Janet McCabe, executive director of Improving Kids' Environment (IKE), has been tapped by the Obama administration to become principal deputy administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection (EPA) Agency Office of Air and Radiation. IKE, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary as Indiana's leading advocate and educational source for healthy environments for children, is seeking a new executive director to lead the organization into its next decade.
IKE works to prevent lead poisoning and reduce asthma in children and promote healthy homes, schools and childcare facilities. IKE's general approach is to work within current systems to bring about important policy changes that protect children.
With the support of its board of directors and a cadre of volunteers and contractors, IKE works with stakeholders that include elected officials, government staff, businesses and other public interest organizations to find solutions that work. IKE maintains a Web site, publishes a newsletter, participates in numerous workgroups and committees, hosts the annual Indiana Lead-Safe and Healthy Homes Conference, conducts action-oriented research and supports legislative and regulatory efforts.
IKE was established 10 years ago by Tom Neltner, an environmental engineer and attorney with experience in the private and government sectors, to work exclusively on environmental threats to children's health, especially lead-based paint and combined sewer overflows. In 2005, Neltner moved on to the National Center for Healthy Housing in Washington, D.C. McCabe, an attorney and former air director at the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, became IKE's new executive director. McCabe added a greater focus on air quality issues and lead in toys.
Marc Lame, IKE board member and professor at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said this about the search for a new executive director: "Based on IKE's history as a scientifically savvy and objective children's environmental health advocacy organization, we are looking for an individual who can understand and communicate environmental management concepts such that decision makers can reduce environmental risks to our children. No doubt, this individual will also have the skills to manage a non-profit organization with an increasingly national profile."
Ongoing IKE projects include:
- Providing access to information on children's environmental health through its Web site, newsletter and annual lead safe and healthy homes conference;
- Providing expertise on lead poisoning, its prevention and regulation, including participation in the Lead Safe and Healthy Homes Task Force;
- Selectively tracking legislation, ordinances, rules or policies that impact children's environmental health, including advocacy and stakeholder group participation;
- Partnering with the Martindale-Brightwood Environmental Justice Collaborative (MBEJC) under a U.S. EPA Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) grant to identify and address environmental health hazards in the Martindale-Brightwood neighborhood; and
- Using an EPA grant to assist county health departments drafting or updating lead ordinances.
IKE's key achievements in the last 10 years include:
- Developing the Indy Urban Pesticide Initiative to focus its efforts to reduce exposure to pests and pesticides;
- Helping to pass a Right-to-Know rule in Indiana requiring public notification when sewer overflows are likely to occur;
- Spurring a national recall of children's jewelry tainted by lead;
- Launching "Smart Schools Don't Idle" program; and
- Helping to pass the Indiana Lead Poisoning Prevention Act of 2008.
IKE celebrated its 10th anniversary on Nov. 4 at a gala at the Indianapolis Children's Museum. The event included presentation of a new scholarship named for long-time board member and past president Richard Van Frank to an outstanding public health student, Colleen McCormick (IUPUI); screening of a new lead-based-paint video produced by IKE in partnership with WFYI; and entertainment by the Indianapolis Children's Choir.
Kathryn Watson is an environmental attorney in Indianapolis and a board member of IKE since 2007. She can be reached at .