Manatee County Children's Services

What if we could build a community that allowed children and families to thrive?

Photo of Rita Craft
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

In 1989 local professionals/volunteers in Manatee County Florida wanted to find a way to meet urgent needs, promote belonging, and create feelings of purpose for at risk children. During this time, the lack of affordable services, such as mental health counseling, child care and teen pregnancy prevention, was the highest concern for the professionals/volunteers. In 1990 a tax Referendum to fund these services was passed and in 1991, the Board of County Commissioners approved the adoption of Ordinance No. 91-42 which dedicated property tax millage as a funding source to agencies that could support our children.


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • Florida

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]

Bradenton, Palmetto, Lakewood Ranch, Tallevast, Ellenton, Myakka City, Anna Maria, Parrish

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Children's needs have never been greater and the diversity of the needs have never been wider. We want to be able to invite our partnering agencies to bring new, innovative programs into our community. For example, we are leading the state in Opioid overdoses causing a surge in removal rates of children. Our community would greatly benefit from a program to help end the crisis and support the children and families affected.

 Our county is fortunate that so many agencies have stepped up to help the well being of our most at risk children in the county. Even though our community has many agencies assisting the children and families, there is still a lot of work to do. We need new programs to address our Opiod crisis and our children that are being effected by it. In 2015, over 350 children were sheltered due to the Opioid crisis in our community.

 As the primary funder in the community, we are looking to diversify our funding resources in order to provide a consistent stream of services to our children. We want our partnering agencies to be able to deliver a variety of quality services allowing our children to feel a sense of self worth, belonging and the opportunity to thrive in our community. We want children to have the chance to break the cycle of trauma, to be protected, and to feel safe, secure and included.


Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Children who are differently abled
  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Childcare
  • Child and Family Services
  • Community Development and Empowerment
  • Criminal Justice
  • Education
  • Mental Health

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Scaling (the solution has passed the previous stages, and the next step will be growing its impact on a regional or global scale)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Every January Manatee County non profit agencies can apply for funding from Manatee County. An array of services are offered by our community agencies that include, but are not limited to: substance abuse treatment, mental health services, respite care, and early literacy. Agency's awarded funding are required to report throughout the year on the number of children served, their outcomes for their program, and services provided. This data allows us to see areas of greater need or gaps in services.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Last year our agencies served 44,617 at risk children and families with funding from the county and this year the anticipated number to be served is 48,783. In response to a number of adoptions in the community that have dissolved in recent years, a Request for Proposals was developed and released for the FY2015/16 funding process. The basic premise was to educate and empower adoptive parents to handle problems themselves, maintain their commitment to the child, and encourage realistic expectations. Only 8 months into the fiscal year, the program had served 58 children and parents and there had been no adoption dissolutions. Next year we will complete a community needs assessment to identify other urgent needs and gaps in our community, like our Opioid crisis, so we are confident we are protecting the wellbeing of our children.

Organization Type

  • government

Annual Budget

  • over $5mil

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

As a whole Manatee County has a AAA credit rating. In 1991-1992, through the dedicated property tax millage, Manatee County was able to award $301,930 to agencies and in 2015-2016, $9,981,947 was awarded. While the funding may fluctuate from year to year, we are able to put a substantial amount of money back into our community every year. We look to maximize the leveraging of our dollars through various grants and funding opportunities.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

While county government is not unique, what is unique is being the primary funder for our partnering agencies and having the capability to award eligible agencies throughout the county with funding based on the data we gather and the needs of the community.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Agencies are coming together for the well being of the children. We are seeing stronger partnerships between the county and the agencies as well as stronger collaborations between independent agencies. These collaborations are important because there are children and families that need more than one service. These collaborations prevent siloing of information allowing agencies to provide comprehensive care and support for the vulnerable. Continuing to build these partnerships and collaborations will make our community grow with thriving children and families.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Ivette Guillermo-McGahee

Rita, thank you for your contribution to the children's wellbeing initiative.  I am curious about what purpose this contribution is intended to serve, in the sense that, the majority of contributions offer specific projects, whereas this contribution seems to be geared towards finding innovative new projects to fund.  Perhaps I am misunderstanding; would you please clarify?  Thanks again!