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Celebrating 10 years of helping out families

caines | 1/17/2013, 4:30 a.m.

The Childrens Trust marks its 10th anniversary by looking back on the impact it has made on the lives of children and families across Miami-Dade County. Thanks to the tenacity of my predecessor and founding Board Chair, David Lawrence Jr., voters in our community voted in 2002 to tax themselves for children and then reaffirmed that commitment in 2008 with an astonishing margin of victory never seen before or since, said Maria Alonso, chair of The Childrens Trust Board of Directors. It shows what a generous community we really are and thats something I often hear as I travel around the state. The Childrens Trust has sought to earn the public trust as worthy stewards of their hard-earned money and has done so by seeking data-driven results and by following the highest standards of ethics and transparency. Its diverse 33-member board is intentionally representative of the many players and organizations that serve children and families in M-DC and work to achieve systemic change. Before its first grant award in the summer of 2004, the landscape was quite different. Quality summer camps were unaffordable for most working-class families; the summer option was essentially remedial instruction offered by public schools for students at risk of failing. After-school care was a way to pass the time until mom or dad finished work; and there was little or no assessment of childrens progress in these programs. Teens uninvolved in school sports or clubs had precious few other opportunities for healthy engagement and artistic expression. Teen pregnancy was on the rise, and young men prone to risky behavior frequently suffered run-ins with the law. School administrative staff were too often charged with deciding whether a student feeling ill should be sent home or return to class. One in five, or 110,000, M-DC children under 18 were uninsured. Organized efforts to infuse early child care with educational standards were few; more than six in 10 youngsters were not ready to enter kindergarten. Parenting classes for the most part meant an intervention for when a parent, child or youth had gotten into trouble. While our commitment has always been to serve all children, we also have been committed to investing most heavily in those neighborhoods and communities where our most vulnerable children live and where there are concentrations of violence and crime, school failure, and poor health outcomes, said Modesto E. Abety-Gutierrez, president and CEO of The Childrens Trust. Things have truly changed, and, while The Childrens Trust cannot take full credit, its role as an agent of change has been significant. Its focus on more universal programming has made after-school and summer programs available to far more families than ever before and these programs are more engaging, educational, and results-driven. It has greatly expanded opportunities for children with special needs by insisting upon inclusion as a condition of Trust funding. Miami Times staff report