Monday, April 29, 2013
Laurie Dozier: Whole Child Leon is a Tallahassee success story
By: Laurie Dozier, III
The Shelter ... suffering oyster beds ... Boston ... disappointing news abounds. But so, too, does good news.
me share with you one of our community’s special attributes, right up
there with being known for the cleanest energy and the finest parks and
recreation: Whole Child Leon.
years ago, Whole Child was the answer to the United Way of the Big
Bend’s challenge to our community to figure out how best to address the
root causes of the expanding social needs that we must continually fund.
The previous year’s study had concluded that preparing our children to
enter kindergarten ready to succeed was the single greatest investment
we could undertake. Whole Child’s immediate vision became, “Imagine a
community where everyone works together in order that our children 0-5
Whole Child is the overarching coordinator and advocate of the services
available to help our children be physically, spiritually, socially and
emotionally healthy. Study after study has demonstrated that
investments made in serving children 0-5 will return significant savings
to future taxpayer-supported services. President Obama made mention of
this fact in his recent State of the Union address, and Mimi Graham made
the same compelling argument in a recent My View in the Tallahassee Democrat.
Whole Child’s minimal staff is communications central for more than 60
agencies serving children and families and promotes community
initiatives while maintaining the Whole Child Connection website, which
matches those with needs to service providers. Additionally, the staff
helps coordinate multitudes of volunteers for initiatives, such as the community wide developmental screenings that have provided hundreds of
thousands of dollars in free critical services, promoting the nationally
important 95210 initiative that Executive Director Courtney Atkins
branded locally and introduced to early learning centers and families
with young children, and the Spiritual Foundation and Strength Action
Team’s wonderfully uplifting CD that goes home with newborns. (These
age-appropriate selections were “donated” by local musicians and locally
produced by Pete Winter.)
It is important to understand that Whole Child is not just for those
among us who are most often thought of as less affluent and in need of
social services; Whole Child is for every beginning family.
we have moved from imagining a community where everyone works together
in order that our children may thrive to building that community, we are
adding to that list of assets that make us special. As a strong
advocate of investing in our community through the sales tax initiatives
that support our schools and infrastructure projects, I can’t stop
thinking of how little it costs to run Whole Child versus the hundreds
of millions of dollars in sales tax projects, and I wonder if Whole
Child should be sustained by one of these initiatives. (Whole Child was
embraced early on by the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce as a
tool in advancing our region’s quality of life and attracting economic
development, and family-friendly business practice has become a
recognized asset when ranking nominees for the coveted Chamber awards.)
of Whole Child include the Leon County School Board, which has provided
offices and continuing guidance, the city and county commissions, the
United Way, the Tallahassee Democrat, WCTV, the Lawton Chiles
Foundation and, most significantly, the entire provider network where
services are delivered every day.
the 16 members of the Steering Committee are chair Angel Trejo,
founding chair Loranne Ausley, County Commissioner Kristin Dozier, the Democrat’s
Bob Gabordi, WCTV’s Shonda Knight, business leaders Tracey Cohen and
Brooke Hallock, infant advocate Dr. Ed Holifield and parent advocate
excited as I am about Whole Child’s positive impact, I believe there is
so much more our community could do to better prepare our children to
enter school. So, as Whole Child Leon transitions to an independent
501(c)3, I ask that you refresh your knowledge by visiting
wholechildleon.org, that you become an ambassador by thanking our local
elected officials for their continued support and by being an advocate
and that you encourage your places of business and fellowship to help
all our children thrive.
importantly, urge anyone you know who is considering pregnancy, is
pregnant or has a child under 5 to take advantage of one of our great
community assets — Whole Child Leon.
Good news indeed.