If Senate Bill 1216/House Bill 1227 Wins, Children Lose!

By: Kathy Dunbar

FT. LAUDERDALE – Children’s Services Councils (CSCs) are a Florida success story. Defined in state statute, they are established by voters, and governed by an independent board whose sole purpose is to invest in the well being of children. In every county with an independent CSC, the voters made it clear that they want decisions made on behalf of children and families that are not mired in the distractions of the political process.

In 2000, the voters of Broward County were asked whether they approved of the creation of a local CSC. The voters overwhelmingly said YES! Even at a time of general anti-tax sentiment, they voted to tax themselves (roughly 2 cents on every dollar of property tax) to ensure a sustained investment in programs that improve the lives of children and families. Why? Because it makes sense!

Dollars spent on preventive programs, such as those funded by the CSC, ultimately build a better community and save taxpayers’ money. As an organization funded by the CSC, Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies (HMHB) Coalition of Broward County joins more than 80 other direct-service agencies implementing 130 successful programs throughout the county. CSC funds have helped reduce the county’s infant mortality rate from a high of 10.1 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1993 to 5.8 in 2008, well below the state average (7.2 per 1,000 live births). CSC funds also help to reduce the number of babies who die from Sudden Unexplained Infant Death. More than 200 pregnant and parenting teen mothers receive intensive case management services each year, and women suffering from maternal depression are served through the M.O.M.S. (Mothers Overcoming Maternal Stress) program. CSC makes sound, fiscally responsible decisions that are research-based and data driven.

SB1216/HB1227 would put CSCs on a reauthorization treadmill that, in reality, would cost taxpayers more in the long run by requiring costly elections every six years. In these tough economic times when State budget shortfalls continue to result in more cuts to health and human services, why would you jeopardize a local funding solution that has worked successfully for years?

Fundamentally changing the nature of the CSC’s is a most penny wise and pound foolish way to go about ensuring accountability. We oppose SB 1216/HB1227 and urge our legislators to do the same.

Kathy Dunbar is the Executive Director of Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County, Inc.

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