By the Community. For the Community.
A Children's Services Council (CSC) is a countywide special taxing district created by ordinance, and approved by voters, to fund programs and services that improve the lives of children and their families.
To date, 13 Florida counties have created CSCs that invest taxpayer dollars in the well-being of their community’s children and families. While the services offered and age groups served vary depending on the needs of the community, the primary focus of all CSCs is to invest in prevention and early intervention programs that produce measurable results.
In 11 counties, voters have approved “independent” taxing authority for their CSC to ensure that a dedicated funding source is available for children’s programs and services. In addition to Palm Beach, the other counties with independent districts are Alachua, Broward, Escambia, Leon, Hillsborough, Martin, Miami-Dade, Okeechobee, Pinellas and St. Lucie. Duval County (Jacksonville) operates as a "dependent" district, relying on funding from different sources, including county government, to pay for children's programs and services. Manatee County is a hybrid.
Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County was established by county voters in 1986 who saw a need for an independent voice for local children. Palm Beach County’s CSC was reauthorized by nearly 85 percent of voters in 2014. Like other independent CSCs, we are governed by 10 members. Five members are appointed by the nature of their position: the school superintendent, a local school board member, the district administrator of the local Department of Children & Families office, a juvenile court judge, and a member of the board of county commissioners. The remaining five members are appointed by the governor to four-year terms.
CSCs benefit communities in a number of ways. CSCs focus on serving all children, not just a particular demographic or economic segment of the population. CSCs also can serve as an effective way to use local resources more efficiently. They bring key players to the same table, theoretically looking at the whole child (in family and community context). Other CSC benefits include:
- The mandate to do community planning (community needs assessments updated annually) is an important feature. It promotes long-term thinking that goes beyond one fiscal year.
- CSCs generate a new source of local funds, which can be allocated according to community needs, thus making them responsive to changing priorities and issues among children and families.
- The funds that CSCs invest in primary prevention and early intervention help diminish or eliminate the need for more costly punitive and remedial services that may be needed later in a child’s life.
- Increasingly, CSCs are focusing their efforts on outcomes and accountability – return on investment.
- In line with their commitment to use funds most efficiently, CSCs often partner with other community funders (e.g., United Way, school districts, community foundations) in planning and funding, which focuses all funders toward shared goals and outcomes.
As trusted sources of information about a community’s children, CSCs educate citizens about children’s issues and create stronger constituencies for children. In this role, CSCs become the hub of child advocacy in a county.