Florida's Healthy Families Facing Funding Cuts

The Healthy Families program has helped nearly 23,000 at-risk families stay free of abuse and neglect since 1999. Lawmakers are talking about chopping the funding for Healthy Families in half.

The Healthy Families program reaches out to thousands of at-risk parents like single mom Nicki Jackson every year, teaching them skills like patience and understanding.

The goal is preventing child abuse before it ever starts. Healthy Families boasts a 98 percent success rate, and Gov. Jeb Bush was not happy to learn lawmakers are talking about slashing its budget.

Gov. Jeb Bush says, “I’m not sure what the rationale was for that, because Healthy Families has done a darn good job. We’ve expanded it under my tenure and will continue to advocate for it.”

Jeb Bush was hoping to put $28 million into Healthy Families this year, but the Legislature has proposed cutting the funding in half.

Rep. Lorraine Ausley calls the move short-sighted.

Rep. Lorraine Ausley, (D) Tallahassee, says, “In the case of healthy families, a proven program that really has helped reduce child abuse and help those at-risk parents be good parents, we need to be finding the money for these types of programs.”

The problem Healthy Families is paid for with what’s called non-recurring dollars, money that has no funding source of its own and has to be fought for every year.

This happens to be children’s week at the state Capitol. That’s what all the little handprints signify. Supporters hope lawmakers keep kids in mind when the final numbers come out for the Healthy Families budget.

Sen. Durrell Peaded says first the House and Senate have to hash out a compromise.

Sen. Durrell Peaden, (R) Crestview, says, “There’s always areas that we might augment just a little or bring the cut, lessen the cut. Some of the state’s youngest residents are depending on it.”

Healthy Families serves parents in 53 counties around the state. Parents are referred by medical providers and community organizations like Healthy Start. You can call 1-800-FLA-LOVE for more information.