Since 2000, The Lawton Chiles Foundation has been working to unite entire communities around the goal of providing for children. The Whole Child Project in three pilot counties has laid the foundation for the creation of “Whole Child Florida” – building a stronger foundation for our children across our state by continuing our focus at the community level.
Governor Chiles understood that successful nurturing and development of all children required a dramatically new approach. An approach that:
- Starts early – before conception
- Provides continuous support to parents
- Is grounded in the family
- Is holistic, considering the physical, economic, social, cultural and spiritual environment in which the child lives
- Creates a “no wrong door” culture whereby service providers are committed to building collaborative service delivery networks instead of competitive, single strategy agencies and institutions
- Builds a partnership across all sectors of our society whose activities impinge on the lives of children
- Provides state and local government funding to ensure fairness, equity and consistent outcomes
Building on Governor Chiles’ legacy, The Lawton Chiles Foundation partnered with Manatee County and Electronic Training Solutions (ETS) to create the vision for the Whole Child Project. The Whole Child Project has had positive results and outcomes in three pilot counties including Manatee, Martin and Leon. Whole Child Florida will take this vision, philosophy and strategic framework across Florida to engage our statewide community around common goals related to children.
About Whole Child Leon
Under the leadership of State Rep. Loranne Ausley and the United Way of the Big Bend, Leon County applied to the Lawton Chiles Foundation and was designated a Whole Child community in January 2004. Since then, a cross-section of Leon County residents, including educators, medical providers, members of the faith community, business owners, parent and child advocates, and community volunteers met in small and large groups over the course of a year to establish this community’s commitment to young children, gather data on critical indicators relating to the well-being of children, and agree on a series of priority action steps to improve the outcomes for our youngest children.
Whole Child Leon is a community-wide effort to get our children off to the best start in life by ensuring they have everything they need to thrive. Families with young children often need help: some lack education, information or economic stability, or they may not know where to go for help. Even busy, two-parent, working families may struggle due to a lack of time, information or adequate child care. Other families are strained by the many demands of caring for young children or dealing with a child with special physical or emotional needs.
We cannot leave it to government or human service agencies alone to meet the needs of families. Whole Child Leon seeks to engage the entire community in a commitment to our youngest residents because we recognize their future – and ours – hinges on ensuring the best start for every child.
A growing body of research shows that the first five years of life are crucial to brain development--critical to acquire social skills necessary to grow into good citizens and to develop emotional strength and physical and mental health.
Individually, many agencies and organizations serve one dimension of the well-being of children, from immunizations to early learning programs. Embracing the idea that we must nurture the Whole Child requires the entire community working together. A child who is fully immunized, but spends the day without stimulating educational experiences will not realize his full potential. Similarly, a child who has quality child care, but an unsafe home environment may never become all she could be. Ultimately, our community will pay the price for failing to fully nurture the treasure that is our children.