6, the elderly woman’s great-grandsons, living in a house filled with old food and trash.

From drug user, dealer to mentor

February 25, 2012

The phone call comes from a Springfield principal. It shakes Lulu Washington. Jacquline is in trouble. Someone from the school will be bringing the 15-year-old home. Lulu waits at the front gate of her yard.

Now is the time to confront abuse

February 18, 2012

Most of us have a hard enough time making a plan for the next year — so it’s difficult to imagine making a plan that might need to span two or three generations.

A lifetime of healing

February 6, 2012

Long after the scars have healed, broken bones have mended and the situation has been remedied, the long term effects of child abuse remain. “It really is a healing process over a lifetime,” says Lisa Ellsworth, who counsels adults at The Victim Center in Springfield.

Working hard toward child abuse prevention

February 5, 2012

It began as a very simple idea: Why don’t we prepare future parents for what we know they’ll face? Tantrums will come. Frustration with a baby’s constant crying is inevitable. Junior is not always going to be fun or cute.

A duty to report child abuse, neglect

February 5, 2012

A recent examination by USA TODAY found few states prosecuting adults who are mandated to report evidence of child abuse but fail to do so. That seems to not be the case in the Ozarks.

Abuse prevention resources

February 5, 2012

The Victim Center education programs 819 N. Boonville Ave. Springfield, MO 65802 (417) 863-7273 http://www.thevictim Melinda Vacey leads age-appropriate educational programs for children and adults on child physical and sexual abuse.


February 5, 2012

Detective Fred Beck sits in the back of the mostly empty courtroom and watches as the man in the striped uniform is brought in. Beck thinks about the first time he saw the man, about a year before.

Know what to do in case of abuse

February 4, 2012

Q. What is abuse? A. “Abuse” is any physical injury, sexual abuse or emotional abuse inflicted on a child, other than by accidental means, by those responsible for the child’s care, custody and control,” EXCEPT:

The hidden, but all too prevalent, world of neglected kids

February 4, 2012

The first time Brooke Clarkson met the 4-year-old boy, he weighed 19.6 pounds. He couldn’t talk. Four years later, he still can’t — save for a few small words. “He said my name one time, and I completely lost it,” Clarkson said.

Should everyone be a mandated reporter?

February 4, 2012

A Missouri senator and the state’s attorney general have pushed for new legislation to make any adult who witnesses sexual abuse against a child a mandated reporter. Sen.

Children advocates speak out

February 4, 2012

norm Ridder Superintendent, Springfield Public Schools “I believe the answer to your question is that both — there is a high (incidence) of child abuse and Greene County experiences a high volume of abuse reports.” Denise Bredfeldt Executive Director, May

How to help end child abuse

February 4, 2012

The Child Advocacy Center 1033 E. Walnut Springfield 65806 (417) 831-2327 Donations can be made to The Child Advocacy Center in Springfield online at

Children's play can show the way to heal

January 14, 2012

Child therapist Kelley Jones’ playroom at The Victim Center has the usual assortment of children’s toys … a feather boa … a kitchen playset.

Man warns teens about addiction

November 5, 2011

Springfield fifth-graders learned about meth in March in a program sponsored by the the Southeast Rotary Club of Springfield.

Schools search for solution

November 4, 2011

Hunger and a lack of food was ranked No. 1 on a survey of Springfield students’ most pressing needs.