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Manatee BOCC and Children's Services Board Put the Work in Work Session

Sometimes workshops don't work so well, if there is a lot of subject and as much opinion. The goal is usually to figure out a directive, an objective or a purpose, and come up with a plan. When things do go well, it looks like it did on Tuesday, when the Children's Services Advisory Board (CSAB) met with the Manatee Board of County Commissioners.

BRADENTON -- The CSAB Board is appointed by the BOCC. Their job is to tackle the chore of providing a plan that delivers all it that takes to keep the children and (or) their families in Manatee County safe and healthy -- those that have fallen through the cracks, suffering from abuse, inadequate care or duress. It is without doubt, a big job. 

Mike Neuges, CSAB's Human Service's Manager, spoke first and broke the ice. He announced some of the organization's targets, priorities and issues of funding for FY2013. CSAB developed six new "Purpose" categories: School Readiness -- Crisis Stabilization -- Family Strengthening & Support -- Maternal & Child Health -- Prevention & Redirection and Out of School Time, and Youth Development. 

CSAB broke away from its past Funding Priority List to construct a package of comprehensive and innovative programs and services designed to meet targeted issues for Manatee County's children and their families. Neuges said, "We wanted to get more out of the program." 

Jennifer Radebach, CSAB's Vice Chair, delivered a brief overview of the goals and their concerted efforts to reach them. She mentioned how all of their members came from different backgrounds and have focused their work on a broad range of categories. She explained that the statistics collected had come from site monitoring and data gathering over the years. 

There were facts, charts and collective data going back five years, covering every issue dealing with Children's Services and the individual categories within each issue. From infant mortality to graduation rate; from substance abuse to math scores, all displaying the struggles, while telling the story in numbers, percentiles and dates. 

In many cases, the numbers didn't tell a pretty picture. Abuse hotline calls were up, as was the waiting list for subsidized child care. Verified cases of child abuse were up, as well as homeless school-aged youths. On a better note, teen live births were down; so was underage drinking, delinquencies and child deaths. 

Going through all of the data in this report is sobering, and the work the CSAB is quickly revealed as ever so important. The challenge is huge, and to fail is not an option. There are few callings that measure up to that which is asked of those who run the CSAB. 

As Commissioner Michael Gallen said, "There is no other option. If the money isn't there, we'll get it from somewhere else."

Between the dedicated volunteers of the CSAB and the noble members of the BOCC, it felt good just being there. Manatee County citizens have a lot to be proud of. Sometimes workshops work.

Children's Services


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