By Us and For Us: A Story of Early Childhood Development Systems Change and Results in a Rural Context
Coös is New Hampshire’s largest and most rural county, bordering Canada, Maine, and Vermont. Coös has many assets, including a long-standing tradition of civic engagement that crosses socio-economic lines, beautiful natural resources, and a once-vibrant, woods-based economy. Until dairy farm and mill closures caused by the decline of the paper industry in the 1990s, generations of farmers, educators, loggers, and mill workers lived and stayed in Coös, building prosperous communities and a strong social fabric. Today the region faces challenges stemming from decades of economic decline, resulting in significant job loss and out-migration of youth. An aging demographic, high rates of substance use and domestic violence, and inadequate public funding for education also challenge the region. Median family income is 30 percent lower than the state average and one in five Coös children lives in poverty; the county suffers high unemployment (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014) and only 18 percent of adults have a college degree, compared to 35 percent statewide (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). And Coös, like all counties in New Hampshire, faces public funding constraints owing to the state’s limited tax base.