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Overview | The Early Childhood Initiative FoundationDave Lawrence BioThe Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe | Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership | The Children's Trust | The Children’s Movement of Florida | United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education

The mission of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation

To ensure that all children in Miami-Dade County have the community's attention, commitment and resources and, hence, the chance to develop intellectually, emotionally, socially and physically so that they are ready and eager to learn by the time they reach first grade.

Miami-Dade County, Florida's largest county with 2.5 million people and larger than 16 states, is the home of what is increasingly seen as a national model for a community-wide high-quality early childhood initiative. Miami-Dade is statistically the most diverse area in the United States (65% Hispanic, 20% black or African American, 15% non-Hispanic white, and more than half of its residents born in another country). For all its pockets of wealth, Miami-Dade also has a higher than national average of underskilled, undereducated and impoverished. In January 1999, a community-wide effort was launched on behalf of all children in their early childhood years. 

The key convenor was David Lawrence Jr., the president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, who also has been a leader in The Children's Trust, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, the Florida Partnership for School Readiness and a member of the governor's Children and Youth Cabinet. The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation was inspired and founded by a generous and public-spirited Miami couple -- Dr. Jane and Jerry Katcher -- who believe that the early childhood years are especially critical to the future of children and the community. The Katchers furnish the foundation’s core staff funding, and then the foundation raises more dollars for its work.

At the Mayor's Children's Summit in September 1999, 4,500 people voted to proceed with a community-wide strategic plan. A major public awareness campaign targeted to parents and caregivers was launched in 2001.

Major partnerships include United Way, the Miami-Dade Public Schools, the Healthy Start Coalition (focused on infant and maternal health), The Children's Trust, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe and the Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership.

 What we work on:
 We seek to build a movement that embraces all children, all families. This is never about "those" children, but rather "everyone's child." We move on many fronts. Most recently, we are embarked on The Children’s Movement of Florida. 
The Children’s Movement of Florida:

The Children’s Movement of Florida is a citizen-led, non-partisan grassroots movement to educate political, business and civic leaders across the state with the ultimate goal of making children Florida’s No. 1 priority. Led by Lawrence, president of The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, and statewide director Vance Aloupis, The Children’s Movement of Florida seeks to build significant clout for Florida’s youngest citizens. With a statewide steering committee consisting of 28 distinguished business, political and civic leaders, The Children’s Movement is purposefully bipartisan – 12 Democrats, 13 Republicans and 3 independents.
In September 2010, The Children’s Movement embarked on the “Milk Party” tour, hosting rallies in 17 Florida communities from Pensacola to Key West. With hundreds -- and sometimes more than a thousand -- in attendance at each event, 15,000 Floridians ultimately came together for the cause of children. Newspapers and television and radio stations from across the state featured The Children’s Movement in more than a hundred articles, columns, editorials and stories.
Now with a base of supporters numbering more than 325,000 and led by people passionate about changing the priorities of our state, The Children’s Movement continues to mobilize, motivate and grow. Regional steering committees are engaged and energized in 17 Florida cities. 
Guided by experts in public policy, The Children’s Movement has a 2012 agenda that seeks to address our first five focus issues: High-quality parent skill-building, high-quality mentoring, screening and treatment for children who may have special needs, improving Florida’s voluntary pre-K program and health insurance for all children.  A movement is not a mission for any one legislative session, but rather long-term, enduring and sustainable. To learn more about The Children’s Movement of Florida, please visit www.childrensmovementflorida.org.
Please click here for a 4-minute and 15-second video.
Other issues focused first on our home county of Miami-Dade:

  1. High-quality child care for all: When we began this effort, there were 17 accredited child care sites in Miami-Dade. (Accreditation tells the parent and consumer that a child care facility is recognized for a quality, stimulating environment for children.) Today there are more than 400 accredited child care sites in this community, representing the largest growth in accredited child care in the nation. Quality, brain-stimulating child care leads to more successful children.

  2. A high-quality pre-kindergarten experience available, but not mandatory, for all 4 year olds in the state. Propelled by the leadership of then Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas and Dave Lawrence, Florida voters in 2002 passed a constitutional amendment to provide this, public and private, beginning in the school year 2005. Only two other states, Georgia and Oklahoma, make this available for everyone now. Florida's version has considerable distance to go before it meets the "high-quality" standards mandated in the Constitution.

  3. High-quality parent skill-building. "School readiness" cannot occur without respectful partnerships with parents. We produced a significant strategic plan that led to the Family Learning Partnership, advancing three areas of family literacy: (1) Parents as teachers, (2) children's early reading skills, and (3) adult literacy.

  4. We think that every child is entitled, in a society of fairness and wisdom, to a "medical home" -- that is, high-quality medical care for every child and every family. In Miami-Dade 50,000 children between birth and age 5 have no health insurance.

  5. "Home visiting." There is ample evidence, going back five decades in this country, of the value of a high-quality professional (perhaps a nurse/social worker) or para-professional visiting prospective parents with follow-ups in the hospital and then during the child's first several years. The research makes it clear that this leads to better outcomes for mother and child as well as greater spacing between babies.

  6. Real progress requires clearly measurable outcomes. In Miami-Dade, we have assessed thousands of 3 and 4 year olds with cognitive, social and emotional assessments done at the beginning of the "school year" and at the end -- with an accompanying effort to fill in the gaps. The research tells us that the earlier you identify the difficulties, the better chance you have to fill in those gaps.

Teach More/Love More:
Teach More/Love More is a public awareness campaign sponsored by The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and United Way's Center for Excellent and launched in 2001. The years-long campaign not only alerts parents to the consequences of failing to prepare our children -- all our children -- for school and success in life, but also offers solutions for overcoming the challenges that all parents face.
The campaign's first target is parents and caregivers who can call 211 in Miami-Dade County -- in English, Spanish or Creole -- any hour of the day or night for information that ranges from: "My child has been crying for hours; what should I do?" to "How do I find really good child care that I can afford?
We have built partnerships with 13 birthing hospitals, 19 birthing centers and 49 community libraries. Today, through our partnership with The Children's Trust and the Healthy Start Coalition, every new mother in our community receives the preview issue of a monthly parent skill-building newsletter…information about how to connect the child to health insurance…a baby book accompanied by a message about the importance of reading to the children from the earliest months…developmental milestone information to make sure your baby is on track or might need some extra help... a temporary library card that can be turned in for a permanent card at your nearest library. Everything is free and in English, Spanish and Creole. (Tens of thousands of parents have signed up for the parent skill-building newsletter.)

Also in the new-parent packet is a copy of a Family Resource Guide, a great resource for families across the county to locate services and support. 
The public awareness campaign is updated every weekday through the Teach More/Love More website: www.teachmorelovemore.org. This resource -- in English, Spanish and Creole -- gives parents and caregivers the latest news in early learning, child development and health. There is a section for parents of children who may have special needs, plus sections on adoption and sexual abuse. A great resource for reading with your child and finding the best early care and education programs in Miami-Dade County.
A free book for every newborn:   

In 2005, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and the Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership launched a major early childhood education book and curriculum on diversity called "All Kinds of...Todo Tipo De...Tout Kalite...." The book is given free to every new parent in the community via all birthing hospitals and birthing centers. It's designed as a baby's first book, encouraging parents to read with their children from the earliest months; it also helps families learn to recognize and respect the differences and similarities that human beings have in common.
"All Kinds Of..." is published in English, Spanish and Haitian-Creole; this board book was created for parents and caregivers to use with their young children to help them (1) take the first steps in early literacy, and (2) develop comfort with diversity. A trilingual companion activity guide -- All Kinds Of...Activity Guide/Curriculum Framework, Todo Tipo de...Guia de Actividades, Tout Kalite...Liv egzesis edikatif/Chapant yon kourikoulom -– appears on both ADL’s website (www.adl.org) and the Teach More/Love More website, accessible via www.teachmorelovemore.org. It features a shared reading activity and follow-up activities to support young children's exploration of the world around us.
Ready Schools Miami:  

Ready Schools Miami has been a nationally important collaboration creating a continuum of learning and children’s well-being from birth through elementary school in Miami-Dade. Key partners include The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation, the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning, Miami-Dade Public Schools, The Children’s Trust, the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, United Way, Head Start, the University of Miami and Florida International University. The key funder of Ready Schools Miami has been the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Genuine, high-quality and systemic change means not only children, parents and communities fully ready to help all children succeed in school and in life, but also “ready schools.” This project had worked (a) to improve quality at all levels, (b) builds collaborative relationships with the early care and education community and public schools, (c) works to align curriculum and professional development from before birth through elementary school, and (d) engages parents in their children’s education.
In children’s early years, Ready Schools worked with Quality Counts, a voluntary quality rating improvement system providing professional development support to hundreds of child care sites. In Head Start, all 85 centers in Miami-Dade County are participating. In the public school system, all 230 elementary schools have participated in Ready Schools Miami. 

Among the nationally pioneering components of Ready Schools has been a job-embedded master’s provided by the University of Florida’s Lastinger Center for Learning and available to teachers in elementary schools as well as early care and education practitioners in the Quality Counts programs. The master’s is a 2 ½-year program provided by a blend of online teaching and professors in residence. Tuition is pai for by the partnerships between Ready Schools and Miami-Dade Public Schools. Participants, working with colleagues in their own schools, discuss how to resolve learning challenges and apply “best practices.” In a profession where half of all teachers gone from the profession within five years, this approach retains first-rate teachers and gives them the tools and the aspirations to continue making a difference in students’ lives.  

The Children's Trust:

In the late 1980s, recognizing that the needs of children in Miami-Dade County far exceeded the resources and support systems available, a cadre of committed individuals spearheaded a drive to address the problem. Using a Florida statute that allowed for such an initiative, the group generated a two-part referendum in 1988. Voters overwhelmingly recognized the need to help area children, but declined to raise their property taxes to do so. 

Retired Miami Herald Publisher David Lawrence Jr. spearheaded a new initiative more than a decade later. Given this second opportunity and a fully funded campaign, Miami-Dade voters in September 2002 approved an independent special district, a dedicated funding source for children entitled "The Children's Trust." The vote was 2-1 in favor. One key difference between the 1988 and 2002 campaigns was that the latter emphasized a commitment to all Miami-Dade children, while clearly recognizing that some children are more at risk and therefore need more help. A "sunset provision" required that the initiative be returned within five years for voter approval. That vote took place Aug. 26, 2008. Despite the increasingly difficult economic climate, Miami-Dade voters decided in overwhelming numbers -- 85.4 percent -- to reauthorize The Children's Trust. 

The Children's Trust, staff and 33-member board fund programs offering high-quality services focused on implementing best practices and improving the lives of children and families.  

Due to declining property values and, hence, declining revenues, The Children's Trust's budget has declined in recent years but remains above $100 million annually. Yet the quality and efficiency of Trust programs have improved and increased. Revenues are based on a half-mill property tax (the maximum allowed by voter referendum). A Miami-Dade resident owning a home assessed at the median-taxable-value, minus the homestead exemption, in Miami-Dade County currently pays less than $40 for the year. For more information about The Children’s Trust and its programs, go to www.thechildrenstrust.org or call 305-571-5700.

The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe:

The Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring early care and education for children in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. Through a variety of affordable and innovative early education and voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, the coalition serves more than 50,000 children ages birth to 12 and their families.

Founded in 2000, and overseen by the state’s Office of Early Learning (under the governor’s office) the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe is among 31 similar organizations established following the enactment of the School Readiness Act, which consolidated Florida's early learning services into one integrated program. The coalition administers and facilitates the School Readiness program, Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK), after-school programs, and Quality Counts, The Children’s Trust-funded five-star-rating improvement system that reviews and evaluates early learning programs according to clearly defined standards of excellence.  Improving quality in early care and education increases children’s chances of achieving success in school and in life. 

For more information about the Early Learning Coalition of Miami-Dade/Monroe, please call 305-646-7220 or visit www.elcmdm.org.
United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education:

A key collaborator in this community-wide collaboration for high-quality early development, care and education is the United Way of Miami-Dade. At the core of these efforts is the Center for Excellence in Early Education, which opened in 2006 at United Way headquarters at 3250 SW Third Ave. in Miami. This $30 million project, all raised privately, serves as a national "best practice" resource center for educators, child care professionals and parents -- all committed to the highest standards of early education.
The first floor of the center houses a demonstration school for 120 children ages 6 weeks to 5 years old. The second floor, a resource and training center, offers innovative outreach, research, education and training programs for parents, teachers, local businesses, child care providers, researchers and others in the community dedicated to advancing high-quality early childhood education. 

For more information, contact Gladys Montes, the director of the Center for Excellence in Early Education, at 305-631-7632, or montesg@unitedwaymiami.org, or visit http://unitedwaycenterforexcellence.org/.
The Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership: 

The Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership, a 501(c)(3) organization established in 2002, is dedicated to families and children. The Family Learning Partnership, collaborating with community agencies and institutions to improve child and family well-being, focuses on early literacy and parent skill-building. The Partnership, a literacy coalition leader for Miami-Dade County, has served more than 40,000 children and their families. Services are provided via pediatric clinics, schools, child care centers, libraries, homeless shelters and community-based agencies. The Miami-Dade Family Learning Partnership’s successful projects include Reach Out and Read Miami.
Some Family Learning Partnership projects: 

 1. Lawyers for Literacy: This collaborative effort, led by U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro, provides civic and life skills education to underprivileged juveniles and young adults in Miami-Dade. The program has recruited more than 200 volunteers from some of the most prominent law firms in Miami, including Greenberg Traurig, Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Holland & Knight and White and Case as well as the Bankruptcy Bar Association of the Southern District of Florida, U.S. attorney and public defender offices. The program received the 2007 R. Ray Goode Award from the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce and also was recognized by the Florida Bar Journal, The Miami Herald and the Department of Juvenile Justice.

2. All Aboard for Family Fun: An interactive, web-based developmentally appropriate activity program for families to access activities-games, crafts, music, cooking and literacy. Parents and caregivers can find parenting tips, articles on child development and hundreds of new age-appropriate activities every month which is accessible via teachmorelovemore.org.

For more information, visit www.teachmorelovemore.org/Partnership.asp or call CEO Lisa Blair at 305-891-7323.


Our Team

David Lawrence Jr.
(305) 646-7229
E mail:

Vance A. Aloupis
Statewide director/The Children’s Movement of Florida
(305) 646-7134
E mail: 

Jorge C. Godoy Jr.
Deputy state director/The Children’s Movement of Florida
(305) 646-7231
E mail: 

John Knight
Early literacy coordinator/The Children’s Movement of Florida
E mail: john.knight@childrensmovementflorida.org

Andres Rivera
Executive assistant
(305) 646-7228
E mail: 

Ana de Aguiar Echevarria
Web director
E mail:

Our address and fax: 

The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation
3250 SW Third Ave.
Miami, Fla. 33129
Fax: 305-646-7232

Brought to you by The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education

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