UCF Study Identifies Needs of Orange County’s Children: Present Funding Does Not Keep Pace with Growth
A recent study, assessing the current state of children’s needs in Orange County, was released today.
“Children’s Unmet Needs: Celebrating Success and Creating Opportunities in Orange County,” by UCF School of Administration professor, Thomas Bryer, PhD and Vickie Tyler Carnegie, JD concludes, “present funding models for several Orange County programs does not keep pace with growth.”
Furthermore, the report warns a “potential consequence of failure to develop and provide additional supplementation to the continuum of services would be increasing gaps and the exacerbation of problems currently faced.”
Dr. Bryer reviewed local, state and national reports and data to gain a “systems level” view of the needs of Orange County’s children and observed, “Orange County has not been able to benefit from integrated service delivery systems given potentially limited strategic allocation of resources, particularly in the areas of poverty, health & wellness, social services, and education.”
The report states:
- In 2016, children under the age of 18 accounted for 23% of the population in Orange County.
- Out of the five most populous counties in Florida, Orange County ranks 3rd in the highest percentage of Hispanic residents (30.5%). This population is disproportionately affected by issues such as access to healthy food and health care, unemployment and maternal death.
- Orange County ranks 39th out of 67 counties in Florida in the 2018 Florida Child Well Being Index.
- Currently, there are 3,400 children on the waitlist for subsidized childcare in Orange County.
- One in seventeen children in Orange County will experience homelessness during the course of a year.
- In Orange County, there are 40 elementary schools without after-school programs.
- There are over 21,000 uninsured children in Orange County and 37% of parents report difficulties or delays in accessing healthcare services for their child.
- In 2017, there were over 10,000 child investigations in Orange County.
Dr. Bryer identifies three primary tools Orange County can use to continue to develop and refine its continuum of services for the children of Orange County including:
- Increased funding to established programs with proven effectiveness in the areas of childcare, early intervention, and youth mental health.
- Increased investment in the establishment of evidence based prevention programs in the areas of afterschool programming, job skills training, and health initiatives.
- The provision of community based programming aimed at crisis prevention without income restrictions.
Longtime child advocate and Chairman of The Children’s Trust, Dick Batchelor says, “Dr. Bryer has hit the nail on the head. Our community has studied the needs of Orange County’s children for years. We don’t need more data, it’s time to act,” he stated. “We should join seven other urban counties in Florida who have adopted children’s services councils like The Children’s Trust. They are providing more funding for services, but also providing the structure and process to identify, assess, and align services better than we are doing now.”
The Children’s Trust is advocating for a model that seven other urban counties in Florida have adopted whereas state law allows the county to create an independent special district to coordinate existing programs, identify gaps, and provide additional dedicated funding for children’s services through a voter approved ad valorem tax.
The Orange County Commission will discuss services the County provides for children at their Commission meeting tomorrow at 9am. Over 35 members of the public are expected to testify.
A copy of the full report will be available at the 3:30pm press conference today.