Miami-Dade Hosts a Summit Aimed at Improving Children's Lives

Conference on a plan to provide children with healthy education, and nurturing needs

The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation (ECIF) held a planning meeting for a new initiative in Miami-Dade County to develop a comprehensive system of interventions addressing the health and developmental needs of the area's preschool children.

While numerous interventions for infants and children had been launched in the county, the projects were often disconnected and lacked commitment from the community.

The ECIF is a child advocacy organization headed by David Lawrence, Jr., the former publisher of the Miami Herald.

Key Results

  • At the request of the Miami-Dade Mayor, Alex Penelas, ECIF convened 177 Miami-Dade County parents, community leaders, school administrators, and government officials for 2½ days in May 1999 to identify objectives for the initiative seeking grassroots public support.
  • The meeting participants developed a strategic plan covering four areas of public concern:
    • Early development and education.
    • Child health and well-being.
    • Parent and family skills, services and information.
    • And prevention of and intervention in child abuse, neglect, and family violence.
  • After the planning meeting, ECIF staff elicited community input about the strategic plan at 21 neighborhood forums, attended by hundreds of county residents.

The forums, along with the planning meeting, formed the basis for the September 1999 Mayor's Children's Summit, hosted by Mayor Penelas and attended by 4,500 community residents, including parents, teachers, nurses, doctors, judges, and political leaders.

At the summit, funded with $351,000 from other funders, participants voted for three priorities in each of the four areas of the strategic plan. Task forces and leaders (co-chairs) were announced at the summit.

After the summit, task force members began pursuing priorities under the auspices of the Miami-Dade School Readiness Coalition, one of 57 state-mandated local coalitions that have stewardship over state health and education funds for child-care programs.

    Strategic Plan Area #1: Early Development and Education

    • Provide parents and caregivers with the information and skills needed for early stimulation, essential to learning and development.
    • Increase the quality of early care and education programs and meet the diverse needs of families and communities.
    • Improve care and education programs by increasing the educational requirements of the early childhood work force.

  • Strategic Plan Area #2: Child Health and Well-Being: Meet the health needs of all children, particularly those who are uninsured and underserved, through the provision of the following:
    • A medical home for every child.
    • Preventive health services.
    • Mental/behavioral health, developmental, and other specialized services.
  • Strategic Plan Area #3: Parent and Family Skills, Services and Information
    • Support early care and education programs that involve parents in educating their children.
    • Enhance training and compensation for providers of parent-family support services.
    • Create and provide a middle-school curriculum on child development, brain development, and the importance of a nurturing, safe, and interactive home environment.
  • Strategic Plan Area #4: Prevention of and Intervention in Child Abuse, Neglect, and Family Violence
    • Develop training for all professionals who work with children (including early care providers, teachers, and law enforcement officials) on how to identify and report potential child abuse and neglect.
    • Provide screening to all pregnant women to determine whether they may be at risk for child abuse and neglect and/or domestic violence, and make available comprehensive in-home interventions.
    • Provide community-based and accessible parenting education that is appropriate for families from diverse cultures and that focuses on conflict resolution.

At the end of the grant, ECIF continued to work on the priorities identified during the project, raising $1.5 million.

ECIF's work encompassed the following:

  • An inventory of all early childhood services in the community.
  • A telephone survey of 2,000 Miami-Dade parents who were expecting a child, or had a child age five or younger, to learn about their needs and desires for services.
  • And a three-year advertising campaign in English, Spanish, and Creole to build public awareness and interest in accredited child care, child nutrition, and immunization.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported this project with a grant of $50,000 from May 1999 to September 1999.

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