League aims to better lives of children

Coalition backs anti-bullying efforts, foster child aid


Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 12:31 a.m.
A coalition of women is hoping to build on its reputation and bring more attention to its efforts at bettering the lives of children in Alachua County.
The organization is the Junior League of Gainesville, and the group had its annual "Community Update on the Status of Children" to get that point across to community leaders Friday at the public library downtown.
The league is a group of about 500 women that promotes volunteering to "build better communities" and improve child welfare.
League President Becker Holland said she thought of the group as one of the area's "best-kept secrets."
"I want us to be the organization people go to for child-welfare" issues, Holland said.
The league invited area legislators, Alachua County school district officials, children's advocates among others to the event.
"It's like an open conversation so community leaders can find out what the Junior League is doing - and we can help them with their projects," said Suzi Thiems-Heflin, chairwoman of the league's public advocacy committee.
Thiems-Heflin told the 35 people who attended that the group's top issues for 2004 are to back anti-bullying efforts in public schools and to help children meet requirements of the year-old law for foster children, the Road to Independence Act.
Under the terms of the new law, the Department of Children & Families will cut off aid to foster children when they turn 18 - unless they stay in school and maintain passing grades. Previously, all children in foster care received monthly payments and medical care through their 23rd birthday.
Dr. Richard Bucciarelli, a pediatrician who is also lead lobbyist for the University of Florida, asked the league to contact legislators to tell them to support Florida's KidCare program, subsidized health insurance for low-income children.
Democratic state lawmakers on Wednesday demanded that the Legislature act now to provide health insurance for the more than 100,000 children on the program's waiting lists.
State Attorney Bill Cervone asked for the group's support in educating both children and parents about gun safety.
"If there's a way to make a difference, it's by getting to kids when they're young," he said.

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