Florida International University

Health officials are scrambling to move forward on a program intended to bring kindergarten-to-college educational, developmental and health care programs to Liberty City children and youth.

The Miami-Dade County Commission approved the program in May, and now comes a complex process to turn the Miami Children’s Initiative into a fact on the ground.

“We are moving towards incorporation, and doing all the things to get up and running,” said Irene Taylor Wooten, special assistant for social services for Miami-Dade County Manager George Burgess.

According to Wooten, more clear and definitive answers about how things will proceed will be available after a meeting on July 20 with the Tallahassee-based Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida, the partnership in charge of managing the initiative.

The Florida Legislature has authorized similar children’s initiatives throughout the state, as well as a process to identify neighborhoods in which they would be based. The legislation allocated $3.6 million to pay for the first three years of the Miami program.

The project will be based in the state Department of Children and Families, and managed by the OPFF, the 20-year-old  public-private partnership that supports community-based programs for at-risk children and their families.

Local officials are scheduled to meet with OPFF later this month, Wooten said.

The initiative is modeled after the successful Harlem Children’s Zone in New York. That program serves more than 17,000 children, providing them, as well as their parents, with developmental and educational programs from childbirth to adulthood.