MIAMI — Effective July 1, and taking another step in implementing a philosophy drawing its roots from the success of the nationally acclaimed Harlem Children’s Zone, Florida has created a statewide coalition of communities focused on improving the lives of children. Advocates, however, already are celebrating the Florida Children’s Initiative (FCI).
Sponsored by state Sen. Audrey Gibson and state Rep. Reggie Fullwood, the FCI was unanimously passed by the state Senate and House of Representatives during the 2013 legislative session, and has been signed by Gov. Rick Scott, forming a collaboration between Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami to advocate for those in the neediest neighborhoods.
In 2008, Florida Statute 409.147, sponsored by then-state Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall and the late state Sen. Larcenia Bullard, encouraged communities in Florida to work collaboratively with government, private and public sectors to establish a process that clearly identifies severely disadvantaged areas and provides guidance for developing a new social service approach to systematically coordinates programs that address the critical needs of children and their families.
The new legislation (HB 411/SB 1322 Children’s Initiatives) amends that statute, which established the Miami Children’s Initiative (MCI) in Liberty City, to include Parramore Kidz Zone in Orlando and the New Town Success Zone in Jacksonville.
Each initiative is focused primarily on children receiving the education, services, and opportunities they need to be successful, and creating and sustaining prosperous, communities.
“The successful passage of HB 411/SB 1322 indicates that the entire state of Florida recognize that all children are within our reach,” said Miami-Dade School Board member Bendross-Mindingall. “This we must continue to provide a safe haven for them. Thanks to the 2013 Florida Legislature … for knowing that our children deserve the best and it is our charge to provide it.”
The Miami Children’s Initiative recently held a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for its first Community Space for the children and parents residing in Liberty City.
The festive June 10 occasion included sounds from the African Cultural Arts Center’s Liberty City Drumline, an Invocation from Pastor Tanya Jackson of New Mount Moriah Baptist Church in Liberty City, officials representing the Liberty City area, supporters, service providers and families.
The new MCI Community Space, once an empty four-bedroom apartment within the Annie Coleman Garden Apartments, has been converted into a safe learning place for children and families. More than 60 volunteers assisted in crafting a welcoming, child-friendly and accessible space.
The unit includes a living room for families to gather and connect with each other. The children’s play room, with a library, colorful rug, small bean bag and chairs, games and art supplies, is a room that children never want to leave, officials said, adding that the goal of the library is to have children take books home and create their own library. Another room has been converted into a teen computer room.
The two additional rooms will be used to conduct one-on-one counseling, group workshops, training, life skills classes (financial, health and wellness, parenting, etc.) and much more. The outside has been beautified with flowers, plants and colorful trash cans. From exterior to the interior, officials say, the space should make anyone who walks by want to enter and learn.
For more on the Miami Children’s Initiative, call 305-636-2227 or visit miamichildrensinitiative.org
•Picture State Rep. Reggie Fullwood, left, Miami-Dade School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall and State Sen. Dwight Bullard celebrate the passage of HB 411/SB 1322 Children’s Initiatives during the 2013 Legislative Session.