In many ways, India Welch, 16, is your typical teenager – she likes watching TV, playing computer games and hanging out with friends. But in other ways, she is very unlike most teens today: She knows she’s not immortal, and that doesn’t scare her.
“I’ve learned death can be a joyful thing,” says India, a sophomore at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg. “It can be a good thing and not scary. Hospice has made me appreciate life more. It has made me more caring and loving to people.”
For two years, India has been part of Hospice Youth Providing Encouragement (HYPE), a teen volunteer program that is part of Hospice of the Florida Suncoast and is supported by the Eckerd Family Foundation.
In North Carolina, youth in the child welfare system can elect to stay in care until 21, but many choose to leave at 18, facing challenges in finding their own housing, health care and means of living. Statistically, they are at risk of ending up homeless, in dead-end jobs and without health insurance.
Beginning in May 2008, the Presbyterian Home for Children aims to prevent that trend from becoming a reality for 20 youths through a new Independent Living Program. The $1.4 million project, of which the Eckerd Family Foundation is providing 11 percent, includes the construction of a new building comprised of three- to four-bedroom suites with shared kitchens and living rooms.
“The need is so great,” said Tom Campbell, president of the Presbyterian Home for Children. “If we are successful, we want to become a model program.”
In his first State of the State address on March 6, new Governor Charlie Crist (R) said he would support the creation of a Florida Children’s Cabinet. The governor’s endorsement adds to the growing support for a Children and Youth Cabinet, which would guide state policy and practice on issues affecting Florida’s children, particularly on ensuring that children have access to continued services from prenatal care through the transition to adulthood. A bill to create such a cabinet is moving through the state legislature.
“We must raise the profile of all children’s issues, from education to health,” Crist said in his speech before the state legislature. “As stewards of this state, our greatest obligation is to our children. But often it is their voice that goes unheard, or overlooked.”
The push for a state Children’s Cabinet grew out of the Florida Children’s Summit, which brought together more than 1,000 community leaders, policy makers and advocates last October and which was supported by the Eckerd Family Foundation. The Children and Youth Cabinet, made up of 15 members from various youth-related agencies and advocacy groups, would ensure that state agencies and programs work collaboratively and holistically to improve young lives.
children need a voice. They need to be at the table because soon—it
will be their table,” Crist said. “Our children must
be our first priority.”
The Eckerd Family Foundation’s effort to encourage a new mission statement for Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) recently took a major step forward. Walt McNeil, Governor Crist’s new director of DJJ, recently told a Florida House committee that he wants a new mission statement that goes beyond the current statement’s exclusive focus on public protection. The new statement, he said, should reflect a balanced approach of strong prevention, effective intervention, reliable treatment, and appropriate punishment. McNeil has released draft language of a new DJJ mission, vision, and guiding principles for citizen and stakeholder comment. Read DJJ’s proposed mission statement and send your comments directly to Secretary McNeil. Comments about the revised mission, vision and guiding principles will be accepted through April 6th. DJJ staff will take your comments into consideration when drafting the final language. In 2006, the Eckerd Family Foundation sponsored a statewide public opinion poll and roundtables facilitated by Children’s Campaign, Inc., that generated a proposed mission, vision and core principles for consideration by DJJ and other policy-makers. Those statewide discussions generated a proposed mission and vision statement consistent with Secretary’s McNeil’s language. For additional information about juvenile justice issues, go the Children’s Campaign web site at www.iamforkids.org.
The Eckerd Family Foundation released a new overview paper supporting juvenile civil citations as an innovative approach to disciplining young offenders while keeping them out of the juvenile justice system. Authorized by Florida law, civil citations are meant for youth under age 18 who have committed non-serious, delinquent offenses. In such situations, trained law enforcement officers can choose to either issue a civil citation or arrest the young offender. An officer must believe a civil citation is sufficient to prevent further violations. Unlike other procedures, a citation holds young offenders responsible for their actions through community service without creating an arrest record. This approach also includes family participation as well as mental health and substance abuse screening. Leon County has used civil citations successfully, and the foundation supports use of this procedure elsewhere in Florida. To learn more about civil citations, please read our paper, Appropriate Punishment: Civil Citations for Juvenile Misbehavior
The Eckerd Family Foundation has created two useful guides for students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to find out about available financial assistance for college. The Guide to Scholarship Opportunities is a list of 25 Florida and national scholarships based on either merit or need. The Guide to State Opportunities for Youth from Foster Care is a complete list of states that offer tuition waivers or financial assistance to youth who have been in foster care. Both are posted on our web site at www.eckerdfamilyfoundation.org. Please distribute them widely.
early March, the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative board
of trustees met in Tampa, home of Connected by 25, a program funded
by the Eckerd Family Foundation to help young people who “age
out” of foster care at age 18 make successful transitions
to adulthood. Tampa became an Initiative site in 2005. The Initiative
is a national foundation focused solely on helping communities assist
older youth in foster care make successful transitions to adulthood.
Connected by 25 of Hillsborough County connects these vulnerable
young people to education, employment, housing, banks and support
systems by age 25. About 75 young people in Tampa, for instance,
opened bank accounts at Washington Mutual Bank, so they could participate
in the Opportunity Passport™ program aimed at helping youth
from foster care become economically self-sufficient. The teens
completed classes in which they have learned about bank accounts,
budgeting and setting financial goals. The Jim Casey board heard
about the continuing success of Cby 25 in Hillsborough County as
well as the work begun in Brevard and Pinellas County. Don Winstead,
deputy secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families
shared the changes that are occurring across the state as a result
of Cby25 and the National Governors Association Institute on Youth
Transitioning from Foster Care. The Jim Casey board was impressed
with Cby25’s and Florida’s work, and one trustee later
said: “Tampa offered a compelling picture of why we are doing
The Eckerd Family Foundation is committed to promoting meaningful and lasting change to transform the lives of vulnerable youth and their families. The foundation's mission provides leadership and support for innovative educational, preventative, therapeutic and rehabilitative programs for children, youth and their families. The foundation awarded these new grants in February:
Bar Association Center on Children and the Law
Project–Tampa Bay; Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA
for Youth Justice
of the Florida Suncoast