Overview

What’s a Children’s Services Council?

Children’s Services Councils, or CSCs, are established by county citizens to help fund organizations that serve children and families in the county where it exists. They were also created to make sure these dollars are being spent wisely and invested in programs that will provide the best outcomes for the children and families within their communities. Each CSC is a local dedicated funding source committed to research-based programs that impact child and family outcomes with priorities defined by the community’s needs.

Children’s Services Councils are created through the will of the people. They are first established by a county commission through a local ordinance. Voters can then approve taxing authority for a Children’s Services Council through a countywide referendum. Chapter 125.901 of Florida Statutes governs the creation and operation of CSCs. CSCs operate with multiple levels of accountability and are subject to the same rules and requirements that apply to city and county governments. By investing public dollars into local children’s programs, counties can decrease dependence on limited state and federal funds. Florida is the only state in the nation with laws that allow local county leaders and the residents of those counties create a special government entity that’s sole purpose is to invest in the well-being of children and families.

Types of Children’s Services Councils

There are two different kinds of Children’s Services Councils. A county and its residents can choose to create an independent or a dependent Children’s Services Council. Both are focused on funding programs for children and families. The biggest difference is the source of those funds.

Independent Children’s Services Councils have voter-approved taxing authority to ensure a dedicated funding source is available for children’s programs and services. Voters in a county with an independent Children’s Services Council pay a portion of their property taxes toward their CSC and the programs they fund. For an approximate average annual cost to the taxpayer of $25 to $80 (depending on the county), Children’s Services Councils are able to fund programs that meet the specific needs of the people living in their communities.

Dependent Children’s Services Councils perform essentially the same functions as independent CSCs, but they do not have taxing authority. Their funding primarily comes from the county’s property tax revenues and falls under the county’s annual budget.

What We Do

In addition to serving as the administrator of county funds to children and family programs, all Children’s Services Councils collect information and statistical data, monitor program/provider performance and conduct local strategic planning. Essentially, CSCs serve as the hub of child advocacy in a county, bringing together the right people, organizations and funding opportunities to ensure a brighter future for Florida’s children and youth. No other public entity provides this kind of umbrella for leadership, coordination and oversight of efforts focused on children.

Children’s Services Councils help families by:

  • Ensuring the best use of taxpayer dollars and working to serve the greatest number of children
  • Determining the specific needs of children, youth and families
  • Coordinating with other agencies, public/private funders and stakeholders dedicated to the welfare of children

What’s in it for my county?

A Children’s Services Council can benefit a county in many ways including maximizing local revenue, developing resources, ensuring fiscal and programmatic accountability of programs, and providing training and awareness for parents, service providers, community leaders and policy makers. While the services offered and age groups served vary depending on the needs of the community, the primary focus is investing in prevention and early intervention programs which reduces the need for more costly services later in life.

The legacy

The legacy of the dedicated funding source for children in Florida counties began in 1945 in Pinellas County following World War II. That was when local attorney Leonard Cooperman decided it was time to give troubled youth a better option than going to jail.

Cooperman drafted legislation to establish an independent body of citizens and community leaders that would have as its sole interest the welfare of children in Pinellas County. That same year, the Florida Legislature passed a local bill allowing Pinellas County to establish a special district for children called a “juvenile welfare board,” and levy an ad valorem tax, subject to voter approval.

Approved in 1946—by an 80-20 margin— the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County became the state’s first Children’s Services Council. Nearly 40 years later, citizens in Palm Beach County sought to establish a special district for children in their county. The rest, they say, is history.