At Eagle’s Haven, the first thing one sees after walking through the front door is a painting with 17 hearts, a quiet reminder of what is pulling students, parents, and neighbors into this space. The center, opened in the summer of 2019, is run by Jewish Adoption and Family Care Options, and funded through the Children’s Services Council (CSC), which channels about $100 million in taxpayer funds for services and programs to improve the lives of Broward’s children—everything from child welfare supports to school health.
“The tragedy in Parkland cut me to my core,” says Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, CSC’s chief executive officer. “As the mom of a 12-year-old who lives a mile from the school, it terrified me and still terrifies me.”
But with the tragedy in the media spotlight for so long, “there was some outrage from other parts of the community that experience gun violence on a daily basis,” Seltzer says. Where was the help and support for them? “That stopped me short.”
It put the concept of racial equity into practice in real time at CSC, one of the lead groups in the county’s dismantling racism effort. “It didn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention to what was happening in Parkland,” she adds, “but it caused us to take more of a focus on the trauma of gun violence throughout the county.”
At CSC, Parkland has had an unintended impact, transforming the agency “in a pretty fundamental way” by building into everything more attention to trauma awareness and support, Seltzer says.
One result: CSC will work with other communities experiencing high levels of violence to identify trusted partners who could operate three centers, similar in approach to Eagle’s Haven, in their neighborhoods. In addition to offering free activities such as yoga or kickboxing, Eagle’s Haven allows for interactions with trauma-trained staff who can steer students or adults to additional therapeutic support.
As with all programs and services that CSC supports, the agency tracks data and outcomes to set priorities, assess performance and drive decisions. Reflecting a commitment to accountability and continuous improvement, the agency annually publishes a budget book, covering more than 200 pages, that assesses on a contract-by-contract basis how each provider is performing.
Another new pathway to healing after Parkland has been the introduction of Mind Body Ambassador Clubs in schools. The idea started at MSD, where students, as well as teachers and administrators, have been trained in self-care techniques like deep breathing and meditation.
“I wondered, ‘How am I ever going to teach again?’” says Diane Wolk-Rogers, a history teacher at MSD. After going through training, she shared what she learned with students, staff and parents. The idea spread, and about 100 students now serve as Mind Body Ambassadors and teach calming techniques to others. Given the student support of the program at MSD, CSC wants to introduce clubs across the school district.
“I found that calm in myself,” says Wolk-Rogers. “And rather than seeing students as survivors or victims, I see them as leaders.”