As we reflect on 15 years of service to children and families in Miami-Dade County, it’s important to take stock of how much has changed.
Because voters created The Children’s Trust in 2002, hundreds of thousands of children have benefited from previously unaffordable high-quality after-school, summer camp and youth enrichment programs. All use evidence-based practices and regularly assess and report student progress. For parents, they provide peace of mind. For students, they are a home away from home — a safe space to get academic support and exposure to athletic, artistic, technological and a host of other opportunities.
Students are now treated by health professionals at more than half the county’s public schools with physical, behavioral, oral health and vision services funded by The Children’s Trust. Children with disabilities — whom every Trust-funded program is required to accommodate — have joined their typically developing peers in a wide range of inclusive settings, where children and youth of every ability enjoy programs together while making lifelong friends. We have become a partner to parents, providing support and counseling to help them get through tough times and learn how to be their child’s best first teacher. And hundreds of childcare providers have embraced quality standards by joining our Quality Counts initiative, resulting in better qualified teachers and improved learning environments.
We have learned that collaboration is the key to making big leaps forward. New partnerships with Miami-Dade County and Miami-Dade County Public Schools are mapping out viable strategies to reduce youth gun violence in our neighborhoods, and are providing thousands of students with valuable paid summer internships.
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We’ve shown small nonprofit organizations that serve children and families how to improve their business practices and leverage Trust funding, so they may serve even more people in need. And we’ve worked with supporters and collaborators at the neighborhood level to help them organize and connect to critical resources, so they can change their communities for the better.
The results are clear and precise. Through combined efforts with key partners, the teen birth rate is way down and so are juvenile arrest rates. Substance abuse has also decreased, while high school graduation rates are up.
We hold the public trust close to our hearts, which is why we take our fiscal stewardship seriously. Our diverse board of directors has always emphasized fairness, transparency, accountability and results. Since our inception, 570,000 children, youth, parents and caregivers have benefited from direct social service programs as a result of the investments made, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of others served through the Trust-funded 211 helpline, as well as our community outreach and public awareness efforts.
We want the residents of Miami-Dade County to take pride in everything we’ve accomplished these past 15 years, and to continue to support us in future endeavors on behalf of children and families.
Laurie Weiss Nuell is board chair and James R. Haj is president and CEO of The Children’s Trust.