When Charlotte County commissioners voted recently to kill off the Children’s Services Council, there was really no alternative — despite the need for a champion for the county’s young people. The council, filled with appointed volunteers, was put together about 14 years ago with a charge to report to the County Commission on children’s issues in the county. The responsibilities were both broad and slightly obscure, but that was just one problem.
When the Florida Legislature passed the Juvenile Welfare Services Act it gave each county the opportunity to pass a referendum to fund a special board to look after children’s welfare through research and contact with young people. Charlotte County’s attempt to pass a referendum to fund the council failed in 1992. So, the council was always broke.
“We had no real money to work with,” said Rich Simpson, a local attorney who was chairman of the council. “I think we have something like $375 in our treasury right now.”
Children’s councils in other counties, like Broward, have had greater success. But Charlotte’s 10-member council was never able to accomplish much because of the lack of funds. What began as a group that met once a month, ended up a council that met quarterly. And, according to Simpson, he couldn’t remember “the last time” the council’s annual report was actually completed.
Charlotte County, realizing the referendum did not pass, argued that the council was not properly formed. A resolution to dissolve it was the logical, albeit sad, step to take.