Chances are you know someone whose life has changed because of Children’s Home Society of Florida. Whether woven within the fabric of a family created through the loving act of adoption or the pomp and circumstance of a first-generation high school graduate, Children’s Home Society of Florida’s 120-year legacy is deeply braided into Jacksonville’s history.

Established in 1902, before the invention of the Model T. Ford, bubble gum or the Band-Aid, Children’s Home Society of Florida was founded in Jacksonville as a child welfare society to provide loving homes for children and to strengthen families going through tough times.

From this single orphanage grew a movement devoted to meeting the greatest needs facing Florida’s children, families and communities. Throughout its first two decades, the society became a foremost leader in children’s issues. It leveraged influence to secure rights and welfare laws for children nationwide, including the development of U.S. compulsory education and child labor laws.

Walt Disney World opened in 1971, it was affectionately known as “Florida’s Greatest Charity” and had expanded to provide mental health counseling, early childhood services for developmentally delayed and disabled children, parent education courses and more — in all 67 Florida counties. All from humble beginnings here in Northeast Florida.

Today, our work is more important than ever. Continuing its determination to address the most pressing issues affecting children, Children’s Home Society has increased its focus on serving children and families in traditionally high-need, under-resourced communities, bringing proven initiatives that empower families to break generational chains of poverty.

One such initiative we lead in pursuit of this goal is the Community Partnership Schools movement, along with the movement’s strategic and co-founding partner, the University of Central Florida.

The Community Partnership Schools model is a collaboration with local nonprofits, businesses, the faith community and other stakeholders bringing counseling, medical and dental services, after-school enrichment, mentoring programs, and more, offered right on site at the school.

Though launched only a decade ago, this movement has already seen significant results — and we can see the impact in our own backyard. Since becoming a Community Partnership School in 2015, graduation rates at Edward H. White High School in Duval County have increased 29% — from 65% in 2015 to 94% in 2021. Disciplinary referrals have plummeted and state testing proficiency has nearly doubled.

Such successes led to the strategy’s adoption at The Webster School, South Woods Elementary, Wilkinson Junior/Senior High School, Orange Park High School and Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High School, as well as dozens more throughout Florida.

While the society’s deep-rooted history illustrates a powerful impact on children and families, the continued success of this mighty oak is possible only with continued community and legislative support.

As state leaders gather in Tallahassee, Children’s Home Society (along with collaborative partners throughout Florida) are asking the Legislature for an $11 million appropriation to sustain and expand Community Partnership Schools. The goal of this bipartisan legislation is to help more children realize their full potential and become successful adults in a flourishing society. Please join us — take action at and make a transformative difference in creating a brighter, bolder and boundless Northeast Florida.

Ted Nelson is the advocacy chairman for the Children’s Home Society of Florida board of directors serving Greater Northeast Florida.

This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.

Originally posted by Florida Times Union

By Ted Nelson