Op-Ed

Proving its value by changing families’ lives

TNS

This year marked another successful year for The Children’s Trust in which we took definite steps toward envisioning a community that provides the essential foundations for children to achieve their full potential.

I salute the efforts of our board, guided by chair Maria Alonso, to help us formulate a new strategic plan that advances the notion of collective community action to better meet the needs of children and their families. The new plan expressly recognizes that children’s healthy development rests on four foundations: social, educational, economic and environmental; each of which must be supported through the efforts funded by The Children’s Trust and many other stakeholders and institutions.

Children’s Services Councils like The Children’s Trust are among the best examples of good government. In 2014, voters from St. Lucie to Broward counties reauthorized their councils by large percentages to continue their work of advancing the well-being of children and families. At a time when many question government’s capacity to deliver, Children’s Services Councils have proven their value.

Providing social services is complex work, yet it is essential if we are to create the communities we all want.

We stress quality yet, despite that, children do not grow up in isolation in our programs. We are pleased that Jose and Mireya get homework help from excellent teachers in Trust-funded after-school programs, yet that help is not enough if, when they come home in the evening, there is no food for them to eat. When nurses treat Tommy and Esther for a rash or fever through our school HealthConnect initiative, it is not enough if their parents cannot obtain follow-up medical services.

When Tariq and Sara learn to play the violin and to mediate conflict in our youth development programs, it is not enough if the doors and windows of their homes are sprayed with bullets.

This is why we have heightened our emphasis on the whole child. Children grow up in families, neighborhoods and communities — and all of these must be consciously nurtured and supported.

As a result, in a recent series of community meetings, in trainings and in funding bidders’ conferences, we have increasingly raised the call for collaboration. We understand that greater collaboration, for reasons both institutional and individual, will not come easily. Unfortunately, a sense of the “finite pie” makes some of us guarded about change. While this concern is understandable, we cannot let it stall our larger mission to provide more opportunity for children. They are counting on us to help them succeed.

Collaboration will allow for continuing creativity and individuality, in an environment that is more financially sustainable and more programmatically successful. Together we can and will create more collective prosperity than any of us could do alone. The Trust will support this trend to collective action by providing capacity building and technical support. We will find ways to help and reward partners who work together to provide a more comprehensive network of services for children and families.

Throughout 2015 we will remain deeply engaged in our funding application process. These cyclical processes every three years require maximum dedication of staff energy and engagement — in addition to community volunteer help — to provide for the most transparent and efficient use of the public’s money.

Every child is endowed with the capacity to share some special brilliance in the world, whether that child is one with disabilities, has grown up in foster care or lives in the wealthiest or the most challenged neighborhood. We invite you to join us in envisioning a community that works together to provide the essential foundations so that more of Miami-Dade County’s children grow up to achieve their full potential.

A special thanks is owed to The Children’s Trust staff for their dedication this year; to board chair Alonso for her leadership and service and to all of the Trust’s board members. It is my good fortune, as president and CEO, to work together with so many skilled colleagues.

Charles M. Auslander is president and CEO of the The Children’s Trust.

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