Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry Wednesday announced his plan to consolidate the city’s two major child-welfare programs and focus on those most in need.
Curry, a former Florida Republican Party chairman and self-described fiscal conservative, said a decade ago he changed some of his views on government intervention after meeting a 93-year-old Lakeland woman who was caring for six children.
“You often look back and see things you didn’t see,” he said Wednesday. “I was reflecting on where I am today, in a full recognition that I didn’t know then that government has a role in making sure at-hope kids — not ‘at-risk,’ they’re ‘at-hope’ — do not fall through the cracks.”
Curry wants to create the Kids Hope Alliance: The Jacksonville Partnership for Children, Youth and Families by combining the crime-fighting program Jax Journey and child-welfare entity the Jacksonville Children’s Commission.
Both distribute money to partners that provide everything from juvenile justice interventions to free and reduced-price lunches. Curry said summer camps and after-school programs, early learning, pre-teen and teen initiatives will all continue to be funded and administered through the Alliance.
The mayor said the Journey and JCC will be phased out over the next six months, with a possible extra three months of transition time.
He said he wants the Alliance to lean heavily on evidence-based solutions, using data to scrap programs that aren’t working and shore up those that are. He’s also calling for the city to follow kids’ progress more closely.
“Five years from now, any member of this City Council should be able to ask the CEO of that organization, ‘I want to see the list of kids that came in five years ago, and I want to see the track and where they are today,’” he said.
Curry’s proposing the new entity be governed by a seven-member board who would select its CEO and other officers. The Alliance would have the same combined budget of its predecessors — $36 million.
That number doesn’t include close to $2 million Curry had to allocate for summer camps and after-school programs in danger of closing last month and earlier this week. Curry said those “stop-gap” measures are separate from his proposed consolidation.
“We identified that there was appropriated dollars sitting in the Children’s Commission that weren’t being used for any specific purpose at that time. So, we said, ‘Fund after-school programs,’” he said.
A bill creating the Kids Hope Alliance is set to easily pass City Council, with 14 of 19 members’ pledging to co-sponsor legislation.
Curry said the measure would be filed Wednesday. As of this story’s publishing, a bill has not appeared on the city’s website.