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State Leaders and Advocates gather at Capitol for Florida children
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today, parents, volunteers, advocates and lawmakers came together at the Capitol for Children’s Week. Since its 1998 inception, the initiative of the United Way of Florida has served as a platform to address topics impacting Florida’s children. With an emphasis on children’s health and well-being, the event recognizes that every person in the state can play a role in ensuring children are ready to learn, achieve and reach their potential.
Florida continues to make strides towards strengthening the health and well-being of Florida’s children through increased access to affordable health care, education and resources that encourage healthy behaviors, and programs that serve as a voice for vulnerable populations.
“Today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, so we must do all that we can to help them put their healthiest foot forward in life,” said the Chief Financial Officer of the State of Florida and longstanding Healthy Kids champion Jeff Atwater. “Healthy kids can channel their energy to school, sports, family and friends, and I’m proud to support today’s efforts for healthier Florida families.”
Florida KidCare, the state’s affordable health and dental insurance for kids from birth through the end of age 18, provides access to the preventive services children need at each stage of growth and development. This year marks a celebratory milestone for the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, a Florida KidCare program and longstanding Children’s Week partner.
“I am proud to represent Florida Healthy Kids as we celebrate our 25th anniversary,” said Florida Healthy Kids Corporation Board Chair Designee Wendy Link. “It is our mission to offer unparalleled child-centered insurance covering medical, dental, vision, behavioral health and much more.”
Enhanced access to affordable preventive care and health-related resources helps ensure children experience healthier childhoods, which can, in turn, lead to enriched school performance, long-term educational success and increased economic output and productivity.
“Ensuring that all children and families have an equitable chance of achieving their greatest potential health is essential for every community in Florida,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Celeste Philip. “From our efforts to give infants their best start in life to our dental sealant program to our school health initiatives, the Florida Department of Health strives to make optimal health a reality for children and families statewide. We are proud to join other state and local agencies, community organizations and other partners for Children’s Week, as we work together to create healthier futures for Floridians.”
Children’s Week serves as a rallying reminder for the state to keep the best interests of its children in mind, especially children who are most vulnerable. Advocates from all over the state fill the capitol to share personal stories of advocacy and consider legislation that can impact the lives of children and families.
“Those of us present today are linked by a common desire to improve the lives of Florida’s children,” said Alan Abramowitz, Statewide Executive Director of Guardian ad Litem. “As a child advocate, I am amazed by the power of one: one volunteer, one organization, one counselor, one news story. There are so many ways to contribute during Children’s Week and year-round.”
“This event reminds us of the need to prioritize initiatives that improve the self-sufficiency, safety, health and quality of life of our state’s children,” said Chair of the Florida Children and Youth Cabinet and nationally recognized leader in juvenile justice Wansley Walters. “Together, these partners that surround us are overcoming challenges and accomplishing that goal.”
Children’s Week includes a series of engaging, educational, and child-centered activities designed to raise awareness about children’s services and needs. Activities kicked off on Sunday, March 26 with the traditional “Hanging of the Hands.”
“Each of these set of hands should serve as a powerful visual that represents a child whose life can be made better through policy decisions of the legislature,” said Chief Child Advocate and Director of Adoption and Child Protection Zackary Gibson. “The overwhelming collaboration of all Children’s Week partners is a testament that children are being seen and heard.”
Most events took place today at the State Capitol Courtyard, including the Children’s Week Press Conference. Child advocates had the opportunity to voice their support for enhancing programs and improving the lives of youth in our state. Among the speakers was Department of Juvenile Justice Secretary, Christina Daly.
“It is important we do our very best for all youth,” said Christina Daly, Secretary of the Department of Juvenile Justice. “Their personal, inspiring stories remind us that we can come together in big and small ways to make a positive difference in the lives of Florida’s children, and that means we all succeed.”
This year, thousands of parents, volunteers, advocates, lawmakers and children were present at the Capitol to participate in the historical celebration.
“I am inspired by the advocates, volunteers and lawmakers who have gathered to serve as a powerful voice for Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Ted Granger, Executive Director for the United Way of Florida. “My hope is that we can use the momentum created here to commit to making a difference in the lives of our children and future leaders year-round.”
For more information including a full list of Children’s Week events and activities at the Capitol, visit childrensweek.org.
About Children’s Week
Children's Week - a special annual celebration filled with joyful singing voices of young children, the colourful "Hanging of Hands,” and the dedication of thousands of child advocates across Florida, captures the true spirit and commitment Florida has made to our children and youth.
About United Way of Florida
Established in 1980, the United Way of Florida exists to serve Florida’s 32 local United Ways. Those United Ways are the lynchpins in efforts to improve the quality of life in their communities. The mission of the United Way of Florida is to enhance Florida United Ways’ efforts to increase the organized capacity of people to care for one another.
About Florida KidCare
Florida KidCare provides health and dental care coverage to Florida children from birth through the end of age 18. Most enrolled families pay nothing at all for coverage, and many families pay just $15 or $20 per month. Monthly premiums depend on household size and income. Families that don’t qualify for subsidized coverage can pursue the full-pay option. Benefits include doctor visits, check-ups, immunizations, emergencies, surgeries, prescriptions, dental coverage and more. Coverage is available year-round at www.floridakidcare.org.
About Florida Healthy Kids Corporation
Florida Healthy Kids offers comprehensive, affordable, child-centered health and dental insurance for children ages 5 through 18. Florida Healthy Kids coverage, available through both subsidized and full-pay options, includes immunizations, doctor visits, dental care, emergency care, hospital stays and more. Coverage can be purchased for as little as $15 or $20 a month and can be applied for year-round at healthykids.org. This year, Florida Healthy Kids celebrates a milestone anniversary: 25 years of insuring Florida’s children.
About Florida Department of Health
The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.
About Florida Department of Juvenile Justice
The mission of the Department of Juvenile Justice is to increase public safety by reducing juvenile delinquency through effective prevention, intervention and treatment services that strengthen families and turn around the lives of troubled youth.
About Florida Guardian Ad Litem
The Florida Guardian ad Litem Program vision is that it will continue to be a powerful and effective voice advocating for the best interests of Florida’s abused, abandoned and neglected children and be recognized and respected as a partnership of community advocates and professional staff. To the fullest extent possible, this vision will be realized through volunteers who will advocate as Guardians ad Litem for the children they serve.
About the Children and Youth Cabinet
The Children and Youth Cabinet is charged with promoting and implementing collaboration, creativity, increased efficiency, information sharing and improved service delivery between and within state agencies and organizations. The Cabinet’s vision is that all children in Florida grow up safe, healthy, educated and prepared to meet their full potential.
About the Office of Adoption and Child Protection
The Office of Adoption and Child Protection is responsible for establishing a comprehensive statewide approach for the promotion of adoption, support for adoptive families and prevention of child abuse, abandonment and neglect. The Office serves as the Governor’s liaison with agencies, governments and the public on matters that relate to these areas, and cultivates public and private support for statewide public awareness campaigns. Additionally, the Office administers the Florida Faith-Based and Community-Based Advisory Council whose mission is to facilitate connections to strengthen communities and families in Florida.