The annual Florida Children’s Week – presented by United Way of Florida and Capital Events – was held January 21 – 26, at the state Capitol building in Tallahassee. The events throughout the week provided thousands of parents, children, policy makers, professionals and community leaders the opportunity to share knowledge and information about children’s issues in communities across the state.
The festivities began with the Hanging of the Hands ceremony, where thousands of pieces of “hand art” were hung throughout the Capitol Rotunda. The amazing display serves as a reminder to legislators and advocates that we must take care of our Florida children as they are the future of our state.
During the week, the Florida Youth Cabinet was fortunate to have been visited by abduction survivor, Elizabeth Smart, who spoke about the importance of supporting and advocating for victims of abduction, abuse and human trafficking. They also held an annual meeting, hosted by the Florida YMCA Youth in Government, which provided a forum and voice for students from across the state to work together with Florida’s Children and Youth Cabinet to address important issues relating to children’s services. The meeting was followed by a Press Conference in which youth, parents and advocates were able to speak to legislators about this year’s theme, the health and well-being of all Florida children.
Youth Success Day was held on January 23, when two outstanding youth, Carlos Leyva and Jazzman Lezama, were named the winners of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice and Florida Juvenile Justice Association Youth Ambassador Award. These ambassadors have turned their lives around for the better after contact with the juvenile justice system, and they serve as mentors and role models for other at-risk youth throughout the state.
With many other annual events and advocacy efforts, we would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s Florida Children’s week! It is always wonderful to see our Florida communities coming together to support our most vulnerable citizens. These events were a wonderful kickoff to this year and we hope to continue to make 2018 a year full of positive change and protection for our Florida youth.