Veronda Bell got involved with Florida’s Healthy Families program when she became pregnant with her second child. She says the abuse and neglect prevention program taught her to be a better mom.
“How to handle anger if you're mad, how to talk to your child, how to teach them certain things, spend time with them, things that I wouldn't have known when I first had my older son,” says Veronda.
Florida has made real progress in preventing child abuse and neglect through programs like Healthy Families, but advocates say the state could be doing a lot more.
The annual kids count survey shows Florida rising two notches to 34th in the nation in areas that affect child health and safety, but that's still in the bottom third. Voices for Florida’s Children President, Jack Levine, says at 18th in the nation in per capita income, Florida can afford to put more money into prevention programs.
“What this legislature did with its "living within its means" language is telling most families that have needs that they have to put those needs off for another year or two until we get bold enough to put a budget on the table that is suitable,” says Jack.
On the job less than a year. Department of Children and Families Secretary, Jerry Regier, he has a better idea now what he's up against.
“Next year they're saying it's going to be a tough budget year. We're approaching this from two standpoints. One is from a funding standpoint and one is from an operational standpoint and I think by focusing on both we'll see a better result,” says Regier.
Advocates hope he's right. The health and happiness of thousands of Florida’s kids depend on it. Voices for Florida’s Children wants Gov. Jeb Bush to use some of the nearly $1 billion Florida is getting this year from the federal government to offset some of the cuts to children's programs.
For more information on the kids count annual survey, log on to www.aecf.org and click on the kids count tab at the top of the page.