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Community Advocate Jack Levine Educates Local Kiwanis Club

Man in suit jack

On Monday, August 30, local child advocate and Founder of the 4Generations Institute, Jack Levine, addressed the Capital City Kiwanis Club on the latest happenings with the Children’s Services Council of Leon County. His presentation provided history of the CSC movement locally and across the state, as well as addressed the governance structure of the Council, what it hopes to levy in terms of local taxes, and its recently adopted priorities. Below are the remarks provided by Mr. Levine (printed here with his permission).

Dynamic programming does not just happen. Ideas turn into actions and then outcomes. That is the story of Florida’s Children’s Services Councils. 

Jack Levine

In 1946, WWII veterans coming back to Pinellas Country (St. Petersburg and  Clearwater) were concerned about the lack of resources available to children. Judge Lincoln Bogue went to state legislators to create a Juvenile Welfare Board for Pinellas County only. The Florida Legislature approved it as a local bill, and local voters approved by 70% to create the Juvenile Welfare Board.

Forty years later, in 1986, leaders in Palm Beach County including Florida Senate President Harry Johnston learned about the Pinellas County JWB, and asked “What about our county?” Advised by a diverse group of child advocates, rather than passing a local bill for just Palm Beach County, made it a general bill and the name was changed to Children’s Services Council (CSC) so all counties can choose to go through the referendum process to create their own local CSC. 

From 1986-2008, Broward, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Martin, and St. Lucie passed CSC referenda. There was a hiatus for CSCs, as the economy struggled, until Alachua passed a referendum in 2018.

The Honorable Jon Sjostrom, the 2nd Judicial Circuit Chief Judge, lead a two-year process of learning what other counties were doing with their CSC’s resulting in the unanimous decision by the Leon County Commission to put the issue on the November,  2020 ballot. Leon County voters approved their CSC by 67%, well over the 50% majority needed.  Escambia County (Pensacola) also established their CSC in November, 2020.

By state statute, five members are appointed by Governor DeSantis, five are designated because of their professional/community positions: Superintendent of Schools, a school board member, a county commissioner, a circuit judge, and a representative of the Dept. of Children and Families.  Judge Sjostrom was elected as Chairman.

In order to organize the many tasks necessary to establish operations of the Leon CSC, the Council contracted with Ted Granger, retired President of the United Way of Florida.

Ted quickly set a process to develop a meetings calendar, hire a legal advisor and accounting firm, as well as contracting with an operations manager (Holly McPhail).

State Statute caps the assessments at .5 millage, but the Leon CSC has established the first year’s millage assessment at .375 millage, which is about $7.6 million. To put that into perspective, all 11 CSCs statewide have a capacity of $420 million. These dollars cannot supplant state mandated services, only supplement. 

To move forward to establish a strategic plan for operations and program development, a contract for a comprehensive needs assessment over a 5-month period will be launched in September with the full report delivered in March or early April .

In addition, the Council has advertised for applications for hiring an executive director, a position which will likely be filled in November.

Pending the next six months of organizational activity and needs assessment, the Leon CSC has decided on several priority areas:

Success in School and Life (school readiness and school age supports);

Healthy Children, Youth and Families (physical and mental health);

Stable and Nurturing Families and Community (youth development, food stability, housing stability, and supporting and recruiting/expanding caregivers).

To learn more about the Leon CSC, including names/affiliations of Council members and meetings schedule, visit https://cscleon.org